Article #305 Getting the Flavor of Digital Transformation for Capital Construction Projects: Digitize Project Communication Templates and Registers

After completing the digital transformation for the Document Management and Transmittal Management processes as detailed in “Article #303 Getting the Flavor of Digital Transformation for Capital Construction Projects: Digitize Document Management and Transmittal Management Processes”, and the digital transformation for the Monthly Progress Performance Reporting as detailed in “Article #304 Getting the Flavor of Digital Transformation for Capital Construction Projects: Digitize the Monthly Progress Performance Reporting Process” the organization can now proceed with the third digital transformation step and that is to digitize the mostly used communications templates currently in use.

Almost every organization who is involved in the delivery of capital construction projects have created templates to manage the different processes needed to deliver those projects. On average, on a medium sized construction project there are at least fifty forms that are used to create request for information, safety incidents, shop drawing submittal, confirmation of verbal instruction, site work instruction among others. Those templates are usually created using MS Excel and MS Word. The purpose of the template is to complete the form, print it, wet-sign and stamp, and finally transmit the form to the recipient of the form who might distribute internally to seek their project team review and comments. Excluding the possible use of MS Outlook email to provide an advance submission of the form which will be saved in PDF file format along with all supportive documents and the distribution of the form for internal review and comments, all other steps will be performed manually.

The objective of the next digital transformation step is not to digital transform those process as is assumed that the organization is not yet ready for this major step. Nevertheless, the main objective of this step is to digital transform the preparation of those templates by creating input forms that exactly matches the layout of the current output form. This will ensure immediate adoption of this step as all what is being done is to replace the MS Excel or MS Word with a new input form. The benefits of this step are many and include ensuring that all projects are using the latest version of the input form, ensure the quality of captured data as many of the fields will have pre-defined list of value, calendars and other values to select from, maintain track of all submitted templates, capture the data from all templates in a single data source among many others.

Nevertheless, the greatest benefit of all is that all logs and registers for those communications that are usually manually created using MS Excel, will become readily available. Since the details of all transactions for every project communication are digitally captured, tabular and graphical reports will become immediately available to be viewed. Of course, since the input forms have much more data than what usually a log created in MS Excel will be used to capture, the new logs and registers can include much details than the current logs and registers.

Using PMWeb which was the Project Management Information System (PMIS) platform used to digitize the document management transmittal management and monthly progress report processes, the digitization of the project communication templates can be also achieved. PMWeb Visual Form Builder allows the organization to duplicate their communication templates to ensure that their will be no disruption to what the project team members are used to do. Of course, if there is an option to improve the form, then this could be considered and implemented on the digitized form version if approved. In addition, the organization might consider adding new fields to those forms that were not possible to have when they are manually completed. For example, those forms could include fields for Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), project schedule activity, location of work among others.

Accordingly, one of the most widely used project communication form that will be digitized will be the Non-Compliance Report (NCR). Most fields in the current MS Word template will be used as is except for the “Corrective Action Implemented” field. It is recommended for this field to define it as a list field with the predefined values of “Yes and No” instead of having two Boolean fields for “Yes” or “No”. By having this value as a selection list, the NCR transactions can be filtered by that field.

The first step in creating the digital version of the form is to ensure that all fields and tables that are required for the form are defined in PMWeb. Those data fields could be integer numeric, decimal numeric, currency, date, text, Boolean as well as it could be a value that needs to be selected from a pre-defined list of values. For each defined field, the width of the field needs to be provided as well as whether it is a required field or not. PMWeb also allows creating calculated fields for the integer and decimal number fields. Further, PMWeb allows defining default values for those fields if needed.

The next step is to create the form layout where PMWeb allows adding column and row cells of different sizes and colors. Those cells will be mapped with the custom form user defined fields created earlier. It is also possible to import pre-defined templates as HTML files. With the availability of different formatting options that can be easily implemented, the NCR template will upgraded with some colors instead of the dull MS Word template.

Now this form has fields that need to be completed by the Consultant and the Contractor, it is recommended to define the permissions for the fields that the Consultant and Contractor will have access to. This is a requirement to enforce the trust worthiness and accountability for the completed form. The permission can be defined by Role, that is Project Owner, Project Management Consultant, Consultant and Contractor or by specific user name who have access to PMWeb.

Now the form is the NCR is ready to use by the organization across all of their projects by all authorized users. To ease the access to the NCR form as well as any other communication forms, the NCR will be added to the PMWeb project center screen for those are authorized to use it. This will automatically display approved and pending NCRs if the status field was included in the form.

This will enable the authorized users to create as well as respond to the NCR form in accordance with the set access and fields permission rights. For date and list fields, the user will be able to select values from a predefined list or calendar when selecting those fields.

One of the key advantages of having a 100% web-enabled zero foot-print application like PMWeb that all those forms will be accessible anytime, anywhere using any smart device. This will enable the consultant who is issuing the NCR to take pictures or videos using the iPad or any other smart mobile device and attach to the NCR. Of course, there is also the option to attach other documents such as drawings, specifications among others. Of course, all those documents can be uploaded directly into the NCR form or uploaded and stored in PMWeb document management repository and then attach to the NCR.

Since PMWeb is mainly used to generate the project communications templates and digital transform those processes, the PMWeb workflow module will not be used for those processes. Nevertheless, the user has the option to share the NCR with other PMWeb users as well as non PMWeb users using the Notification option. An email will be sent those users as well as PMWeb will maintain a log of sent email Notifications.

PMWeb business intelligence reporting tool will be used to create the output for those communications in the exact required form and format. The output forms will have the log or logos as per the project communication requirements set in the project management plan (PMP) or project execution plan (PEP). Those forms can be generated in PDF file format as well as printed so they can be wet-signed and stamped. The PDF file format can be attached to a transmittal if this is needed.

Similarly, the PMWeb business intelligence reporting tool will be also used to create the output reports and registers for each digitized communication template. The information captured in those tabular and visual reports will be automatically extracted from the data captured in those forms. This is a major time saving effort.

Finally, by having this wealth of trust-worthy data captured across the different projects managed by the organization, using third-party business intelligence and data visualization tools like MS Power BI, the organization can identify trends, causes, active measures, contractor performance history among many others by analyzing and studying the captured data. In addition, data from different communication process types can be associated to provide analysis of possible correlation between the performance of different processes.

It should be noted that much of the data used in such analysis were usually wasted when the communication forms are completed in a manual manner and for which it all depends on who will extract the information from those form to populate the MS Excel file for each communication process and project.

About the Authorfounder

Bassam Samman, PMP, PSP, EVP, GPM is a Senior Project Management Consultant with 40-year service record providing project management, project controls services and project management information system to over than 200 projects with a total value in excess of US $100 Billion. Those projects included Commercial, Residential, Education and Healthcare Buildings and Infrastructure, Entertainment, Hospitality and Shopping Malls, Oil and Gas Plants and Refineries, Telecommunication and Information Technology projects. He is thoroughly experienced in complete project management including project management control systems, computerized project control software, claims analysis/prevention, risk analysis/management (contingency planning), design, supervision, training and business development.

Bassam is a frequent speaker in topics relating to Project Management, Strategic Project Management and Project Management Personal Skills. Over the past 40 years he has lectured at more than 350 events and courses at different locations in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and South America. He has written more than 300 articles on project management and project management information systems that were featured in international and regional magazines and newspapers. He is a co-founder of the Project Management Institute- Arabian Gulf Chapter (PMI-AGC) and has served on its board of directors for more than 6 years. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute (PMI), a certified Planning and Scheduling Professional (PSP) and Earned Value Professional (EVP) from the American Association of Cost Engineers (AACE) and Green Project Management (GPM).

Bassam holds a Masters in Engineering Administration (Construction Management) with Faculty Commendation, George Washington University, Washington, D.C., USA, Bachelor in Civil Engineering – Kuwait University, Kuwait and has attended many executive management programs at Harvard Business School, Boston, USA and London Business School, London, UK.


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