When it comes to delivering capital construction projects, one of the key challenges that faces every project management consultant (PMC) is what tangible deliverables they will produce on a project. For example, engineering consultants would produce the design documents and BIM models as tangible deliverables whereas contractors would have the building systems as their tangible deliverables. It is no wonder that on many projects, the engineering consultant might convince the project owner that there is no need to retain an independent PMC as they can fulfill their role thus saving the PMC fee. For some, they might even claim that a PMC is just adding another layer of management on the project and their role is no more than a mailbox that receives and forwards communications.
On the other hand, many project owners know that this is not true. They know the important role that a PMC plays in managing the overall project delivery life cycle. Nevertheless, many PMC firms fail to show the important role they play in managing the project delivery. Back in 1993, I was part of the project management team of one of the global PMC firms playing the role of a project control manager on a major airport project. Few months after the project have commenced, the CEO of the PMC firm met the project owner to check on how the project was progressing. What was interesting is what the project owner have said. He told the CEO that few months after the project has started, they decided that there was no need for a PMC. Nevertheless, when they started having the weekly progress reports, their decision was that having a PMC was must and not a choice. In 1993, progress reports were done using P6, Expedition and other tools to enable us to print those reports on transparent sheets so we can display and explain using an overhead projector to the meeting audience who have to be physically present.
Nevertheless, what is surprising to all is that we continue to see PMC firms who still use old discontinued early versions of what used to be called a PMIS, document management or content management systems that they assume they can replace a PMIS with or the worse of all use MS Excel to fake a PMIS. Using the wrong and/or outdated tools not only impact the tasks that a PMC needs to perform on a project but also prevent project owners from having real-time single version of the truth reporting on how their projects are performing. Something that would have direct impact on having the insight to make better and faster informed decisions.
For each capital construction project, the PMC must develop what it known as the Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM) for each phase to be managed on the project. The RAM will detail all management processes that need to be performed along with the entities and individuals of those entities who will be responsible for performing those processes. Those individuals might have the role for performing or submitting the process, reviewing the process which might include multiple reviewers who will perform the review in pre-set sequence, kept informed of the process progress, asked for support or input and the individual who might approve or reject the transaction.
For each process listed in the RAM, there will be an input form, output form and one or more output reports. This information will become the basis for creating what is known as the project management plan (PMP) or project execution plan (PEP). The project management plan will also include what is known as the communication plan to detail the recipients and frequency for sharing the output reports and dashboards. The PMP or PEP will be also considered as the project procedures manual to be abided with to by all entities involved in delivering the project.
Using a Project Management Information System (PMIS) like PMWeb is crucial for PMC firms to digital transform the content of the project management plan. This will not only ensure the lean management of those processes but also enforce the must requirement of transparency and accountability in executing those processes. This will ensure that trust-worthy data becomes available to provide the real-time information for single version of the truth reporting required to have the insight to make better and faster informed decisions.
PMWeb comes ready with site management, cost management, risk management, procurement management and other processes. In addition, PMWeb custom form builder is used to create the input forms for other processes that are not readily available. Using PMWeb document management repository, supportive documents will be uploaded, stored and attached to their relevant process form. To ensure that tasks specified in the RAM are fulfilled, PMWeb workflow module will be used to map the submit, review and approve tasks along with the approval authority levels.
The data captured in those processes will become the basis for generating the output forms for each process. Although PMWeb comes ready with many output forms, nevertheless, it is common that additional output forms will be needed for processes that require formal communication where the output form needs to be wet-signed and stamped. PMWeb report writer allows designing those output forms in any desired form or format.
In addition, tabular and visual reports will be created to provide a register of transactions for each project management process. Some of those reports could be designed to combine information from different interrelated processes. For example, the contract register report will be designed to display the information from the awarded contract, potential change orders, change orders, interim progress invoices and actual payments made against approved interim progress invoices processes. Those tabular and visual reports can be created in any desired format to comply with the organization’s branding and layout requirements. Those reports can be printed or shared electronically.
For a PMC firm, having access to this wealth of trust-worthy and traceable data will enable them to better analyze the project’s performance and unleash trends and correlation between the different project management processes. This will enable them to better predict how the project will end if they do not intervene and what actions to be taken to bring the project back to track. Unlike to the tools I had access to back in 1993, business intelligence and data visualization tools like MS Power BI will enable the PMC firm to query the captured data, run analysis and forecast algorithm scripts, associate the PMIS data with other data sources and consume the data to create interactive reports and dashboards that can be shared with executive project stakeholders.
The data captured from the different project management processes will become the basis for creating the project’s performance dashboard which will display the key performance indicator (KPI) for the critical project management processes that will provide an overall understanding of how the project is performing.
Of course, having this wealth of trust-worthy data can also be used to create dashboards that are specific for management perspective. For example, there could be specific dashboards for schedule, cost, procurement, risk, health and safety, quality, sustainability and other areas needed to manage the project delivery. Those dashboards will provide each discipline manager with the insight of how the processes that he/she are responsible for are performing.
If the PMC firm involved the management of a program of projects or all projects across the project owner enterprise, program or enterprise projects dashboards will be created to provide the program management team, project management office team, and other executive projects’ stakeholders with a summary performance status of the capital construction projects being executed. The dashboard could include a map to detail the location of projects being managed if those projects are spread across different locations within the country or across the globe. The reader of the enterprise dashboard can drilldown to each selected project dashboard which in turn will allow drilling down to the different processes’ tables and even to each specific transaction included in the report.
About the Author
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.