Executive stakeholders at organizations that are involved in delivering capital construction projects always have the need to get correct and timely answers to the many critical questions that they might have. Some of those questions and answers could be of interest to stakeholders other than the stakeholders who have raised the questions. In practice, many of those critical questions are usually communicated via email, phone call, in person meeting, WhatsApp or SMS message to the project manager or any other senior project team members.
This on-going practice of requesting answers to critical questions not only has many inefficiencies but also carries the high risk of communicating false or incorrect answers. Some of the inefficiencies of this ad-hoc practice include the frustration of stakeholders who might have interest in those answers but were unintentionally excluded, answers that were not given by the right team member, no tracking of submitted critical questions and provided answers, absence of supportive records and documents to justify the provided answers and many others.
To overcome some of those inefficiencies and communication risks, few organizations tend to create what is the known as the “Questions Wall” where a room will be allocated at each project site to capture the critical questions and their answers. Access to this room will be restricted to the stakeholders who have raised the questions, stakeholders who are interested in the answers, and project team members who are authorized to provide the answers to the submitted questions. The received questions will be posted on the “Questions Wall” board using sticky notes. Those notes will be of different colors to indicate the criticality of raised questions.
Nevertheless, using a Project Management Information System (PMIS) that has the option to create activity boards like PMWeb will eliminate all of the inefficiencies of this process. PMWeb activity board will be used to create the “Questions Wall” board which will include groups for the criticality of the raised questions. Being a 100% web-enabled platform, stakeholders can submit their questions using the description field with their due dates directly to the “Questions Wall” anytime, anywhere, using any device. Nevertheless, if stakeholders want to continue to use emails, phone calls, in person meetings, WhatsApp or SMS messages, then the project manager or team member who have received the question will post it to the board.
To encourage proactiveness, project team members who has access to the “Questions Wall” will assign their names to the questions that they can be best answer otherwise the project manager will do this assignment. It is highly recommended to invite all project team members who could add a value to the answers of the critical questions to be part of the “Questions Wall”. A color flag will be assigned to each question to highlight its Criticality with another flag for the answer Status which could be either open or closed. The photo of the stakeholder who have submitted the question will be also displayed.
May be the greatest value of using PMWeb activity board for the “Questions Wall” is that for each submitted question, discussions that relate to the question will be captured as comments. This will encourage the project team to come with their best answers to the raised questions. It is the discussion that will give the stakeholders and project team members the best value by exploring the different thoughts and opinions that they have. In addition, documents can be attached to each question and links to relevant PMWeb records can be also added.
For answered questions, the question status will be set as “Done” and the answer date will be added. The assigned status color flag will be changed to “Blue” to indicate that it was completed. Answered questions can be dragged and dopped under the group column titled “Answered”.
For questions that might require the involvement of more than a single project team member to respond to, subtasks can be created for which different project team members will be assigned to each subtask along with the due date. Similar to the main task or question, comments can be added as well as documents can be attached and PMWeb records can be linked to those subtasks.
The Activity Board or “Questions Wall” manager can invite stakeholders and project team members who need to be part of the “Questions Wall” to the board. PMWeb will create an invitation email that will be sent to those individuals. The email invitation has few settings that the Activity Board manager needs to define. Those include for example, Give Users Edit Right, Subscribe Users to be Alerted when Activities or Tasks happen on the Activity Board, Send Email Notification with or without a hyperlink to the Activity Board.
The advantage of capturing all these questions and answers in PMWeb is that the captured information in those tasks will become available to be reported in any desired form or format. Reports can be designed the display the required information, group and sort questions and filter and select questions to be displayed. Reports can be also created to display the color flags assigned to each submitted question.
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 500 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 Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (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.