The construction industry is no different from other industries that are seeing the great value of Big Data in improving their everyday operations, profitability, and business intelligence among others. The value that Big Data brings to business is so massive that it has been labeled as the “New Oil”. Nevertheless, the construction industry has always been facing the risk of Dirty Big Data.
Dirty Big Data is very common when the extracted or captured data is untraceable due to the absence of a web-enabled platform that digitalizes the capturing, extracting, and accumulating of the data from the hundreds of processes and associated documents needed to manage the construction project delivery. The digitalization of those processes should allow both formal and ad-hoc collaboration among all project stakeholders anywhere, anytime.
Projects that can continue to use applications like MS Excel spreadsheets and Document Management Systems always have a high likelihood of encountering the risk of dirty data. Unlike other businesses, the cleansing of dirty data on construction projects is impractical as it will create a new risk of low data velocity or what is known as the absence of real-time data.
Using Project Management Information System (PMIS) platforms like PMWeb ensures the complete digitalization of all project management processes. The first step to achieving this digitalization is to have predefined templates for every single process. Those templates will have data fields that could be specific for each process.
The data fields could be text, date, currency, numbers, or even data from a pre-defined list of values. Some of those values like the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and Project Schedule Tasks will be imported from their data source which is usually a scheduling tool like Primavera P6 or MS Project. The PMWeb platform comes ready with templates for the most common management processes for construction projects. Additional data fields can be added to those templates when needed.
Of course, there will be always the need to create more templates that a PMIS platform like PMWeb might not have. Using the PMWeb form builder, there is no limit on the number of new templates that can be created. Those templates can be also created in languages other than English when it is needed.
The second step needed for digitalization is to ensure that all documents that are attached to each record of each project management process template are properly stored and saved. The PMWeb document management repository allows the creation of folders and subfolders to match the physical documents filing structure common to construction projects. Access rights can be set to each folder to restrict access to documents stored in those folders.
The third and most critical step for digitalization where many platforms fail is to automate the submission, review, and approval of every single transaction of each project management process template. The workflow should not be limited to the basic functions of defining the sequence of review and approval tasks and what will happen if a transaction is returned for resubmission. The digitalized workflow should ensure that all approval authority levels set in the project’s delegation of authority matrix (DoA) are embedded in the workflow for each project management process template. The PMWeb Project Management Information System allows defining of all DoA rules for each process digitalized workflow.
In addition, the workflow should have the intelligence to automatically select who should be involved in the review and approval process depending on the content of each project management process template. For example, the review and approval of a technical submittal for electrical works should be carried out by different project team members than those involved in the review and approval of a technical submittal for architectural works. The workflow module in the PMWeb platform allows defining of multiple workflow scenarios for each workflow depending on the category or type of data fields of a project management process.
Knowing that the management of construction processes sometimes requires ad-hoc collaboration between the project team members, the PMWeb platform supports the three possible types of ad-hoc collaboration. The first type is for project management processes that do not require pre-defined workflow-based collaboration but ad-hoc collaboration for which the workflow tab for those templates will be replaced with a collaboration tab where the project team member initiating the transaction can invite other project team members to collaborate to review and comment on the transaction.
The second type of ad-hoc collaboration which is becoming very popular on construction projects is where a project team member can initiate any project-related topic where he/she can invite other project team members to join the discussions and actions to be carried out to conclude the created topic. The PMWeb activity board module allows the project team member to create an electronic board that can be divided into groups for which each group will have to include activities that need to be performed. Those activities that are assignable can be further broken down into sub-tasks. Each task will be used to capture comments made by the individuals who have been invited to the activity board as well as attach documents that are usually been uploaded on the PMWeb document management repository.
The third type of ad-hoc collaboration which has been common to every single construction project is email communications between the different project team members. Using the PMWeb platform, integration can be established with the MS Outlook mail server to ensure that all project-related email communications are imported and saved in PMWeb. This will enable linking those email communications to any transaction of any project management process.
The digitalization of all sources of data that could be created on a construction project not only will help in generating Big Data but also eliminate the risk of Dirty Big Data. Having quality, traceable, real-time, and valuable Big Data that covers all aspects needed to manage the delivery of an organization’s construction projects’ portfolio.
About the Author
Bassam Samman, PMP, PSP, EVP, GPM, is a Senior Project Management Consultant with over 35-year service record providing project management and controls services to over 100 projects with a total value of over US $5 Billion. Those projects included Commercial, Residential, Education, and Healthcare Buildings and Infrastructure, Entertainment and Shopping Malls, Oil and Gas Plants and Refineries, Telecommunication, and Information Technology projects. He is thoroughly experienced in 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 on Project Management, Strategic Project Management, and Project Management Personal Skills. Over the past 35 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 250 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 over six years. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute (PMI), an accredited Planning and Scheduling Professional (PSP), an Earned Value Professional (EVP) from the American Association of Cost Engineers (AACE), and a Green Project Management (GPM).
Bassam holds a Master’s in Engineering Administration (Construction Management) with Faculty Commendation from George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA, Bachelor in Civil Engineering – from Kuwait University, Kuwait, and has attended many executive management programs at Harvard Business School, Boston, USA, and London Business School, London, UK.