As we’ve discussed in this paper, the term “technology” covers a wide range of innovations that can enhance various stages of the construction life cycle. The responses to our survey suggest that the industry has not fully embraced technology; nor has it successfully harnessed its full potential.
To get real benefit from the tremendous opportunities that technology can bring, engineering and construction companies and major project owners have to consider how they can better integrate its use into both their processes and their culture.
Here are three key steps to achieving this goal:
Establish strong internal controls
A system, and its models, are only as good as the information that goes into them; if the theory is flawed, then the modeling will be similarly defective. Take the use of integrated cost and schedule systems. These are marvelous tools that can provide a holistic view of the project status. But what if the schedule is constructed on poor logic? For example, timings for certain activities like obtaining permits may be wildly optimistic; or the engineering and construction company is not systematically measured against earned value milestones. In these circumstances, the data does not reflect reality, and those overseeing the projects cannot make accurate projections.
Before you seek modeling tools, you need to first develop a sound basis of internal controls. Back in the early days of earned value, I always advised clients to start with a good cost performance index (CPI) and schedule performance index (SPI), so they could accurately measure cost and schedule performance versus targets. Only when this was in place could they seriously consider buying software to enhance the process.
Ensure your systems are related
Assuming you have strong internal controls, then you should also have systems that are ‘related’: they are either connected directly, or at least share common data formats. This enables your team to collect data from different activities and different sources and make like-for-like comparisons. Some project managers believe in integrated cost and schedule systems, which clearly define project scope and build a cost and schedule against that scope. Others may prefer two separate systems to provide a ‘stereo’ view. Regardless of which approach you choose, the systems must be related – especially in a global company with multiple systems of record.
Master proven digital solutions
Before delving into new technologies, make sure that your organization has a full understanding of existing solutions like advanced schedule analytics, Monte Carlo simulators, computer-aided design (CAD) systems or building information modeling (BIM) software. When you’re confident that you’ve mastered these, you should be better prepared to integrate and explore other innovations.
Don’t wait to embrace D&A
D&A is not the next big thing; it’s today’s big thing. If you don’t make the most of it now, you’ll fall behind the competition. Several years ago, KPMG started to replace manual job cost auditing with data analytic techniques, to add greater speed and accuracy. That simple and exploratory investment laid a path to our current application of machine learning to analyze contract terms and disallowable costs.
Analysis brings a host of benefits that can transform your approach to project delivery: more precise estimating, scheduling and resource management; improved scope development; enhanced risk management and safety; and increased real-time productivity analysis.
Clean up your act
Data is of little use if it’s not clean, accurate and in a common format that everyone can understand and use. This means carrying out an inventory of data to determine what’s useful and what’s not, and establishing a common taxonomy or data structure to ensure consistency.
Envision what you want from data
By brainstorming the potential uses of data, you can explore different ways to improve your project management. At this point it’s wise to engage data scientists or other D&A experts to help you determine the feasibility of these goals. And be prepared to fail; by testing the limits of data you may well gain some valuable insights.
Given the accelerating pace of change, and the significant investment costs, it’s little surprise that many owners and engineering and construction executives are hesitant to plan their future technology strategy. Just 8 percent of survey respondents feel their organizations are ‘cutting-edge visionaries’ – and only 19 percent say they’re aggressively disrupting their business models.
But without a strategy, it’s hard to see how companies can evaluate, adapt and integrate new technology. If they want to drive project performance, continuous improvement and productivity, executives should:
To view the full survey findings, download the complete report.
The scale, ambition and complexity of today’s engineering and construction projects are nothing short of breathtaking.