18 Feb 2020

The Digitalisation of Project Management Processes

Technology
The Digitalisation of Project Management Processes

The benefits of digitalisation continue to impact many aspects of our lives. As consumers of information we expect anywhere anytime access beyond barriers of time and location. As customers we demand 24/7 access to products and services backed by personalised customer experiences. From an organisation or industry perspective in addition to meeting these ever-evolving customer expectations, the biggest driver of digitalisation is the efficiency it brings. Digitalisation allows organisations to become nimble, access information real time and consequently analyse this information for a clearer understanding of end-user needs. With an impact so profound, digitalisation will continue to make in-roads into industries and the project management space is no exception to this disruption.
 

The data intensive nature of project management provides a great opportunity to use digitalisation across several areas like data analysis for risk management, monitoring of progress, resource allocation, improved accountability and real time information updating for transparent stakeholder communication. Here’s a peek into digitalisation possibilities across the five stages of project management:


CONCEPTUALISATION AND INITIATION

Building a business case for a project or assessing its feasibility can get a lot simpler with supporting data. Mobile phone data, for instance, could be analysed to identify areas with high commuter traffic. Areas with high commuter traffic and high wait time imply opportunities for development of mass transit. The market offers a host of tools to collect such industry data backed by professional consultancies that analyse and provide actionable insights.

Digitalisation can also help with sponsor buy-ins and approvals. According to Dr. Greg Usher, National General Manager - Buildings & Property, RPS,

“A major challenge during this stage in the construction space is to get project sponsors with a non-construction background to visualize the project. While construction professionals like architects or engineers can perceive final outcomes based on design plans, it is hard for many sponsors to do so. This problem can be solved with a digital virtual reality enabled format of the project that allows stakeholders to view a close and accurate representation of the final project. While this may seem simplistic, getting sponsor buy-in at this stage can save hundreds of hours of work that could arise due to mismatched expectations”.

 


DEVELOPMENT AND PLANNING

Large project management organisations rely on digital systems to manage resource allocation and scheduling across multiple projects. Terri Dentry, Portfolio Manager NTT Global Networks stated, “We handle hundreds of projects and this scale is only possible because we rely on digitalisation. We use Changepoint to handle resource allocation and scheduling. All details of finance, work effort, and duration of a project sit within this single system for all projects. Project managers step in to check the viability and accuracy of recommendations. For instance, they check if the assigned engineers are a cultural fit for the organisations they’ve been selected to work with. Additionally, our Business Intelligence is integrated with Changepoint to provide us with a panoramic view of which project manager is handling what and how many projects along with project progress. It is also able to analyse data to deliver forecasts on scheduling, resourcing, milestones and completion”.

In the constructions space, BIM (Building Information Model) allows a 3D representation of an upcoming project complete with several pieces of critical information. According to Dr Usher, “An architect can create a basic BIM model of a high-rise building, consequently structural engineers, hydraulics engineers, cost accountants can add relevant pieces of information. In fact, the knowledge of some building information modelling software like Rivet has become a prerequisite for being hired to execute public works projects in certain Australian states”.
 

LAUNCH AND EXECUTION 

Stakeholder communication is an important aspect of this phase. With involvement of multiple stakeholders, consistent and real-time information updates are crucial. Tools like Jira, SharePoint among others fulfil such communication needs. As per Dentry,

"Use of such systems leads to greater transparency and accountability as data can’t be manipulated”.


Construction contracts are complex and use legal language that make it difficult for involved parties to understand. Contract Administration tools like Aconex simplify the process by assigning clear cut responsibilities pertaining to different contract phase and informing each stakeholder of the exact implementation steps. It even has a provision for orderable trial.
 

PERFORMANCE AND CONTROL

In the construction industry, technology exists to perform site inspections with drones. Recorded updates could then be uploaded to a system and compared with approved building plans. The findings could then be accessed by multiple stakeholders.

Several construction risk assessment platforms allow inspectors to upload identified risks on a system for immediate review.

Digital reporting systems have replaced analogue reporting mechanism of recording and manually sharing updates. Today’s systems analyse risk, provide forecasts and share progress and performance information instantaneously.


PROJECT CLOSE

Digital systems allow signoffs from multiple stakeholders beyond barriers of time and location. Based on updates of various milestones a stakeholder can decide on a signoff.

In the construction industry, going forward, the physical delivery of an asset will be accompanied by its digital twin that will carry critical pieces of information like material used, equipment deployed and maintenance needs among others. The final physical project will be compared with this digital version.
 

IN CONCLUSION

Digitalisation aims at assisting project managers and not replacing them. As per Dentry, “Best laid plans don’t always work out. Take the example of the recent bushfire events in NSW and VIC. A lot of our projects were affected, and it took good project management skills to improvise and deliver tactical solutions.”



 


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