Today most projects’ reported performance tends will be all Green on the surface, but we know that most likely from the inside it will be mostly if not all Red. Organizations who are serious about successful capital projects delivery must ensure that project’s schedule, cost and other variances are identified and rectified to mitigate their negative impact on the project. They need to ensure that they have access to trust-worthy single version of the truth information when it comes to managing and reporting project performance.
Understanding the Information Barriers
When it comes to capital projects delivery, there are usually six types of information barriers that organizations could encounter when it comes to managing, monitoring, evaluating and reporting projects’ performance and status. The first barrier is the link between the project communication and the project documents that are usually attached to those communications to provide the additional needed information. Project communication usually uses document templates such as request for information (RFI), submittals, transmittals, meeting minutes, daily reports, request for inspection, non-conformance reports, potential change orders, change orders, progress invoices among many others. In addition, project communication includes letters such as letter of award, notice to process, termination letter among many others. Usually, the organization would have a folder for each type of document templates and maybe letters. In addition, the organization would also have folders to store the project documents that are usually attached to those project communications. There could be folders for drawings, pictures, catalogues, specifications among others.
The second barrier, is the barrier between the document templates for each project communication type. For example, if the project team member wants to identify what change orders where issued due to unforeseen site conditions, he or she needs to review the complete change order folder records to locate those documents. Of course, some might assume that this barrier can be eliminated by logging the details of the project communication in a MS XLS file. Nevertheless, the issue is how much of the data within each communication record we need to retype in MS XLS which carries its own risks of data quality and time validity. In addition, even if those project communication details are captured in the MS XLS spreadsheet, one stills needs to go back to the file folder and locate those records.
The third barrier is the silos created using MS XLS for each type of project communication which are usually created by different project team members depending on the relevance of the communication to them. For example, the document controller might be the one responsible for maintaining the RFI, submittal, transmittal, meeting minutes, daily reports, request for inspection and non-conformance reports logs while the cost manager might be the one responsible for maintaining the logs for potential change orders, change orders, progress invoices among others. If a project team member needs to understand what project communications have contributed to a change order, he or she needs to check different project communication MS XLS spreadsheets and eventually the document folders that have those records to have that comprehensive understanding of the issue.
The fourth barrier is the ability to have a single project status report or dashboard that provides real-time visualization of the overall project’s performance status. The MS XLS logs created to capture some of the data included in the project communications not only carry the risk of data errors, lacking data consistency, data silos but also could be stored at different locations. Therefore, multiple MS XLS files need to collected, loaded, linked or copied to a single MS XLS file, analyzed, manipulated, reviewed and prepared to be used for the progress report or dashboard. Not only this is a time-consuming process, which might take one week to complete but also requires the involvement of key project team members and carries the high risk of faulty data manipulation and analysis as well as the validity of the time-sensitive reported information.
The fifth barrier is the requirement of the organization’s executives to have projects portfolio performance and status report and dashboard. This could be at program level, projects group level or enterprise level. Even if we assume that the organization has invested in a business intelligence and data visualization application like MS Power BI, this requires receiving MS XLS file from each project that consolidates the project’s performance data needed for that report or dashboard. This entails the risk of not receiving that MS XLS in a timely manner with the exact form and format of project’s performance data needed to be reported on.
Nevertheless, the worst barrier of all is the knowledge barrier. Having projects information captured in hundreds if not thousands MS XLS files is a direct waste of the knowledge that an organization would expect to have from delivering projects. The wasted knowledge is not limited to the current projects being delivered by the organization but it extends to all other completed, shelved and planned projects that usually their MS XLS files are deleted, corrupted or misplaced. Even if the organization creates a task force to capture all of those MS XLS files, the efforts and associated cost for locating those files and making use of their content might not be justifiable.
Those barriers not only carry the high-cost of using expensive resources to capture, store, aggregate, analyze, blend, review, share, report and present the needed projects’ information but also the time-lag between the date that this information is captured and the date it become available to be shared which raises the major concern on the validity of this reported information to provide the project team and executives with the insight to make better and faster informed decisions that could impact the project’s success.
How Can Technology Eliminate Those Barriers?
Using a Project Management Information System (PMIS) like PMWeb not only eliminates those barriers but will ensure the quality of captured data by enforcing the use of the right forms, by the right project team members, to capture the right data in the right format and at the right time. This will be done on a single integrated, web-enabled platform for all project management processes across the complete project life cycle and for the complete organization’s projects portfolio regardless of their status, type, phase, location among others.
PMWeb will be used to automate the project management processes by the providing the input forms to capture the needed data. Many of the capital projects delivery forms come ready with PMWeb but the custom form builder can be also used to create additional input forms.
Each project communication can be attached with documents that are either uploaded and stored in its appropriate folder or subfolder in PMWeb document management repository or can be uploaded directly. In addition, links to other PMWeb records can be added as well as to email communications that were imported to PMWeb database. This will remove the first information barrier as all attached documents are now available for review from within the project communication itself.
Workflows can be assigned for each form to map the steps for submitting, reviewing, sharing and approving or rejecting the project management process. The workflow could include branches and escalation conditions to map the project authorities’ level usually set for each project role. Notifications can be added to remind those involved in the workflow process to avoid delays in performing each process. For some forms, there could be a need for ad-hoc collaboration rather than a formal workflow where project team members are simply invited to provide their input or feedback on the project communication using the input form.
The data captured in each form will become automatically available for displaying the transactions log for each project communication. This real-time log of all those transactions remove the second barrier between those communications. Layouts can be created to display the data in the desired format with the option to order and filter the transactions by the desired field.
Since all type of project communications are captured on the same PMWeb platform, the project team member can search and locate all records that are relevant to a specific topic. The record search function in PMWeb allows searching for records across multiple projects, across multiple record types with all possible record status. The identified records can be then selected saved to an electronic folder known as issue where the project team member can drilldown to each selected record and review. This removes the third barrier of not being able to relate to information captured in different types of project communication records.
With all related project communications’ data are captured in PMWeb with the option to import data from other applications either directly like the schedule data from Oracle Primavera P6 or MS Project or import data through application integration, the organization can have a single version of the truth project performance dashboard. This will allow the organization to monitor and evaluate real time project’s performance and status. Accordingly, the fourth barrier of reporting project’s performance is eliminated.
As PMWeb allows the organization to capture all of their projects’ portfolio regardless of their status, location, type, phase, size among others, the organization can have dashboards to report on a program, group of projects or all projects. Dashboards can be designed to include maps to visualize the location of those projects as well as include other visuals to better analyze and visualize the projects portfolio performance. The dashboards can be designed to allow drilling to a specific project as well as project information. This eliminates the fifth information barrier.
Finally, PMWeb is one of the very few PMIS solutions that continue to be available as an on-premise solution where it can be hosted on the organization’s own data center or any other preferred data center of their choice to provide what is known as private cloud. In addition, PMWeb public cloud offering or SaaS provides organizations with the option of having their own dedicated data server to ensure that their confidential and valuable data is not mixed with other organizations known as tenants. This enables the organization to use business intelligence and other applications to analyze the everyday data captured across all of their projects’ portfolio in confidence. The captured data is not limited to the project communication needed to manage the project but could also include data captured in custom-defined lessons learned document templates to enforce knowledge capturing and sharing in the organization. This data can also be made available to machine learning and other new technologies that will help in improving the use and dissemination of projects’ knowledge thus eliminating the final information barrier.