The key to project success in a challenging economy


Today, 70 percent of construction projects are over time and budget. This results in a productivity gap worth approximately $1.6 trillion – equivalent to Canada’s entire GDP. This was far from ideal in the strong market we have experienced for the past decade but rising interest and mortgage rates make this level of overshoot entirely unsustainable.

The construction industry has not experienced similar efficiency gains to other industrial sectors over the past several decades. On large projects in particular, according to the Construction Owners Association of America (COAA), 63 percent of direct labor time goes to waste on inefficiencies such as waiting for materials to be delivered or travelling to the site.

Today’s challenges
As economic conditions worsen, businesses must maximize productivity and efficiency to protect their profit margins. Doing so demands a new approach to project management – and spreadsheets and digital systems not designed for the construction industry simply aren’t up to the task.

Modern solutions need to reconcile the complex logistical considerations, such as the ground conditions of individual sites, and building plans – no two are the same. At the same time, some tools are complex and require extensive training to use. This means that the wider team is unable to access or input information, limiting communication.

Meanwhile, clients are increasingly used to having information at their fingertips. They expect regular updates, but these can be time-consuming to compile. Similarly, contractors and workers also expect high levels of communication to ensure they are at the right place at the right time and know what to do.

Managing all of these considerations using conventional tools and approaches is both time and labor-intensive, eating into thin profits. It also introduces the risk of fragmenting understanding, as there is no ‘single version of the truth’ accessible to all stakeholders.

How modern solutions can help
The modern world is powered by software, and while it has been slower to reach the jobsite than other areas of life, there are advanced, easy-to-use solutions available. Specialist project software – like Elecosoft’s Powerproject – is designed from the ground up for construction applications and can help at every stage of a project.

Before breaking ground, the team can use the software to outline the critical path and determine where, when and how many skilled tradespeople will be required. This helps deliver accurate time estimates and costings, increasing the chance that a business will win a project. From there on, every member of the team can use the software to deliver profitably.

A further advantage of using software is the ability to create standard project templates. A four-bedroom home template, for example, can then be tailored for the end customer’s finish and budget and to take account of the unique conditions on the building plot.

However, no plan survives contact with the real world for long, so software also needs to be able to react to changes. Current challenges, for instance, include worker availability due to sickness, fluctuating material prices, and a shortage of skilled workers. Any of these issues could snowball into a major problem if not addressed.

Fortunately, modern software ensures that the project manager has constant visibility over these issues and can begin working to resolve them as soon as they arise, minimizing the chance of them causing major disruption. What is more the project manager has a complete history of all changes with supporting commentary should they require them at a later date.

When adopting digital solutions homebuilders should look to software vendors that regularly update their software with new features to meet real-world requirements. Powerproject, recently built upon its 4D planning capability and has exciting plans in 2023 that will further support the industry plan and execute complex projects successfully.

Learning from experience
Another common issue is discrepancies between the as-built scheme and the original design. A lack of as-built information results in loss of knowledge, leaving the loop open and limiting the potential for improvement over time.

Often, failure to update the as-built information is the result of limitations in the data recording process. Perhaps it is too challenging to use, only a few people have access, or the people who are responsible are too time constrained.

Modern project software accounts for this and ensures that everyone involved can easily update the information as they go. The software is designed to be as intuitive as possible, minimizing the need for additional training.

This software-based approach has been tried and tested in the construction industry, and it can deliver a range of additional benefits. For example, regular updates provide an audit trail which can be useful in the event of a dispute or litigation.

Perhaps most importantly, a solid record of each build provides project managers with valuable lessons that they can apply going forward. For example, they can adjust the templates for the next build or modify timelines to optimize the process.

Maximizing efficiency in tough times
Margins for construction are small, so businesses need to take every available opportunity to work efficiently. Specialist project software is one way to maintain a competitive edge, address unforeseen issues, and deliver complex projects on time and on budget.

Learn more at homebuilders about how a dedicated project management solution for the construction industry can help homebuilders hit their targets. ■

For a list of the sources used in this article, please contact the editor.

Founded in 1895, Elecosoft provides software integrated solutions to support the lifecycle of buildings and facilities across a range of industries to drive efficient operations. From its centres of excellence in the UK, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, and the USA, its established portfolio of software is used during early planning stages through to construction and facilities management, driving the performance and day-to-day operations of customers’ businesses.