By Kalyan Vaidyanathan, CEO & Co-founder, Nadhi Information Technologies
Real estate and infrastructure sectors in India have grown exponentially in the past few years. They have grown in size where in real estate owners and capital project developers are embarking on larger and bolder projects. The number of projects is also increasing steadily over the past few years. However, some of the basic issues that drag the sector are still prevalent. Owners and EPC contractors still struggle to deliver projects within time and under budget without compromising on quality. But increasingly, thanks to growing awareness to the potential of technology and the new normal created by the COVID pandemic, both these sectors are now exploring cloud and mobile enabled construction technologies for managing projects. However, decision makers in these sectors need to recognize some of the basic framework within which these technologies have to be deployed in order to maximize the benefits.
Effective project management involving multiple stakeholders involves multiple factors. These include:
⦁ Selecting project participants who are willing to work in the project’s benefit
⦁ Implementation of various processes for proper coordination and project controls
⦁ Development of effective mechanisms for avoiding conflicts rather than have to resolve conflicts, among the various participants.
For efficient construction project management there has to be a strong alignment of process and technology. It is understood and all acknowledge that the distributed and fragmented nature of construction in terms of stakeholders (internal and external) is here to stay. And because of this fragmentation, pundits acknowledge that it will not be possible to have one monolithic construction technology solution which can be deployed for the project lifecycle. Hence, unlike other sectors, construction project management involves collaboration among stakeholders on potentially multiple technology components. And effective and proactive project management means that the information flow across these technology components and stakeholders have to be seamless so that decision makers have access to near real time information to control the project before the domino effect of time and cost overruns become a problem. For example, a delay in a decision or late arrival of a drawing could potentially impact a construction milestone a few months down the line. Mis-aligned procurement can cause expensive labor idle time or worse time and cost overruns on the project. These are still commonplace scenarios in construction projects due to the fragmented technologies and processes that lead to the inability for decision makers to have an end-to-end view of their projects and take decisions that creates a sense of reliability and flow in the project progress.
Even before COVID-19, the sector has been exploring paperless solutions to enhance sustainability metrics. COVID-19 has additionally created a new norm of social distancing, remote collaboration, and an environment conducive for virtual project management, monitoring, and control. CXOs of all organizations are now embracing digital transformation and the promise it brings. A transformation that can help speed up the construction process, maintain timelines, and deliver projects within budget without compromising quality. COVID-19, despite its multiple vices, has created an opportunity for the sector to create this new normal. Technology-led project management will give more credence to the environment, sustainability, social distancing, and accelerate the need to digitize various aspects of construction projects right from design to procurement to execution.
Hence, for successful project management on a digitally enabled process aligned platform, organizations should create a long-term strategy that seamlessly manages the information flow across stakeholders and technology components. There is this strong need for an integration platform that can interoperate with existing systems, interconnect the data sources, and provide a connected digital thread through the lifecycle of the project. Project Management Integrated Systems (PMIS) can provide this framework. Once successfully implemented and adopted, they can provide insights, forward looking KPIs and actionable alerts from them. This platform can create a common data environment on which analytics and insights can be gained at a project and portfolio level.
With today’s near ubiquitous availability of computing on the cloud and mobile connectivity, a PMIS system can eliminate information latency from the site to the HO and help decision makers manage and mitigate time and cost overruns. Technology and gadgets such as smart phones and apps have now enabled the ease of omnichannel and hassle-free communication and smooth collaboration. With the help of these and automated process flows, updated details can be synced real time with backend systems, thus making it possible to receive and share data from the field and communicate decisions from decision makers from across the world. This helps in faster and informed decision making, check and report progress, quality and safety to name a few, and add notes, make changes in drawings, instantly respond to requests for information (RFIs) and share updates with all in one go. In the near future, construction sites will be covered with sensors that will automatically collect such information and further improve the productivity and efficiency of project management. In the author’s experience, atleast 20% productivity improvement can be gained through the deployment PMIS systems.
India can lead this revolution in the development and deployment of PMIS for the construction sector. With the level of infrastructure investments that the Government of India is planning and investments in Real Estate and affordable housing planned, adoption of technology enabled project management can put India on the global map for efficiency in construction project management. What is needed is the process alignment, a long-term strategy, and determination and faith in driving the adoption of such systems to create the digital transformation that the construction industry needs.