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Friday, Feb 23, 2024

Construction—Information tools reshape construction industry

Computer systems are evolving faster than most of us can keep up.

Software is getting smarter, giving us back precious time that was previously spent less efficiently. With the help of e-mail, the Internet and project management software, we are able to spend more time doing what matters.

Recently, a number of software programs have come on the market that can help with the management of information on construction projects from start to finish. The programs can give the owners and contractors real-time feedback of project costs and schedule status.

Many organizations are coming to the realization that these programs are a must-have. Not only do they reduce administrative time for project managers and other non-administrative personnel, they also can speed up such processes as change orders and requests for information.

Top decision-makers on complex projects demand current and accurate information to enable proactive corrections of unforeseen issues affecting the project, and the only way to do this well is with computers.

Traditionally the construction industry has trailed behind in the technology age, but it’s now being forced to catch up due to owner demands for accountability. Previously, tracking pertinent information , such as time and cost status as compared to budget , was delayed weeks, if not months.

Now it can be obtained at the push of a button.

– Software Programs Are Multi-Faceted

These multi-faceted programs are commonly used to improve the management of such processes as scheduling, cost control, documents, contracts and communication.

An organization can use one computer program to manage most administrative functions for multiple projects. Budgets, schedules, submittals, requests for information, change orders and contracts are just a few of the functions that can be managed with these software packages. They also allow for management of correspondence and produce hundreds of different reports and forms.

One of the hottest new developments that is used to help manage information is an “extranet.” This Web-based interface acts as a clearing house for project information.

All members of the project team, from owner to subcontractor, can use the project Web site to get real-time information. One can review the response to a request for information, look at updated plans, and track the progress of submittal approvals, all from one Web site.

As far as we see, most companies recognize the value of this technology and have a high level of need, but they’re faced with too many choices. Some of the software packages are a better match for a company’s needs than others, but making that determination is somewhat of a difficult process.

– Select Software Based On Needs

A company should invest in project management software only after a thorough needs assessment is done.

How large and complex are your projects?

Which will be compatible with that of your clients? What functions will you be using the software for? These are some of the things that need to be looked at.

It’s not like buying a car, and having to decide on body color or power windows. With this software, you spend approximately $1,500 to $2,000 per work station for the license, plus two to three times that amount in training. Add to that the cost of implementation, and you have made quite a large investment. If you made the wrong choice, it’s extremely costly to remedy.

Implementation can take anywhere from 45 days to six months, depending on how many departments will be using the software. A company with 20 users who are not familiar with the software will take about three months to get fully up and running.

Some of the more popular software packages include Primavera’s Expedition, Prolog by Meridian Project Systems, Timberline and Microsoft’s MS Project.

Expedition is the more widely used contract management package in our industry right now, especially for information management for the larger, more complex, long-term projects.

– Schools, Agencies Use Various Tools

Many institutional organizations, such as school systems, and local and national government agencies, are utilizing the software to manage funds and construction projects.

Some of these agencies are now requiring that certain members of the construction team are compatible with their information management methods. Architects, engineers, general contractors, and many of the multi-trade and larger subs are included in this ever-growing list.

One agency in San Diego that is currently on the market for this software is the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee.

The citizens committee was established by Proposition MM, under which voters approved a $1.51 billion bond measure for renovations to existing schools, as well as the construction of new schools, libraries and science laboratories within the San Diego Unified School District.

Due to the fact that the funds are to be expended on hundreds of different projects, the school district needed information management software to help them with fund disbursement and project management. The Independent Citizens Oversight Committee is currently evaluating different software packages for degree of technical difficulty, ease of implementation and cost-effectiveness.

Technology is moving along at lightning speed, giving us the ability to more easily communicate with each other. By utilizing the proper information management tools, we can increase our efficiency, leaving more time for what is important.

Gaffen founded Gafcon, a construction management firm providing professional construction consulting, construction program management and construction-related claims support.


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