Due to the unique and complex nature of project management within the construction industry, companies should think carefully about the technology they are using to accomplish this function. Thankfully, there are purpose-built tools that deliver industry-specific modules and features to keep even the busiest contractor’s many jobs on track.
Resource Planning Solutions for Improved Construction Project Management
The following are a few of the most important elements of an enterprise resource planning suite for the construction industry, allowing contractors to re-define the way they organize their projects.
A Connection to a Single Database Platform
When resource planning is an isolated function – as is normal in models driven by legacy technologies and manual data entry – it’s difficult to maximize the efficiency of the system. Planning out the details of a project, determining how available and needed resources will affect the timeline of the job and more, may all be managed with offline spreadsheets at organizations that haven’t yet updated to a purpose-built system. These contractors are missing out on the potential benefits that come with modern web-based resource project management software tools connected to a single database platform.
The more effective approach to resource planning involves a single source of data truth, with every element of project management as a whole connected to the same set of information. Changes in employment affect the budget automatically, while updates from the job site are reflected in schedule projections. Purchase and maintenance operations are integrated with inventory databases in real time and employee actions that were once highly manual and involved consulting and updating several systems are now part of a unified whole.
Management personnel have information on all the jobs active across the whole company, and are able to determine the status of a single project or the business in general. Knowing what resources are tied up where and for how long – from employees to equipment and beyond – enables leaders to make informed decisions, and to do so quickly.
Effective resource planning involves a single source of data truth – every element of project management is connected to the same set of information.
Internal stakeholders and external partner organizations will appreciate the comprehensive and accurate schedules and projections that can emerge from a resource planning system that draws on centralized data. Furthermore, launching a new project becomes significantly easier when managers know exactly which resources are currently being used, and for how long they’ll be unavailable.
Handling resource planning through legacy methods may have required days to perform actions that are now virtually instantaneous. For example, determining the availability of an employee or asset might have required multiple phone calls to busy teams or departments, yet when all the data is highly visible and centralized, that extended process becomes one click.
Budgeting, Inventory and Personnel Modules
When contractors choose resource planning systems that are part of comprehensive construction software platforms, they don’t just receive the ability to integrate information from other departments – the tasks associated with those unique functions also become easier to accomplish.
For example, the accounting and financial tasks associated with running a contracting company are unique and potentially challenging to handle, especially when the enterprise spreads its operations over multiple regions, each with its own set of regulations to follow. In this case, a purpose-built construction module helps reduce the risk of human error in finance, while also making everyday tasks simpler.
Dealing with inventory is another multifaceted process that becomes much simpler with the right technology. Every asset associated with a contractor, from buildings to pieces of gear needed on the job site, should have its location, status and associated costs tracked at all times. A module designed for this purpose and integrated with budgeting, scheduling and planning tools can take the challenge out of this part of the project management process.
Talent management and scheduling in construction is not quite like human resources processes in any other industry. With a number of unique safety and skills certifications to track, as well as a project-based hiring and employment model for the personnel who work on the job site, construction HR demands a purpose-built software module. When this system is integrated with general resource planning dashboards and draws on a single source of data, stakeholders gain unprecedented visibility into the availability, status and activities of company personnel.
Improving any of the individual resource management functions associated with running a construction project could represent efficiency increases and improved value for contractors. Upgrading them all and integrating them into a single environment of shared information stands to have an even greater positive impact. Resource planning can be precise and effective when it is informed by these many helpful modules and the data they output.
Forecasting and Projections
Making accurate forecasts and projections, informed by real-time data and delivering valuable insights, is an important capability for construction stakeholders to have. When there are dashboards showing the near- and long-term prospects of resources and projects, leaders are able to be more proactive with the way they deploy their resources.
Understanding potential deficits in staffing, equipment or anything else needed on a job site may help project managers plan course corrections and get those projects back on track. When forecasting is tied to a single source of data truth, these forecasts benefit in two ways: Not only will leaders be able to more accurately detect when a problem is manifesting itself, they can determine whether corrective actions are having the intended effect much more quickly than if they had to rely on manual data entry and calculations.
Advanced forecasting software can also allow staff members to try out potential scenarios, determining points where resource utilization bottlenecks may occur and creating contingency plans. Having these proactive responses in mind can reduce the disruption when a supply chain issue or other problem causes a slowdown.
Advanced forecasting applications can allow staff members to try out potential scenarios, determine utilization bottlenecks and create contingency plans.
Visually compelling and user-friendly interfaces are impactful parts of resource planning and forecasting. When users have graphical dashboards showing them the status of a given resource through time, they can make decisions more confidently, not having to parse through numbers to derive meaning from the data.
Apps for Access from the Office and the Field
Having a unified data environment is a clear advantage for a construction organization – but just how far does that information reach? When a company deploys an enterprise resource planning platform that is accessible on the go, they gain the ability to improve both data collection and usage.
Supervisors on the job site can enter information reflecting the project’s situation, whether that is scheduling information, the status of an asset or any other update. By uploading photos taken with their smart devices, these team members can create detailed records that will be useful for other stakeholders to review. Before centralized databases became available, these site updates may have been filed once a day or less often. Now, they are visible as soon as they occur.
Resource planning operations and project management in general benefit from this real-time dialogue with the work site. For instance, office personnel can make projections and change resource allocations based on events that have just happened, preventing delays from taking hold or making effective use of assets that are unexpectedly available.
Thanks to smart device access, the flow of information through a construction organization can be a two-way street. Personnel working on a project have ways to immediately see the status of everything from employee schedules to inventory. Furthermore, the latest version of every asset entered into the centralized data storage system – including essential documents, such as plans – is viewable on the job site through the web or mobile interface.
The Risks of Staying with Legacy Resource Planning and Project Management Methods
Many construction organizations today do not use purpose-built solutions for tasks such as resource planning or general project management. There are risks associated with this outdated operational approach, as those technology tools were not designed for the unique challenges of the construction industry – or for real-time job planning of any kind.
Spreadsheets are limited in their utility as resource planning solutions, tending to require a large amount of manual data entry. Not only is data entry a time-consuming task, one that represents a low-value use of employee time, being forced to enter duplicate information into various sheets and programs introduces numerous opportunities for human error.
Furthermore, resource planning in spreadsheets means going without some of the more specialized functions associated with purpose-built tools. Rather than being able to make forecasts and plans with a single click, stakeholders must perform complicated calculations on their own. The schedules and timelines developed with this method may be significantly less precise than those stemming from dedicated resource planning tools, while also taking longer to create.
From employees on the job site to all levels of leadership personnel in the office and subcontractor representatives, everyone benefits from the clearer plans developed with dedicated construction industry software. In addition to these personnel seeing the advantages of better visibility, clients will appreciate the way projects are completed on quicker and more predictable schedules. Leaving outdated project management methods in the past allows contractors to finally make progress toward new models of efficiency.
Technologies That Grow Alongside a Contractor
One of the most exciting elements of working with web-based software and a centralized database platform is that the infrastructure is naturally flexible and accessible to organizations of all sizes, from specialty contractors with a few active jobs to general contractor firms operating projects across several countries at any given time. Furthermore, these solutions are scalable to meet companies’ needs, allowing small firms to grow in capabilities and ambition without stopping to replace their tech tools again.
An exciting element of working with web-based software and a centralized database platform is that the infrastructure is naturally flexible and accessible to organizations of all sizes.
Going from one project to several, and keeping records on those that have been completed, can be challenging for a contractor attempting rapid expansion. Having a centralized source of data, connected to modules such as resource planning which will continue to work at the new, larger scale is a way to make this transition easier. Ambitious organizations that are expanding their scope, offerings, regional footprint or customer base will appreciate the flexibility.
Furthermore, in addition to having technology that will grow alongside their operations, contractors that use purpose-built construction technology tools are better equipped to complete jobs quickly and efficiently, saving money toward growth and expansion. Less waste and more effective reactions to disruption are enablers of progress for contractors of all sizes.