Understanding the true status of a project in construction today is not only challenging, the lack thereof is becoming a cost burden for project developers/clients/project sponsors. Today we constantly see how three levels of poor control emerge in development organisations or project intensive institutions that ultimately lead to significant, unforeseen losses. This is in poor construction schedules, poor reporting by teams and poor implementation of project control infrastructure by institutions.
Contractors (Level 1)
Because of a lack of standards in terms of construction schedules the following tend to happen:
- contractors routinely submit poor quality construction schedules that is completely unfit for good planning, progress measurement and control or;
- contractors are so well-versed in expensive scheduling software that they provide very complicated schedules. These contractors have all the control and teams have no choice but to rely on this information often at their own peril when the contractor starts submitting claims for extension of time.
Imagine an industry where we obligate the contractor to create his own bill of quantities and price the work in absence of any standard system for measurement. Contractors would simply create their own trades and make their own underlying assumptions about what is and isn’t included in their rates. Imagine the chaos! And yet this is exactly how the industry currently deals with time. We place this obligation in the lap of the contractor in absence of any standards of how a schedule should be compiled and what underlying assumptions can be made by all parties looking at a schedule.
Professional teams (Level 2)
On the other hand, most of our Professionals on a project are highly skilled within their particular trades and very seldom possess the necessary, modern expertise or time to scrutinise and manage a contractor’s schedule and set up a proper controls infrastructure. Whether a contractor submits a poor schedule or a highly complex one doesn’t really matter, the outcome is the same:
- The team is not clear on what exactly is communicated by the contractor in his updated schedule, nor can they make meaningful sense of his 100-page progress reports.
- The team is reliant on the contractor who slowly spreads his information. He can manipulate and mask it in any way he deems fit. Teams sit with poor information on which to make decisions or measure true variance often leading to disputes or sudden realisation of project failure, often taking place when it is far too late to take any corrective actions.
Developer/Project Intensive Institution (Level 3)
In terms of developing organisations, the following is true for their project controls function:
- Some rely heavily on their respective professional teams to supply them with proper reporting and project controls. Although some of these teams may be highly skilled, there are mostly a lack of standardised control between teams and each project team has their own unique, predefined reporting systems as per their company standard.
- Other institutions obtain state-of-the-art control systems on a senior level in their company for excessive fees. Often these systems never fulfil their intended role because they cannot function effectively without proper control systems implemented on Level 2 and 1 mentioned above.
The solution is what our colleagues in the medical fraternity dubbed the “holistic approach”. A doctor performing surgery on a serious leg fracture for instance, only takes care of a portion of the “healthcare” you will receive. Healthcare as a holistic system requires post-operative care, rehabilitation treatment by a physio etc. You cannot attend physiotherapy in isolation and expect your fracture to heal. Nor can we expect good results by only having surgery and trying to one-leg it back home shortly after.
Project Control is the same. For institutions looking to have better control, better decision making, more time to take corrective actions, adhere to good corporate governance principles, audit performance, have less disputes and lower the cost of development, they have to implement measures and systems on all three levels.
This requires expertise on all three levels and that is why most organisations fail to implement proper systems for project control.