Technology in all its permutations has become an integral part of our everyday lives and transformed almost all of the conceivable big industries that you can think of, and the construction industry is not exempt. Though, admittedly, project management in the construction industry is one of those areas where technology has had a hard time taking root in mainly because of the old-fashioned attitude of a lot of project managers. However, it wasn’t long before construction companies realized that to be able to stay competitive in today’s business climate, they have to integrate technology into their processes. Nowadays, even the most conservative project manager is slowly moving away from the outdated pen-and-paper management models in favor for the progressively easy to use construction management software.
But in what ways has technology changed management in construction? In a nutshell, technology has revolutionized the way project management is implemented in construction. Technological advances in software in the form of construction project management software, hardware, communication technology, and construction materials have changed the project management landscape in the past 20 years and is continuing to change it today. From easier communication, faster collaboration, and data-driven decision making let’s take a look at 5 ways on how technology has changed how projects are managed in construction.
- Easier and Improved Communication
Project success in construction is a group effort, and communication is one of the key factors in making this happen. One of the most important uses of technology in project management is making sure that there is proper communication between team members as well as stakeholders. It wasn’t a long time ago when email first came to into use, project managers used it to replace interoffice paper memos, beepers, and other less-reliable forms of communication. Now, there are multiple apps and software that are available and are beginning to replace email. In addition to this, project management software allows team members to safely and quickly share updates, documents and other critical information with each other.
Technology that can help simplify communication can help project managers minimize costs and keep construction projects on schedule. Software that provides real-time notification is useful because it allows project managers to swiftly respond to any logistical or safety problems. Mobile technology allows team members to instantaneously share and access data wherever and whenever.
- Cloud Revolution
Project management software has been around for a long time but hasn’t gained popularity until recently because project management solutions were often too expensive and too labor intensive to be used by small and medium businesses. However, in the last decade, the rise of cloud-based SaaS ( Software as Subscription) project management software packages have opened the possibility of using technology in project management for companies of all sizes and budget. Cloud-based project management software packages are cost-effective, easy to install and manage, allows for mobile access and can integrate well with existing software.
- Better Decision Making with BIM (Building Information Management)
Building Image Modelling (BIM) has been around since the 1980s but has only been gaining ground during the past decade. When you say BIM, people in the AEC (Architecture, Engineering, Construction) industry will automatically think 3D. This is not entirely wrong, but BIM is not only 3D modelling but is a process for creating and managing all the information about a project which leads to an output that’s known as a Building Information Model which contains a digital description for every aspect of the physical project. This means that you can see every aspect of the project -from inside out, top to bottom.
So how does BIM help project management? Well, for one, being able to see the whole project in 3D, client and stakeholders can easily see and understand the consequence of any project decision. In addition to this, BIM allows the project manager to see the progress of the 3D model during the design phase giving the project manager a better basis for judging the progress in the design program and cost planning.
BIM allows project managers to see any construction project to be built virtually before they are constructed in the real world which can eliminate many, if not all of the problems that arise during the construction process.
- Better Time Tracking and Decentralized Teams
If you said to project managers in the 1980s that a team can work effectively even if they are across the globe from each other and didn’t meet regularly meet face to face, you would have been met with disbelief and perhaps thought of as a little bit crazy. But nowadays, thanks to the advances in communication technology, and project management software packages, it’s possible to build teams with employees and contractors located in different cities, time zones, and even different countries. This kind of collaboration uses resources all available resources and also improves the speed in which a team can operate
- Increased Field Productivity
Reports and documentation no matter how laborious are a part of any successful construction project. Back in the olden days’ construction superintendents used the traditional pen-and-paper reporting method wherein, at the end of the day they try to gather data from notes that they have hastily scribbled in notebooks or individual spreadsheets. Data collected this way can be lost or can be highly vulnerable to human error. But, today, technology through easy to use cloud-based applications and software that are easily accessible through mobile devices gives superintendents the ability to file reports that they need directly from the field.
By automating the reporting and documenting process, a huge chunk of time can be shaved off each month, as well as increasing the quality of the data collected. In addition to this, data that are saved in a central location can are easily organized and retrieved anytime, anywhere.
Technology is continually changing the project management landscape as we know it today to be faster, more efficient and more cost-effective than ever. Project managers are slowly beginning to understand that to be able to continue to survive and thrive in the current construction climate of cutthroat competition, they have to adapt to the ever-changing technology and harness it to their advantage. As Charles Darwin, the author of Origin of the Species once said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”