Home > Industry News

Empowering AECO Project Managers Through Smart and Intuitive Information Management

Empowering AECO Project Managers Through Smart and Intuitive Information Management

By Victoria Salvador

Project management in the architecture, engineering, construction, and owner/operator industry is part art, part science. It requires a combination of technical expertise, strategic thinking, social intelligence, good tools and out-of-this-world multitasking. 

Over time, technological change, labor shortages and the increasing complexity of projects have reshaped the role. No doubt you’d agree that good project management is crucial for improvements in productivity and better financial results for all concerned.

However, you can only be as effective as the tools your organization provides. Project Information, Project Management, and BIM coordination tools can make projects more successful for all the project stakeholders. Tracking on Excel spreadsheets should be history. We can’t say they’ve gone the way of the dodo bird, but we’d like to envision a day when the right software is used for the best results.

There are an enormous number of things for you to manage on any job: project communications, responding to RFIs and Submittals, file management, BIM coordination, tracking and managing action items, being able to find anything from the simplest of search queries across all the project data wherever it sits, being able to view a 3D/2D view of the sheets, and doing all the construction administration—that was a mouthful. It’s certainly a lot. Unsurprisingly, there are best practices and best-in-class software solutions to help our industry.

In its report “The Construction Productivity Imperative,” McKinsey points out that productivity in the sector hasn’t improved for decades. There are plenty of other studies and reports that say the same thing, and the numbers are very scary.

Good tools, coupled with supported project managers, can conquer material waste, liability, chronic delays, and budget overruns (not to mention the countless headaches for hardworking project managers).

Ours is the world’s largest industry, worth about $13 trillion a year globally. And tools and methodologies like Building Information Modeling (BIM) and cloud-hosted, web-based Information Management platforms that let everyone involved in a project share info are total game-changers. They’re making a huge difference in how we build things and keep up with the times. 

To manage projects in the AECO sector efficiently, you need to establish communication protocols, use modern tools to enable real-time communication, foster open communication, and document all the communications in detail.

Here’s a series of top 5 lists relating to project management, its challenges, and strategies and tools for success: 

Top 5 Mistakes AECO Project Managers Make

  1. Ignoring early stakeholder engagement: This can lead to stakeholders forming unrealistic expectations or exerting pressure on costs later in the project.
  2. Poor risk assessment: If you don’t identify project risks well enough, or adequately estimate the risks that you do identify, you might pay dearly for your complacency later.
  3. Poor resource planning: Poor planning of tasks, time, budget, or personnel will result in project scope slippage or cost overruns.
  4. Neglecting change management: Overlooking change management can lead to uncontrolled project scope, delayed timelines, and escalating costs. Effective change management is crucial to adapt to project variations smoothly and maintain control over the project’s direction and budget.
  5. Insufficient awareness of industry practices: A lack of familiarity with current industry trends, emerging technologies, and established best practices can detrimentally affect project outcomes. Staying informed and adaptable is essential to integrate innovative solutions and uphold industry standards effectively.

Address these issues and you’ll significantly reduce the common project management problems that often result in project delays such as scope creep, poor communications, poor stakeholder engagement, incorrect estimation of time and resources, and poor project risk management.

Top 5 Project Management Challenges

  1. Technological evolution: You’ll need to keep pace with rapid technological advancements to stay competitive.
  2. Project complexity: You must handle more complex projects, without sacrificing goals.
  3. Labor shortages and skill gaps: Addressing shortages and enhancing team skills are critical tasks for you to ensure project success.
  4. Safety and compliance: You must maintain high safety standards and regulatory compliance to protect both workers and the project.
  5. Breaking communication silos: You need to take action to break down communication barriers within the organization so that everyone can work together more effectively.

5 Strategies for Overcoming Top Project Management Challenges

  1. Adopting a continuous, life-long learning mindset: Stay up to date with industry developments and best practices to stay relevant and bring more value to your work.
  2. Advanced project and information management tools: Use software for collaboration, information exchange, email and other communication management, data analytics, RFI and submittal processing, construction administration, etc., to streamline your processes.
  3. A culture of open communication: Create a rhythm of meetings and collaboration spaces so that you and the team are collectively aligned.
  4. Risk management plans: Identify and mitigate project risks before they arise to protect your project’s success. And be sure you have the tools in place to keep a complete and easily searchable project record for finding what you need today — and years after the project is completed.
  5. Workforce development: Compete for and retain talent by offering competitive pay and career growth opportunities. Equip yourself with the talent you need to succeed. (Having a great tech stack helps attract and retain talent, by the way.)

5 Guidelines for Stakeholder Communication

  1. Develop and implement a communication plan: Develop communication protocols and a regular cadence of check-ins so that you are sharing what you know. An effective communication plan helps keep you accountable to your network.
  2. Use technology: Leverage modern tools for real-time communication and information access to enhance your efficiency.
  3. Engage your stakeholder audience: Channel communication to be aligned with the needs and preferences of the stakeholder to be able to engage with them. Let them use their preferred tools and leverage your integrated project hub to keep your project record together.
  4. Create open dialogue: Encourage stakeholders to share thoughts and concerns freely, allowing you to address any issues promptly.
  5. Document: Keep a record of all communications, for accountability and in case of disputes. There are platforms that can make this a snap. Investigate and choose the right one for you.

5 Best Practices for Project Management

  1. Use integrated tools: Use project management software integrated with technical tools like BIM to streamline your workflow.
  2. Develop a strong leadership team: Cultivate strong leadership and team-building skills so you can effectively lead your team.
  3. Improve continuously: Keep reviewing and refining processes for efficiency and quality, so you can keep getting better.
  4. Adopt agile methodologies: Use agile techniques to be nimble and responsive, so you can adapt as project needs and objectives change.
  5. Stay aligned with business objectives: Ensure project goals align with broader organizational objectives to contribute to the overall success of your organization.

5 Advantages of Choosing the Right Information Management Software 

  1. Centralized information access: Regardless of what software other stakeholders are using, open standards and software-agnostic platforms provide a single source of truth for all project data. Choosing this type of platform makes your job as a project manager a lot easier because you can now access the information without losing control of the data once the project is over and the sources have been turned off. This type of platform enhances decision-making and reduces the chances of errors. Choosing vendors who espouse open standards, you can trust that you can access the information you need to complete your job, without losing control of the data once the project ends and you’ve turned off the various source tools and systems. This information unification helps you make better decisions and reduces the number of mistakes made along the way. Those who choose a single-source-of-truth platform, which unifies and manages project data across the three phases of design, construction administration, and mobile field project management are winning. 
  2. Efficient communication and collaboration: Platform tools enable teams to keep in sync and on the same page, making sure that all key stakeholders have visibility to what’s happening and who’s accountable for what, which is a critical component for projects to be completed on time and on budget. You’ll want your platform to foster collaboration among all project stakeholders, regardless of what industry software they use. Project emails, files, action items, and all other project information should be easily accessible and searchable. You’ll want features that ensure that everyone’s on the same page and can communicate with one another, so there’s less chance of misunderstanding and less chance for delays.
  3. Improved tracking and reporting: With real-time tracking you can proactively manage and intervene early to implement timely corrective measures and keep the project on track. You’ll need a tool that automates critical workflows such as tracking of RFIs and submittals; real-time access to project data improves productivity and reduces the time to deliver projects. All these efficiencies lead to cost savings and better use of the resources within the business. Automation of the routine jobs and better resource management helps improve productivity and efficiency of the teams so that they can focus on the higher value activities.
  1. Protection from wrongful litigation: To protect against wrongful litigation, it’s crucial to maintain a complete project record that includes all related communications, not just task tracking, RFIs, submittals, change orders, and files. This ensures that every detail is documented and accessible, even if access to partner platforms is later restricted, safeguarding legal and regulatory compliance throughout the project lifecycle and well beyond.
  2. BIM integration: Firms would benefit from having an information management platform that integrates with popular BIM software, making it easier to coordinate BIM data and models through the entire project’s lifecycle. Remember, keeping project designs and documents accurate and consistent is critical to project success, and your platform should make it easy to pass data from the office to the field. This is especially important for projects where the environments are fast-paced and involve quick decision-making and updating. In those environments, field team members can pull up project information on mobile devices from the office or the field, helping increase real-time communication and management. 

AECO project managers who are willing to accept the responsibility of change must cultivate a diverse set of skills and a strong sense of responsibility and resilience to lead their team to deliver successful and novel projects that are resilient and fit for the future. But you know that. 

Having the right information management software system in place provides you with a wealth of benefits, allowing your project managers to work with increased speed, efficiency, and confidence. 

If you choose a platform that centers information access, makes communication and collaboration easier, provides greater tracking and reporting capabilities, improves litigation mitigation, and integrates with BIM tools, you can elevate your firm to another level of performance and create successful projects. 

You’re ready to change the way you learn and develop the skills you need. The solution is to use technology differently, to think differently, to be proactive about the way in which projects unfold, and to change the way in which we engage with the built environment — and each other. 

Victoria Salvador is Senior Director of Performance Marketing, Brand and Buzz at Newforma, the leader in Information Management software for architects, engineers, contractors, and owners (AECO) worldwide.