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By Duane Craig
August 7, 2016
Subcontractors perform most of the work on construction projects. One study concluded that they handle at least 80% of the dollar value on any given project. This deep involvement in project building makes them a prime focal point for improving project outcomes. A logical place to start is with project management. Getting subs to use project management software offers countless advantages on behalf of the entire project team. But how do you get them on board?
How much training will make the sub’s employees proficient with the new project management system?
What happens to the subcontractor’s old system when the new system is implemented?
What happens if the subcontractor is requested by two or more contractors to use their respective project management systems?
How secure and confidential is the new system and can the subcontractor keep confidential information from the wrong eyes?
Will the subcontractor need to incur costs that exceed its planned project management costs?
What if the owner, or you as the general contractor, wants to require subs to use a particular project management software on the project?
The answer to all of these questions is going to depend on the attributes of the new project management system, the subcontractor’s current technology footprint, and the total value of adopting a new system.
Subcontractors have their own business processes simply because they are independent of the general contractor. This complicates the dynamics of the relationships between contractors and subcontractors. The good news is, long term relationships help smooth the way.
The process of unifying the efforts of all stakeholders in construction projects is heavily dependent on increased transparency, communication, and collaboration.
Generally, the longer two parties have been working together, the more similar their business processes become. This is a natural development as each party seeks to optimize their business practices to mesh with the other’s. These long-term relationships lend themselves naturally to both parties using the same project management software. And long term relationships between contractors and subcontractors are the norm rather than the exception. One study found that 76% of commercial subcontractors on average had general contractor relationships lasting at least 21 years.
So for those contractors and subcontractors with long-time relationships, the path to using the same project management software is simplified. It often only takes an open discussion and working through details to end up on the same page. For other contractor and subcontractor relationships, it can be a bit more complicated, but here are a few tactics that can help.
If there’s a requirement to use a particular project management software, say so up front. Subcontractors have to factor in how the requirement will affect them when considering whether to bid on the project or not.
The last thing you want is to stir animosity with subcontractors immediately after you’ve awarded the contracts. Surprises like this also cause people to feel suspicious of your intentions to operate in good faith. Subcontractors need advanced notice so they can map out the requirements of implementing the new project management software in concert with their other project planning needs.
Subcontractors need to know more than what project management software to use. You need to be able to back up claims of enhanced productivity, fewer changes, and more predictability, with examples of how those advantages come about.
When all parties use the same system, collaboration and communication skyrocket. As employees start having the right information at the right time, subcontractors will see immediate productivity and quality improvements. And, even though there is more transparency, subcontractors don’t have to give up control over their sensitive information with the power of permission settings.
If you, or the owner, made a wise choice when deciding which project management software to use, then it should already include training for users. But, to help enhance the chances of a successful rollout for a project, it’s a good idea to also have your own support plan in place.
The basics for this include the contact information and other training information offered by the software company. You might also have a dedicated employee at your company who acts as the go-to person in helping users get training and resolve issues related to how the software works among the various project participants.
Holding your own series of meetings covering the aspects of the project the software applies to and how using it benefits interactions among project participants can further help to demystify the technology while also illustrating the value subcontractors will get out of it.
Collect information on how the software is affecting project outcomes and share it with the subcontractors. Encourage them to also share improvements they are seeing, and make that information a regular part of project-wide communications efforts. It’s also important to directly and quickly address negative issues that arise from using the software. When you acknowledge issues and work quickly to address them, you stand the best chance of minimizing negative effects and preserving confidence in the software technology.
There is an increasing emphasis from owners to improve project productivity and overall outcomes. In some cases, owners are specifying project management requirements including specialized software, while at other times general contractors are taking these initiatives into their own hands.
Construction, not unlike other sectors, is undergoing transformation in its business and operational processes. Much of this transformation is happening with the help of technology. The process of unifying the efforts of all stakeholders in construction projects is heavily dependent on increased transparency, communication, and collaboration. Cloud-based project management software, leveraged by all project participants is on the leading edge of this transformation.
Project Management Software
The Anatomy of a Request for Information (RFI)
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