As construction projects and delivery methods continue to increase in complexity, the management of project information is also more challenging than ever. With the COVID-19 pandemic added to the mix, firms now have a remote workforce which impacts how and where employees access information.
Key factors that contribute to the difficulty of managing project information include:
- Exponential growth in the volume of project data.
- Increased number of applications generating new project data.
- Options for data storage and the number of places where project data is stored have multiplied.
In a recent study conducted by Newforma and Dodge Data & Analytics, The Future of Project Information Management”, architectural and engineering firms identified their current challenges, future direction, and plans for technology investments. Responses were collected anonymously from 220 participants across architectural and engineering firms.
Survey results reveal that most companies (75%) continue to struggle with manual administrative tasks associated with moving data between systems.
Many (56%) are challenged with processes and systems that make it difficult to share information with team members who are external to their organization. This not a new problem but the cultural shift spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic away from “what’s mine is mine” to “what’s mine is ours” is new. Issues related to collaboration and sharing manifest in a number of ways. Forty-seven percent of respondents report problems with document version control, and 43% cannot track the status of items outside their organization.
Finding information needed to make informed decisions rounds out the top three challenges with a 53% aggregate ranking. This is not a surprise given that data is more spread out with a remote workforce.
The Cost of Disconnected Data
For many A&E firms it’s clear that maintaining separate siloes of project information is costly.
Seven out of ten survey respondents report that the challenges related to manual administrative tasks result in a decrease in productivity.
Many respondents (56%) also cite information not being delivered to team members as a negative consequence. This hampers project performance by introducing potential schedule delays and rework.
Respondents, most notably architects (44%), do not have a complete picture of the project to make informed decisions which also impacts project performance.
Factors Impacting Effective Management of Project Information
Several factors impact how effective firms are in the management of project information:
Where Data is Stored
Seven in ten respondents indicate their company has requirements for on-premises or internal server data storage. Respondents most often cite control over data (74%) and, secondarily security (62%) as the top reasons. Almost half (48%) of respondents have a hybrid approach to storing active project data. The need to collaborate across a remote workforce is one of the main reasons.
Who Owns the Data?
Having to use another party’s software solution can contribute to issues related to manual administrative tasks, and collaboration roadblocks. Almost half of the survey respondents (45%) are required to use another party’s platform to manage all, most, or nearly all of their projects.
Future Plans – A Focus on Project Information Management
Survey respondents were asked if they had a Project Information Management strategy in place to drive future technology initiatives. Surprisingly, 70% do not.
However, top considerations to include in a strategy, top considerations are external collaboration (77%) and the ability to access information from anywhere (73%). In addition, having a centralized view of project data ranks high, particularly with over half of the architecture firms.
Architects name overall firm strategy as the principal driver for technology investments far more often than engineers (62% vs. 27% respectively) while client or project requirements drive technology investment for engineering firms.
Many firms (45%) will implement technology to support a remote workforce. Moving project data to cloud-based storage solutions such as Microsoft SharePoint, Panzura™, and Nasuni™, in conjunction with remote desktop implementations will support this requirement. Given that most respondents report that manual administrative tasks impact project performance, it’s not surprising that many firms (40%) are also planning to invest in automating workflows.
Creating an Agile Approach to Managing Project Information
Tapping into the brainpower of the project team requires the ability to access and share information across systems, applications, and organizations. This is where Project Information Management comes into play.
A&E firms have already figured out that they need a more flexible and agile way to manage information in today’s complex project delivery environment. As firms plan their technology investments for the next year, laying the foundation for effective management of project information will certainly pay off.