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The New Normal: How to Manage Construction Projects and Avoid Interruption

Week 4: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The (un)expected consequences of an interruption

In case you missed week four (4) of our New Normal in Construction webinar series, we wanted to take the time to distill some of the key takeaways from our conversation with industry leaders.

We invited several members from different parts of the construction lifecycle to join an authentic conversation around the state of their capital programs amidst COVID-19. Our guests included the following individuals:

CDM Smith – Michael Krabacher – VP Program & Construction Management
HDR – Matt DeMarco – National Project Controls Manager
AECOM – Julia Bolte – Director of Program Controls

The conversation was focused around leveraging technology to stay efficient and continuing to do work safely. The COVID-19 pandemic hit the world’s economy like a ton of bricks, disrupting global supply chains and accelerating the transition to remote work. For the construction industry, the transition to digitalizing workflows and reliance on technology has been accelerated.

In case you’re unable to go back and watch the webinar, we’ll uncover the high-level takeaways here.

Tactics to Avoid an Interruption

Michael, Matt, and Julia each shared different tactics their organizations are taking to combat potential delays and interruptions to their capital improvement projects. We’ll break down three prevailing themes from their conversations.

The first one is this…

…things have gone from “we’re thinking about it” to “let’s just do it”. Historically speaking, construction has been a very traditional field with a strong resistance towards change and technology. The phrases “this is how we’ve always done it” is a common occurrence for anyone who works in the industry. In the age of COVID-19, that excuse is no longer accepted. Owners, who have been previously resistant to technology adoption, are aggressively moving towards adoption. Previously stagnant conversations with software, technology, and automation vendors have reversed course. Owners are recognizing that in order to keep their projects progressing, investment in technology is no longer a choice.

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The second theme is…

…a logistical issue: Getting contractors paid quickly and efficiently, especially during uncertain economic times. In the past, contractors have had to manually invoice and bill an owner (or project management team) after work is completed. It then needs to be approved by several layers of management and then sent to finance for payment. This manual, back and forth process can take weeks and sometimes even months. As a result, both contractors and owners have turned to project management software that provides for a more efficient and automated invoice approval process. Instead of having to manually mail an invoice (which is a health concern in COVID-19), contractors are able to sign off and submit approval for payment in systems like e-Builder. From there, the construction manager receives an instant notification and can make sign off on payment. The whole process, which has previously taken weeks and even months, can be completed in a matter of days (and sometimes hours).

The final recommendation is…

…around personal protective equipment (PPE). It may sound like an obvious one, but providing and mandating that contractors use PPE like gloves, masks, and proper hygiene standards are critical towards preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Projects that enforce these health protections will stand a greater chance of continuing to operate and hit milestones across their capital improvement programs. So not only do owners have a commercial interest in providing protective equipment, but there’s also an obvious moral obligation they carry to ensure their employees are working in safe work environments and conditions.

Closing Thoughts

For owners who had already made the investment in construction software, the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t cause a major disruption to their projects. Their proactive investment towards technology adoption ended up serving as a critical insurance policy for the survivability of their projects and the success of their employees in working from home.

The one resounding takeaway we’d like owners to learn from this New Normal is this: frankly, no one predicted that a global pandemic was going to disrupt the world’s economic landscape across multiple industries.

An initial lack of investment in technology was a reasonable mistake, but now owners and construction leaders don’t have the benefit of the doubt moving forward. Investment in technology is not a choice, it’s a must. Which technology and software companies you choose to partner with is up to you, but the decision not to invest is no longer an acceptable one.

If you’d like to watch the full webinar on-demand, listen to it here.