Advancements in technology continue to stretch construction programs and their managers. It sometimes seems that the technology has outpaced organizational capabilities to manage it. While the technology promises advantageous results in effectiveness and efficiency in managing not only larger and more sophisticated programs and projects but also the small project as well. It also presents new issues for organizations to deal with in implementing new systems and procedures.
On the one hand, many firms have done well enough without the technical advancements and resist any change in their current ways knowing that change will have to come eventually, while other organizations struggle with attempts at implementing anything to ease their pain. There is no doubt however that the competitive nature of construction and development, both public and private, continues to force a resistant industry into a new age. In this environment it is imperative that executives adhere to certain basic business fundamentals – some things do not change. While they may not understand all of the ramifications and benefits of new technologies, certain elements should not be overlooked, like the importance of experience and expertise. Technology, in particular computer hardware and software, is only a tool, and benefits will only be noticed based on the hand that wields it. Let me illustrate with a simple analogy:
Mr. Smith, a Framing and Drywall contractor knows that to stay competitive in the current market it is important to keep up with the latest in hammer development. After all, he knows that good tools increase productivity. His approach is to purchase only the finest hammers for the young apprentice carpenters on his staff. Through careful research and evaluation Smith selects a new hammer from a reputable manufacturer for his inexperienced crews. The selected manufacturer provides the sleekest and most user friendly features in the hammer industry. The contractor justifies the purchase price and the cost of training for the best tools in the business with the money he is saving hiring only apprentice carpenters. Following a day of training with their new device, the carpenters begin framing walls with new enthusiasm.
Over time the overall company production has not increased significantly with the new product. Our Smith gradually becomes somewhat disillusioned with the innovative hammer product and begins re-entertaining new products for the company thinking that the previous selection has not lived up to his expectations.
We on the outside look at Smith and his hammer selection process and say “It’s your carpenters, Smith.” You can purchase the best hammer, but in the hands of inexperience, even the best tools will bring little benefit to a project. On the other hand, an experienced carpenter can produce a quality performance with a mediocre hammer.
Let’s apply this same analogy to a different area of project delivery. Planning and scheduling a project and using that schedule to coordinate the execution of the project can have such an impact on whether or not a project is successful. Yet emphasis on experience for scheduling is often minimized. Just like our contractor, expensive and sophisticated planning tools (software) are entrusted to inexperience for their implementation. In so many situations, project executives entrust the coordination of the project scheduling to apprentice project managers inexperienced in critical planning and scheduling techniques, developing a well-coordinated plan, identifying potential risks, recognizing issues, and analyzing impacts. Owners are also guilty of minimizing experience in the schedule coordination and review process.
Here’s a tip, inexperience will often cast blame on the failure of technology (a quality planning tool) for a lack of quality performance. Experience, on the other hand, provides quality with the available tools. A change or an upgrade in technology will usually only increase efficiency, not quality. With so much at stake, budget and time, wouldn’t it be prudent to re-evaluate where the planning and scheduling department focus should be. Research and evaluate procedures, experience, and expertise first – then review technology.