Construction Workflow Management to Reduce Project Risk and Improve Quality

ENR-Workflow-ManagementThe successful delivery of construction projects requires precise management of workflows from origination through final approval. Over the last decade, workflow management has evolved from paper and pencil to email, spreadsheets and FTP sites, and from there to enterprise content management (ECM) solutions and industry-specific construction management software. Process control for reviews, approvals and other essential project functions has been automated to reduce risk and cost, while improving efficiency and quality.

Effective workflow management is especially critical for projects requiring collaboration between team members at many different organizations. While these organizations are independent, their project tasks are interdependent. A deadline missed by one individual at one organization could create a bottleneck that impacts other individuals at other organizations, potentially putting the project at risk. Owners, contractors and project managers need to be able to define specific workflows for their projects and then control the execution of those workflows across the team.

Best Practices in Workflow Management

On March 25, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Aconex presented a free webinar – Managing Digital Workflows on Construction Projects: Tools, Tricks & Tips from the Masters. Hosted by Engineering News-Record (ENR), the webinar featured a panel of hands-on workflow management practitioners from ANF Group, the Cianbro Institute and McCarthy Building Companies. The session was introduced by Frank Carron, Aconex vice president of global marketing, and moderated by Tom Sawyer, senior editor, information technology, at ENR.

Members of the panel presented their own perspectives on “collaborative, auditable, digital workflows” and the degree to which they have reduced project risk and improved project quality. Construction project managers navigating the spectrum between “paperless” workflows at one end and fully automated, cross-organizational process control at the other gained practical insight into workflow management options available to them.

Project Risk and Complexity

Managing the workflows of a project team within a single organization is challenging in its own right. Managing workflows across multiple project stakeholders – owners, investors, developers, project managers, designers, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, consultants, product vendors, and government agencies – is infinitely more complex.

Historical solutions have tended to keep multi-company project activities on the internal network of a single company – perhaps the owner, the general contractor or the project manager. Alternatively, each organization on the project team would manage its own workflows on its own firewalled systems and share information by email, fax, courier, and postal mail.

In either case, the risk of error between project team members – leading to rework, schedule delays, cost overruns, and potentially disputes – is intolerably high. The more complex the project, the larger and more diverse the team, the higher the risk.

One Platform to Manage All Project Workflows

Risk and its associated cost can be reduced significantly by automating all of a project’s workflows on a single, centralized platform. Importantly, this platform should be independent of any one organization on the project and therefore neutral and fair to all participants.

Implementation in the cloud – Software as a Service (SaaS) – frees users from the access limitations of firewalled corporate networks. Certification with a global information security management standard such as ISO 27001 ensures the safety of proprietary project data from loss, corruption or hacking.

Not Just Project Workflows – Construction Project Workflows

A number of generic project management and collaboration solutions have built-in workflow management functionality. Is this enough for multi-company construction projects? Probably not.

Certain processes are specific to construction projects – bidding and tendering, requests for information (RFIs), design reviews, change orders and variations, document review and approval, BIM collaboration, project correspondence, field inspections and issues management, and operations and maintenance (O&M) handover. Effectively managing these processes across a large, diverse project team requires equally specific workflows to ensure consistency, accuracy and accountability.

Not Just Construction Workflows – Specific Project Workflows

Construction projects differ significantly by sector – commercial, residential, infrastructure, health care, power, mining, oil and gas, and manufacturing. Even within a sector, no two projects are identical, and the larger and more complex, the more unique each project tends to be.

Owners, contractors and project managers need to be able to define and customize workflows that are specific to their projects, with parallel, interdependent processes and sub-processes, both within and between different organizations. In some cases, workflows are required to reflect the contractual obligations of the project (e.g., RFI responses must be delivered within 10 business days). Therefore, workflow creation should be fast, easy and flexible – ‘drag and drop’ – with templates or from scratch.

Project-Wide Workflow Visibility

Who’s doing what to whom, how, when and where? Successful project delivery depends on real-time monitoring and reporting of workflows that have been, are being or will be completed or approved. All project activity related to workflows should be captured in a permanent audit trail to pre-empt conflicts and disputes.

Project teams need to plan and prioritize their tasks in a fully coordinated, collaborative environment. Project managers need to identify pending and outstanding tasks to isolate and resolve process bottlenecks. Everyone on the project requires search capabilities to quickly find workflows and all related documentation and correspondence.

Aconex Workflow Management Software – What Do Clients Say?

Oger Abu Dhabi, a subsidiary of Saudi Oger, used Aconex workflow management software to build the Abu Dhabi Financial Centre. For the design review process alone, the project team had to complete approximately 180,000 workflow steps. Gerard Couturier, A&E division director at Oger Abu Dhabi, said:

“[Aconex] Workflows significantly accelerated and improved the quality of the process. When using hard copies and an FTP site, a 10-day review process often turned into 12 days due to the administrative work required. With Aconex 10 days actually meant 10 days.”

London Overground Rail Operations Limited (LOROL), a joint venture between MTR Corporation of Hong Kong and Deutsche Bahn AG of Germany, used Aconex to refurbish all 44 railway stations throughout its network. Maria Peakin, project control manager at LOROL, commented:

“The Workflows module has made everyone’s life easier – we now have full traceability and accountability when a document has gone through a workflow. Regardless of where the team member is located, they receive the document at the right stage and then distribute it on…The main benefits of this are the time savings and the traceability – by being able to maintain transparency, everyone benefits. If a company finishes work on the project, or even if someone is on leave, you can see whether an item has been sent and what stage it’s at. You can always obtain a top level view of what’s going on.”

See live demos of Aconex workflow management and other project collaboration capabilities in our free, bi-monthly webinars – 6 Tools to Deliver Construction Projects on Time and on Budget.

Contact Aconex Today

Let’s discuss your construction projects and how you manage workflows within and between multiple organizations. Contact us today, and we’ll schedule a demo for you and your team. You’ll see for yourselves how Aconex helps you improve efficiency, reduce risk and deliver quality.

Image: McGraw Hill Financial

Tod Bottari
Follow Me

Tod Bottari

Communications Director at Aconex
Tod Bottari is the Communications Director for Aconex, the world's leading collaborative construction management software.
Tod Bottari
Follow Me