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Death to Excel and Email: Embracing Digital Transformation for Capital Program Success

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2 e-Builder.net • 800.580.9322 • info@e-Builder.net An audiophile is a person who is enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound. Anyone who has a home theater can tell you that digital signals are far more precise and crisp than that of analog stereo. This is also true visually on computers. Many years ago, the primary way to get a video signal from the computer to a monitor was through an analog VGA cable. Today, most modern computers will use a HDMI or a DisplayPort digital signal which dramatically improves visual fidelity through increased dots per inch (DPI) and color. In both cases, digital signals present more contextual information to improve the listener's or viewer's experience. Who wouldn't want that? The main difference between analog signals and digital signals are the waves. Analog signals are marked by sine waves which are smooth and rolling. Digital waves are denoted as having square waves. Digital signals make discrete, binary values that are either on or off. They are very precise and unaffected by noise during the transmission process which is why they are so pleasing to hear and see. But what does this have to do with improving the execution of construction programs? The contrast between blended, inaccurate signals (analog) and discrete, binary signals (digital) is very apparent in everyday construction projects. Let me ask you a simple question. What type of answer would you rather have on the project you are managing? Let's ask the question, "What is the status of our project?" • Analog answer: "Well, it depends. I think we are doing well. We are making progress and so far, things seem ok." • Digital answer: "We are 47% complete on the project. Structural is complete, roofing system is complete, and we'll be dry-in 4 weeks. Here, let me show you our forecast." I don't know about you but the hundreds of capital improvement program leaders we speak with every year, want the digital answer. Both answers are describing the exact same project. Both are accurate. However, the analog answer is smooth like a sine wave. It is fluid and imprecise. It sounds good but it is lacking precision. The digital answer is precise like a block wave. It has discrete steps (construction progress) that are either complete or not complete. There is little subjectivity. So how do you spot analog signals on your construction project and convert them to digital signals? First, you have to look at your existing process. The first step is to identify what is carrying signals between you and your team. Many times, owners of capital projects will use Microsoft Excel and e-mail as the primary communication system on a project. While the use of these applications is important and necessary, the likelihood that every project manager is using these tools in a consistent fashion is unlikely and uncontrolled. These applications provide lots of flexibility to be subjective and imprecise. Perhaps your organization is a part of the top 1% of owners who have achieved precision and consistency of managing your capital program on Excel and e-mail. That doesn't speak to process of conduction construction management. Processes like request for information (RFI), submittals, change order requests (COR), application for payment (AFP), and inspections, are often managed in an analog manner. When they are, status of a change order that can cause schedule delay is subjective. Project managers are able to share that they have sent it out but are unclear about who has it right now and how long it has been in their court. To obtain status, they are forced to call everyone in the process and listen to subjective feedback on where it is. Let's contrast this to a digital construction management process. A digital construction process, being binary in nature, predefines every step of the workflow. Once a change order request has been issued, each step of the workflow status is binary and precise. Each person in the approval chain is given an action to approve or not approve. All signing authority is precisely managed. If it exceeds the signing authority of the project manager, it is automatically escalated to the Vice President of Design & Construction or the Deputy Chief Engineer. Anyone who wants to know the status can easily see each step of the approval, who's court it is in and how long they have held it. Now are you seeing the difference? Analog ways are good. They do accomplish the task at hand. And, if you are a nostalgic audiophile that still loves their record player, I completely understand. However, your multi-million-dollar construction project is not the place to be nostalgic and old-school. As a leader of capital improvement projects, you need to be planning for the future. Modern, cloud-based project management information systems (PMIS) can offer ways to improve the fidelity and precision of your construction projects. They offer digital modernization to old analog ways. The good thing is that you don't need to do it all at once, you just have to decide that you want to become a digital construction leader. Part 6 Death to Excel and Email: Embracing Digital Transformation for Capital Program Success The Impact of Analog Process on Capital Improvement Programs

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