Keeping Megaprojects in Check

Project intelligence takes the guesswork out of big builds

By Kyle Slager

Megaprojects are the attention-grabbers of the construction industry, and it is easy to see why. Either big successes or big failures, megaprojects do not do anything on a small scale.

Research shows that projects costing one billion dollars or more could often be managed more efficiently. According to a notable study by Oxford project management expert Bent Flyvberg, nine out of 10 mega-projects go over time and budget. In general, the very complexity that defines a megaproject, coupled with the guesswork involved in bidding and pre-build planning, is the culprit.

As the world’s infrastructure needs increase, megaprojects will continue to take flight, whether they come in under budget or not. However, we are witnessing a paradigm shift in the construction industry that may change the game, making sure these projects are bid, scheduled, and budgeted more accurately.

That shift is the increasing adoption of technology for planning, managing, and executing construction projects of all sizes. This industry has been slow to adopt technology. In fact, it is the only industry I know that sees technology as an expense instead of an investment.

But that is changing, and as it changes, we might just see megaprojects succeeding more often.

Bringing Order to Chaos

Construction sites are inherently chaotic, and that chaos scales up. A general contractor managing a megaproject could have thousands of subcontractors on a jobsite on any given day. All these subcontractors may have multiple equipment and materials deliveries in a day. Something as common as a rainy afternoon could delay a concrete pour, throwing the entire project — and all of those subcontractors — off schedule.

Without construction technology, all these people are working in silos with limited communication between them. This inevitably leads to delays. On megaprojects, delays could mean hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions, of dollars in unbudgeted costs.

On top of that, everything that happens on the jobsite must be documented every day to protect the company from litigation. Raken interviewed 150 randomly selected general contractors on their biggest pain points as a company and the results showed that daily reporting was the no. 1 response.

In JB Knowledge’s 2018 ConTech Survey, respondents indicated the top two workflows using mobile apps are photo and video management and daily reports — both tasks focused on capturing critical data in the field, on the job site. This task, which protects the company from litigation, can take hours per day. With that much time involved, documentation is often delayed, inaccurate, or not done at all.

However, construction technology simplifies communication and reporting. It gets all parties on a project out of their silos and talking to each other. It calms the chaos and prevents costly delays.

Opening the Black Box

Construction technology is helping address another megaproject issue — budgeting and bidding. In the past, much of the bidding and budgeting process was guesswork. How much a project would actually cost existed in a mysterious black box, simply because there were too many unknowns to make accurate bids.

Under the pen-and-paper model of documentation, lessons learned were often lost from project to project. But with construction technology, all that data can be collected to inform future projects. When used in the planning phase, these data points can give general contractors a more accurate idea of what their profit margins will actually be.

Technology is taking some of the risk out of megaprojects in particular, making technology a solid investment that can keep a company viable in the face of market fluctuations.

Changing the Game

The value proposition of construction technology for megaprojects is clear. Between calming the chaos, taking the busywork burden off project managers, and helping companies make more realistic bids, technology has the potential to make megaprojects successful.

Many of these technologies are still in the early adoption phase, so general contractors are advised to reach out to companies that have used technology successfully for recommendations. It is best to find technology that suits the needs of your business, which can scale up with the size of your project.

Most of all, see technology as an investment in your business, instead of an expense, and watch your projects flourish.

Kyle Slager is the founder and CEO of Raken. For more information, please visit www.rakenapp.com.

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