Not knowing a whole lot about what tools they're using, I was highlighting the benefits of software that can be used to standardize processes and centralize where project information is stored. As co-founder of RADAR, I'm always looking to tell anyone who will listen about how great our project management system is and how it will make life better for everyone.
But then he said something that stopped me right in my tracks. He said, "Over the past ten years, we've hired more people to do what I used to do myself." He went on to say that projects are more complicated, paperwork has increased and there are more websites to log in to enter data multiple times. Wait, stop the bulldozer! Isn't technology supposed to make it easier to get things done - not make processes more complicated?
We talked about how owners or general contractors mandate various systems to use for each project but yet, back at his office, they still have to keep track of all their projects internally. This causes double and even triple entry of data. Not to mention the fact that getting their own people to give up spreadsheets, folders and network drives is like taking candy from a baby (his words, not mine). He said that ten years ago, they had one project administrator assisting two or three project managers. Now they have one assistant project manager for each project manager and project administrators assisting the assistant project managers. He also said that technology has complicated processes and the company has adapted to it by adding more people to the mix. All this, while performing around the same volume of work each year.
Now, I'm going to say something that might not be popular with everyone reading this article. Project management systems, whether they're in the cloud or on the ground, should be able to reduce the overhead in a company by allowing a person to create, log, track, file and follow-up better and faster. If you're an assistant project manager or project administrator reading this article, you might take offense to this notion because a large part of your day might be spent creating and logging documentation on someone else's behalf. If you're a project manager, passing off a lot of this work to your underlings, reconsider how efficient you really are and how well you really know what's happening on your projects. And don't think that I'm coming out of left field and don't know what I'm talking about. The reason I got into the construction industry/project management software field over fifteen years ago was because I was in both of those positions and saw the need for something better.
The goal at any company, is to make money. Without that, the company goes broke and closes it doors and everyone is out of a job. That being said, it's everyone's job in the company to be open minded to change and evolve how your work is done and make yourself as valuable as you can be to your employer. Even if that means giving up the "way things have always been done" or rolling up your sleeves and typing your own RFIs. If your company has invested in technology, like a project management system, learn how to use it.
And finally, I ask this of company presidents, vice presidents, CFOs and other top dogs: What can you do in your company to become more profitable without increasing the volume of work each year? I offer this suggestion: Get up from your desks, step out of the conference rooms and take a stroll through the office. Think about how technology might help streamline processes and centralize project information. If you've already made these steps, good for you - your moving in the right direction. But, are you being the company champion of change or are you assuming that if you buy the computers everyone will know how to use them? If not, you're probably wasting money by hiring more people to make up for overall "lackoftechadoptionitus" (it's a medical term). Rethink your approach to technology adoption and you might be surprised to see how much positive change you can bring to your bottom line.
Natalie Abshier is co-founder of RADAR Construction Software (www.radarpm.com). Since 2000, she's worked with contractors throughout the North American to help improve business processes in the construction industry.