If you can’t harness, control and channel project communication there’s no end to the chaos that follows. And, the idea of using paper to run projects has had its day. It’s just increasingly difficult to compete if you aren’t using digital processes.
To start, invest in document or project management software. It’s even better if it’s in the cloud. Then, focus on these four aspects to make your project communication something to talk about.
Relevance Tops Volume
Modern project communication has many input devices. They increase the volume of information. But, anyone who must make decisions about the project needs only the information that’s relevant to the decision. And, there is also information that only certain people should see.
You need to make sure to only ask for what is relevant when you collect information. The idea of relevance especially applies to information receivers. Your plumbing subcontractor doesn’t need to see a change order that only affects the electrician. Irrelevance also crops up in person to person interactions. Take meetings for instance. If you don’t set clear guidelines and keep participants focused, you will pay the price in lost time and misunderstandings.
Accuracy and the Human Factor
Every construction project struggles to maintain accurate information. Projects are subject to a vast number of variables. A single change order on a bathroom can easily affect every project participant, and even multiple vendors. So, when people make inputs to the document management or project management system, you need assurances they are entering accurate information. So, just allow inputs only from those who are trained, experienced, and trusted.
Accuracy also counts when it comes to versioning. People should only have access the most recent version of any document or drawing. Make sure your document or project management system has version control.
Don’t overlook accuracy at the person-to-person level either. Use good communication practices. Ask people to explain. Asking to see notes, photos, or video to make things more clear. Doing those things will also help you to verify accuracy. Utilizing construction cameras can also help with the communication factor, allowing you to view projects in real time to determine accuracy of work and what is being communicated. The volume of information on today’s projects makes verifying accuracy more important than ever.
Don’t Take Reliability for Granted
Delayed, undelivered, and lost information ran rampant on projects in the days of paper. But, you shouldn’t get too complacent in the digital age either as there is plenty of evidence that even today’s information has reliability issues. You know that’s true if you’ve ever looked at your email inbox and wondered if there weren’t a better way. No system is completely reliable.
If you use a document management or project management system you can achieve better reliability than simply using email for your project communication. You can also do other things to improve reliability. Make sure the digital system you use to manage your project information flow has encryption. Hacking is only going to get worse, especially with all the mobile devices used on projects today. Encryption lowers your target value.
Another strategy is to have clearly defined guidelines for handling different types of project communication. For example, make sure your change order process includes the expected response and approval times. That way, when something goes overdue people can start to look for it sooner, rather than later. Set up notifications in your DM or PM system so people get a heads up when things are coming due.
Nod That You Understand
In his book, “Choosing Project Success,” J.F. McCarthy points out that a great many people hate to plan, and most don’t understand the graphs, tables, and symbols used for project scheduling. You’ll have gaps in understanding if you try to share information in formats that are not easily understood by the people who must use the information. Too many of those, and you’ve got some real problems with completions, quality, and even safety.
It’s more helpful to a foundation foreman if you provide a task list with start and finish times, instead of a Gantt Chart. If a crew must build a safety rail around an opening, then a drawing is better than the spoken word. It not only shows the detail, but it also improves the chances the finished item will match the requirements.
You always must consider the intended audience when you think about how you will convey information. What forms of communication are they most familiar with? And, you also should consider how to convey the information in the quickest and most accurate way. Just consider how many times punch list items come back marked complete, but they’re not. Punch lists communicate better when you include pictures or video. You want communications that are easily understandable, meaningful, and accurate.
You can achieve new levels of project communication efficiency and accuracy. Just don’t overlook training people on the DM or PM system you use, and remember to set communication guidelines so people understand the best practices to follow.
For more information on how TrueLook can help with your project communication and accuracy, check out a demo here.