Favorable construction outcomes are rooted in strong project management practices. When teams can stay on top of multiple project components—including timelines, scheduling, budget, and client relationships—they’re much more likely to deliver successful projects. This ultimately leads to more work and better business overall.
If leveling up your project management game is a priority for you (and it totally should be), you’ll enjoy our recent webinar: Winning More Work with Better Project Management. Watch the event on-demand or check out the recap below.
Featuring insights from construction pros at Miller-Davis Company, the webinar sheds light on common issues project managers face today and how to overcome them.
You’ll hear from:
- Jack Abate, Vice President-Construction Operations, Miller-Davis Company
- Lance Aiken, General Superintendent, Miller-Davis Company
- Ariel Castillo, Strategic Process and VDC Specialist, Miller-Davis Company
- Tyler Camp, Technical Solutions Executive, Autodesk Construction Solutions Moderator
What you’ll learn
In this webinar, our panelists share their experiences managing projects throughout the last several years. Jack, Lance, Ariel, and Tyler discuss the challenges they’ve faced with project management and the steps they took to adapt and improve.
Specifically, you’ll learn:
- The value of digitizing and connecting workflows and data
- Reducing rework (and the costs associated with it)
- Mitigating risk upfront with intelligent project data
- How adopting cloud-based construction management technology optimizes workflows and your bottom line
Why we’re here today
Most—if not all—construction companies want to win more work. And while business development certainly plays a significant role in that, your success in landing jobs also hinges on the strength of your project management practices. When your processes and teams are streamlined, people will want to work with you. You can also deliver better outcomes—and consequently, win more work.
The team at Miller-Davis Company was able to do just that by adopting cloud-based technology workflows and getting their entire organization on board.
More about Miller-Davis
Miller-Davis Company is a full-service construction company headquartered in Kalamazoo, MI. The firm adopts cutting-edge technology and partners with leading specialty contractors to deliver high-quality services to their customers.
Project management processes have come a long way
Early in the conversation, our guests acknowledged just how far the industry has come when it comes to project management. Before the advent of construction technology, project management largely consisted of manual and paper-based processes that opened room for errors and delays.
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Tyler, who served as the moderator of the event, asked the panelists to share their biggest pain points with outdated project management practices.
Processes were time-consuming and error-prone
According to Jack, one of the biggest pain points that stood out to him was the submittal process that involved manually checking shop drawings.
“We would get a box of red pencils and a sharpener on our desk, and we mowed through those pencils hand-copying everything. You had to send stuff to the architect, and they’d make their notes. Then, they would copy them over and send them back to us.”
The process, Jack said, took about four weeks. But thanks to their use of digital solutions such as Autodesk Build, that lead time has been greatly reduced.
Lance added that the lag time was particularly frustrating for those on the jobsite who had questions or needed clarifications about the project.
“Before cloud-based solutions, it took weeks—or at a minimum, a few days—to get answers. Not to mention, you’re writing it up by hand, sending it out, and waiting for the information to get back to you. Then you want to make sure everybody gets the updated documents, so your trades are included there as well.”
All of the back-and-forth resulted in delays, and in some cases, errors and miscommunication.
“Before cloud-based solutions, it took weeks—or at a minimum, a few days—to get answers.”
– Lance Aiken, General Superintendent, Miller-Davis Company
As Lance put it, “That lag time created opportunities for things to get lost and for work to be miscommunicated.”
Lack of data visibility
Ariel, for his part, said that the lack of data visibility throughout the project lifecycle was a pain.
“We get data in different ways throughout the lifecycle of a project. We’ve got forms, papers, and a lot of information managed through emails. Getting all that information together wasn’t easy.”
He added that it was difficult to tap into project data for future use. This was a problem because not having the right information can curb decision-making in the business.
“If we’re not gathering the right data, then we’re basically relying on subjective experiences rather than hard data to make decisions that can keep the company moving forward.”
How cloud-based technology helped solve these pain points
It’s no question that manual processes are not conducive to project management success. Fortunately, construction companies now have access to modern cloud-based technology that alleviates the pain points of outdated practices.
Here are some of the benefits Miller-Davis Company experienced with cloud-based technology:
Teams have a better understanding of the project
The panelists agreed that construction technology gives teams better access to project information. Thus, enabling stakeholders to make smarter decisions more quickly.
“There’ve been a lot of dashboards developed with different products, and they’ve been very helpful,” said Jack.
He continued, “I can go in and get snapshots of what each project team is doing. I can evaluate the project based on my knowledge and experience.”
Ariel weighed in and said that having access to data is incredibly powerful because it empowers teams to move faster, and with confidence.
Cloud-based technology is “streamlining how we access data,” which helps stakeholders gain a better understanding of the project.
“We’re basically allowing our employees to self-serve the information they need. They can just grab it whenever they need it, and whatever data they need to access is available to them.”
Access to data has also reduced the lag time between sending and receiving information, which gets projects moving faster and helps avoid rework.
Lance recalled an instance when the team was working on an elementary school project and found discrepancies in the dimensions.
“If you go back before cloud-based technology, you would take pictures, write things down, produce an RFI, and send it. And again, there’s that lag time before getting an answer.”
This is no longer the case with cloud-based technology.
According to Lance, “With the system we’re using now, I was able to put the RFI into the architect in the morning. Within a four-hour time span, I had an answer back with the proper dimensions, updated drawings, distributed out to all the contractors and we were building and continuing to lay out that day and kept the project moving. Not only did we avoid rework, but we’re avoiding that cost and everything associated with it.”
Build stronger relationships
Having digital project management processes makes life easier for everyone involved in the job—be it the owner, general contractor, or subcontractors. Technology provides everyone with a better way of working, which strengthens relationships and encourages future collaboration (read: more projects).
Streamlined processes are a “huge deal” for subcontractors, said Lance.
“They’re going to want to bid on our jobs. They’re going to want to come out and work with us as a company because they know what our systems are.”
These systems also reduce costs and improve productivity, benefiting all parties involved.
“It really helps you get those numbers where you want them and it helps the contractors do that,” added Lance.
“When they enjoy working for you, they’re going to sharpen that pencil. Because they want to come to your jobsite. They want to come and be there with you as a company. That’s definitely a thing for helping with winning the work in the long run. It’s beneficial to the contractors as subs, it’s beneficial to us, and it’s beneficial to the owner. We can give them more bang for their buck so it’s definitely something that’s been great for us.”
Paves the way for more competitive fees
Because teams can use technology to complete tasks faster, they’re able to reduce project costs and come up with competitive fee structures.
“We all know fee plays a big part in winning projects,” said Jack.
“[With technology] we can create submittal logs and lists in a matter of minutes, where a project engineer would’ve taken a week to get that list created. Because of this, we are able to adjust our fees accordingly and be more aggressive. It’s a big help for us as far as winning projects.”
Best practices when adopting software
It’s clear that technology improves project management. Implementing technology means changing the status quo, which can be uncomfortable.
Here are some of our guests’ tips on adopting construction technology:
Carefully evaluate solutions
Technology can be a big investment, so take your time evaluating solutions and figuring out which platform is right for your business.
“We evaluated several different platforms with the team internally,” explained Jack.
“Our innovation team got together; we did pros and cons, had demonstrations done, and we got together and decided to go with Autodesk Build. This was mainly because of how expansive it was. It did a lot of things for us at once, as far as different modules. It was a one-stop-shop for us.”
Do a pilot project
It also helps to do a pilot project to test your new solutions. That’s what the team at Miller-Davis did as part of their evaluation process.
“We kept testing it to see if it was still going to work for us. It was supposed to go for a year and a half, but as we evaluated midway through the projects, we decided to implement it company-wide,” said Jack.
Start with small wins
Recognize that technology can’t solve all your pain points in one fell swoop. However, it can result in small but significant wins when implemented correctly.
In the case of Miller-Davis, Ariel said they started by digitizing the signature process when the pandemic began. This effort proved successful, and it gave the team momentum to keep moving forward with bigger projects.
According to Ariel, “Once we got that success, we started exploring. What’s next? How can we improve generating specs? How can we improve our closeout process? We were aiming for little things. We went for the low-hanging fruit, and then those little wins gave us the confidence that we needed to go after more challenging tasks.”
Know that it’s a continuous effort
It is important to remember that technology implementation is not a one-and-done activity. Rather, it is a continuous process that goes through several iterations over time.
As Lance points out, “You can’t just throw something out there and be like, ‘Okay, we’re good. I’ll come back and see you in a couple of years.’”
That’s why Miller-Davis continuously evaluates their processes to figure out what’s next.
If nothing else, remember these tips
The webinar shared a wealth of information, but if you had to walk away with three insights, consider the following:
Document your processes
“Start by ensuring your processes are well-documented before implementing technology.” said Jack.
“Look for and research technology that supports your process. Adopting new technology without understanding how it fits your process has the potential to speed up failure.”
Don’t be afraid of change
Lance cited the famous Einstein quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
He said change is the key to progress and it’s something we shouldn’t fear. The thing you should be afraid of is staying stagnant.
“Do not be afraid to embrace change no matter how strange it may feel at the time. Continuing to do the same thing without exploring new options can lead to complacency and leave you and your team behind.”
Get your team involved
“Get a team together, identify your core business, and the workflows around it. Map them and discuss pain points; try to identify what’s holding you back. This brainstorm session will lay down multiple paths.” advised Ariel.
This will also help you identify your low-hanging fruit, so that you can gain traction.
“Continue doing this, and 2-3 years down the road, you will be surprised with the positive impact you generate in your organization.”
Want to learn more about how to streamline project management and win more work? Watch the webinar here.