Make it, or break it

Make it, or break it

Reimagining governance, people and technology: When these critical performance drivers work in harmony, the sum can truly be greater than the parts.

Cage of iron

For the past couple of decades, the main engineering and construction players have focused heavily on governance, risk and controls to ensure that projects meet deadlines and budget, and to improve quality and safety. We believe it’s now time for a reassessment of this approach, to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t.

Through our observations, and our discussions with industry experts, it’s apparent that project management still lacks transparency, and has too many gaps in policies, procedures and controls, enabling small spokes in the wheel to become big barriers to progress. What’s needed is a more reliable way to accurately assess and predict project performance, and send out early warnings, so that project teams can intervene swiftly when things aren’t going according to plan.

Over the years, early earned-value systems and critical path method (CPM) scheduling tools have expanded to include other, more holistic solutions. We’ve tracked this progress through industry research and discussion since the inception of our Global Construction Survey in 2005.

In our 2016 Global Construction Survey, the respondents gave a number of reasons for lack of effectiveness in project controls, namely: 1) overconfidence, 2) lack of consistency and 3) the ‘human factor’, covering issues such as insufficient soft controls and inadequate talent management. What this year’s survey has brought up, in addition to these points, is the need to take a more critical examination of the three main drivers of performance: governance, people and technology. And it’s not enough to simply evaluate how these drivers are working independently — it’s equally important to understand how they are interacting. For example, as our People experts comment, having a well-documented controls manuals is probably, irrelevant given that many Millennial workers are uncomfortable with ‘guard rails’ and prefer a freer hand. Equally, a shiny new piece of technology only adds value if you have the means to analyze the data, interpret the results, and take action on the insights.

Much of what we discuss in this year’s survey could come under the broad heading of change management. And, in an industry regarded as relatively conservative, making change happen effectively is one of the toughest challenges. We believe that the approaches recommended throughout the document represent practical tips from people that have been on the front line of construction for the past 20–30 years.

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