Construction project management is often more about preventing and mitigating risk than actual project execution. While workers in the field concentrate on executing the work and quality control, management teams are looking ahead to see what potential problems they can identify before the next phase of the project.
Teams must work together to ensure project safety, schedule maintenance, and budget control. Communication and documentation are two of the most important tools available to do this. Construction project management software can help teams better track and respond to anticipated risk.
Before we get into how project management software helps teams with risk, we’ll look at the potential areas of risk on a project and how construction teams go about managing risk.
Potential Areas of Risk
There are many potential areas of risk on a construction project. Teams must identify and be aware of them all so they can work collaboratively to address them.
Safety – Construction is dangerous work. There are lots of physical dangers on a project that must be either prevented or managed. These days there are also health risks to consider. Additionally, if a project is being performed in a public space, public safety and health also have to be protected.
Financial – Contractors are vulnerable to financial risks such as unplanned costs and lower production rates. Tracking work costs and daily production, including delays and obstacles, is important to quantify these risks.
Contractual – Most construction project contracts push responsibility for costs and delays down to the next tier of contractor. GCs and subcontractors must read their contracts carefully, so they know what they’re responsible for.
Project – Projects are subject to delays and additional costs due to poor work management, scheduling issues, and unavoidable external conditions. Sometimes these problems can be avoided with better management and planning.
Stakeholder – Poor owner communication and delays in getting necessary information can lead to additional costs and schedule delays. There’s a higher chance of this happening when the owner is a public entity or there are several stakeholders involved in the project.
Environmental – Events such as natural disasters, weather, and fire can lead to damaged materials and work. This can set a project back and cause additional costs and delays.
Labor – Finding skilled workers is becoming more and more difficult, and trade subcontractors are scrambling to keep up with workloads and schedules.
Competition – Especially on hard bid projects, contractors are under pressure to be the low bidder, meaning there’s a chance they will cut corners to reduce project costs or cut scheduled time.
Construction Risk Management Process
The risk management process most contractors use is simple and straightforward. It involves three steps:
- Identify risks – First, the contractor must become familiar with all aspects of the project, including the scope of work and timeline for completion. Once they’ve done that, they’ll be better able to identify potential risks for the project. This is done by analyzing the flow of work, the individual tasks that must be completed, and the scheduled time, looking for potential conflicts or issues like those listed above.
- Prioritize risks – Next, the project management team will look at each of the risks they’ve identified and determine the probability that it will happen, potential severity of the risk, and its potential effect on the project. Risks with the highest probability and potential severity will be prioritized ahead of those with lower probability and severity. This allows the project team to make strategic decisions about how to address these risks, addressing the most probable ones first.
- Manage risks – Once the risks have been identified and prioritized, the team develops a plan to mitigate or prevent them from happening. They focus on the higher priority risks first, ensuring that they are addressed before moving on to the lower priority ones.
The risk management process detailed above is repeated many times as the project moves along. Risks that were present in the initial stages of a project may not be of concern later on. Additionally, new risks may be identified as work progresses and additional information comes to light. Teams need to be ready to respond to these risks proactively, so they should be constantly assessing the job for potential issues.
How Construction Project Management Software Can Help
Construction project management software can help project teams reduce or mitigate many of the risks found on a project. Although it can’t address all potential risks, it does provide a way to speed communication and document what is being done to address potential issues.
Reporting – Project management software allows teams to quickly see overdue tasks and documents that may delay the project. Teams can run reports that show items outstanding as well as who is responsible for responding to those items. For example, tasks such as completing punch list items need to be addressed quickly so owners can move in. Also, documents like submittals and RFIs require timely responses to keep the project moving. Knowing who needs to do what helps teams keep the project on schedule.
Tracking – These days construction companies need to track health checks and other safety-related inspections more closely. Daily recording of inspection results and health checks in project management software allows team members to see their status and predict potential problems. Recording the number of crews and where they’re working can also help with contact tracing, should that be needed.
Document control – Given the number of documents that are created and distributed during a project, having a central hub where they are stored is a must. Document storage, version control, and distribution can easily be managed by project management software, ensuring everyone is working from the latest documents and has access to them from wherever they are.
Communication – Just like for documents, having a central location for all your project correspondence is a necessity. Team members then have only one place to look when it comes to searching for an email or notice. In addition, all communication is tracked and documented within the project management system. Specific items can easily be researched and recalled in minutes.
Budget – Having an integrated system where costs are instantly updated in the field allows teams to respond to potential budget issues quickly. Project managers can view and manage the budget and costs from the project site, without having to request a report from the office. They’re also able to predict future costs based on commitments, allowing for early detection of over budget items so they can adjust them as needed.
PM Software Helps Project Teams Assess and Prevent Risk
Construction project management software allows project teams to create processes to help them plan for and mitigate risks on their projects. These processes, combined with documentation and tracking, help ensure that teams are prepared for and respond to risks.
The ability to get up-to-date information, including contract documents, correspondence, and status updates, allows teams to see where they’re vulnerable to risk and take action to control or mitigate it.
Premier’s job dashboard allows project managers to assess the status of their jobs from one screen. Whether the job is running overbudget or there are pending items that require their attention, an all-in-one construction management solution can help your team identify at-risk items before it’s too late. To learn more about Premier Construction Software, schedule a demo today.
Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator. Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.