Project Management Software Diagnoses Sick Projects

4 Dec, 2006 By: Cadalyst Staff

New tools help measure health of construction jobs, predict success or failure

Anyone who has worked in a construction-related field has probably worked on a project with seemingly insurmountable problems. Unrealistic schedules, personnel turnover, design and construction quality problems, and general project mismanagement are all common. Other projects are simply riddled with enough unavoidable technical challenges to make success an elusive goal. 

Whatever the causes, a common trait of problematic projects is that they are not properly assessed to determine the depth of their problems -- until it’s too late. Conventional project management software can offer helpful insight if used appropriately, but not all tools are sophisticated enough to pinpoint problems, and not all project managers properly apply the tools available.

A new software tool offers assistance in identifying ailing projects. PHI (Project Health Indicator), an Excel-based tool from CII (Construction Industry Institute), uses 43 key indicators to assess project health and identify warning signs of an unhealthy project. Geared primarily toward construction projects, PHI considers wide-ranging factors such as team expertise, schedule flaws, plan deficiencies, financial problems and cultural differences to identify potential problems and possible solutions.

To use PHI, the user first rates the project in the key categories presented by the software.

Indicators of project health include the project team's turnover rate. (Images courtesy of Construction Industry Institute)

Next, PHI produces graphical displays that measure the health of the project’s practices and anticipated outcomes. The tool also recommends potential resources that can help the user choose mitigation strategies for problematic areas.

PHI rates project practices such as alignment, change management and team building.
Users can generate predictions about aspects of project success or failure such as quality, cost and safety.

PHI is not intended to replace conventional project management software, but to complement traditional approaches, according to CII. Based in Austin, Texas, CII is a consortium of owners, engineering firms, construction contractors and suppliers focused on improving construction cost effectiveness, as well as 30 universities from across the United States. The group has researched project management strategies for several years and produced several risk analysis and prediction tools. The consortium’s PDRI (Project Definition Rating Index), which is used during the front-end planning phase, produces a weighted index based on industry best practices, enabling users to measure and compare the level of scope definition to anticipated project success. The new PHI tool attempts to fill the void between the PDRI and traditional project control methods.

Traditional management methods also include measurements such as performance ratio, schedule variance and cost variance, but they may not fully identify the warning signs of potential project failure, according to CII. PHI seeks to properly consider the various indicators and quantify project assessment, thereby enhancing the probability of success.

CII has also developed a PCC (Project Priority Calculator) that attempts to objectively analyze subjective elements of the job. It is designed to help project managers analyze current management practices and make adjustments to achieve goals. Users can conduct an overall assessment to rate project success on a scale of 0 to 5. The project manager can evaluate the result and determine whether the project is progressing as expected, or if more in-depth analysis is required.

CII also has been researching design in fast-track projects, leveraging technology to improve construction productivity, and innovation in the engineering and construction industry. PHI and PPC are free to CII members and can be purchased by nonmembers for $153 each. PDRI costs $46 for CII members and $183 for nonmembers.

Whether PHI and its sister products become vital construction management tools or academic exercises remains to be seen. For now, they are welcome additions to an industry that often lags behind others, such as manufacturing and aerospace, in employing technology to manage and troubleshoot projects. And if PHI proves useful in healing sick projects during construction, perhaps a similar approach could aid projects in preliminary or final design. Let the diagnosis begin!

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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