The construction industry is one of the global giant industries contributing to about 14.7% of global GDP. Just in 2017, it was worth $1.18 trillion. The construction industry has employed multiple frameworks throughout the years such as Waterfall, LEAN or Critical Chain.
However, the mention of the term ‘Agile’ commonly brings forth the concept of project management related to IT or software development. To many, ‘Agile’ may seem an unlikely match with the field of construction. It’s seen agile for non-software projects can be as effective as for the IT-based projects.
The idea of designing and developing an architecture with Agile, a framework initially designed for software development, can render second thoughts.
Nonetheless, it is gaining potential as of recent years with Agile proving its effectiveness and efficiency in yet another industry i.e. construction project management.
Numerous case studies floating the internet have only proved Agile as beneficial in the construction industry in terms of team collaboration and efficiency in project delivery.
In this blog, we shed light on how Agile can be introduced in construction project management in order to expedite project completion and also make team management more effective.
The Agile Manifesto
In order to understand how Agile can fit into the construction industry, let’s go through the Agile manifesto itself or the list of principles that form the basis of Agile.
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools: Customer and team communication are more important than having the processes and tools define the workflow.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation: Instead of focusing mainly on documentation, emphasis is shifted to the practical deliverables of a project.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation: Customer involvement is encouraged from the very beginning instead of just at the time of start and end of a project.
- Responding to change over following a plan: Instead of fearing high costs at the mention of changes, change management is more efficient making it easier to implement change when needed.
Project Planning and Implementation
The field of construction often involves multiple well-planned stages executed sequentially. Although in most cases, professionals may consider a Waterfall approach best, it neither leaves much room for continuous improvement nor effective change management. By implementing Agile framework right from the planning phase can save time and cost in the long run.
Whether it is planning for materials, recruiting labor, getting designs approved and testing for quality assurance, distributing the work plan into sprints with defined backlogs is an efficient way to kick-start any construction project.
Adrian Smith. Director of Technology at Ennova, says in an article relating Agile with construction project management that a weekly work plan in construction holds a lot of similarity to an iteration or sprint in the Agile framework.
It helps prioritize and plan tasks, measure and monitor progress, with continual improvement for future implementation. He further adds that the weekly work plan is also similar with reference to daily scrum meetings and customer involvement in site review.
Moreover, according to Smith, user stories in Agile can be synonymous to work packages in for measuring project completion, which can be further represented through a burndown/up chart.
Apart from defining how to break down tasks and establish time intervals for project completion, Agile project management devises a set of roles to oversee the process. These roles comprise: Product Owner, Scrum Master and the development team.
The beauty of Agile lays in its flexibility and ability to transform different elements of work patterns in other frameworks into those of Agile. The same goes for the roles.
According to Chris Klein, in his article An Agile Construction Project mentions how the roles of construction can fit into those in Agile. The Scrum Master facilitates the entire implementation of Agile throughout a project development cycle.
In construction project management, the Superintendent can take the role of the Scrum Master, coordinating work and ensuring the team sticks to the decided tasks. The Product Owner holds the responsibility of deciding the prioritized elements of work, making important decisions and delegating activities to be completed.
In construction, a Product Owner can be the Project Engineer or Project Manager. The team is simply the set of laborers or workers responsible for the physical implementation of the decided user stories.
Project Management Tools
An important part of any project development lifecycle is the software adopted. A project management software streamlines and helps monitor the entire process as well as keep teams well collaborated. Tools such as nTask, Wrike, Asana and many more encompass a wide array of features that can be used for planning all sorts of projects including construction related.
There are also some tools that are designed specifically for construction project management, be it construction planning, monitoring or accounting e.g. Box, Vista, Foundation Software, eSUB, and more.
Thomas Goubau, the co-founder/CEO of APROPLAN lists down the following key factors that show the importance of a construction project management software:
According to research, quality failure costs in construction range from less than 1 to over 20% of a project’s original contract’s value (OCV). With a construction project management software, you can plan, implement and monitor decisions faster and more efficiently. This leads to not only saving costs in terms of materials, resources, overtime and more.
Collaboration in real-time
Teams that collaborate better incur minimum confusions and project delays. Through on the go information, online meetings, instant chats between engineers, sub-contractors, and architects, projects remain transparent and there is little room for issues thereby saving costs and time.
This has been proven by a study that 82% of owners feel they need more collaboration with their contractors.
Through a knowledge base, it helps teams stay a step ahead with knowledge regarding what customers want, when and how to implement it and how to improve work patterns in the future.
More Efficient Construction Project Management
It empowers you to control projects more efficiently and offers features to easily view progress through different reports and analytics.
Although each construction project varies from another in terms of the size of deliverables, investment costs and time constraints, it can be more or less improvised with the Agile approach to optimize results and minimize problems.
Have you been a part of an Agile construction project management team? Which factors do you think impact the overall implementation of the Agile framework in the construction industry? Share your story in the comments below.