Once upon a time in a not so very far away past, construction project planning was done using two tools we´ve learned to grasp since a very early age: pen and paper. Long before Excel ruled our day to day lives, and digital tools started blossoming for the Contech ecosystem, all project planning was done laying out a piece of paper and writing down the processes to follow to move forward with a project.
Thankfully, in recent years the construction industry has embraced technology more and it´s precisely the tools that allow us to enhance the industry´s productivity levels the ones that have received most of the funding from corporate and private investors alike, with 63% of the total $5.4 billion USD invested in 2021 being destined to these tools.
Let´s take a deep dive into why project planning is key for the construction industry and you think you solution can fit this description, apply for Construction Startup Competition today!
What is Project planning and how to do it step by step
Why project planning is important?
Within the built sector, one of the many challenges that project planners face is the crazy number of stakeholders that must be set into place before beginning to work on a project.
As the construction value chain encompasses all the players from the design process all the way to the very end with the demolition contractor, it is an extremely arduous task to coordinate everyone involved in the value chain. Moreso, many projects are a “one-time” meetup between most of the stakeholders in a project, making it even more difficult to rely on long-standing relationships as a source of comfort.
Construction planning is the process of figuring out the most efficient and cost-effective method of arriving at a satisfactory final project. Due to the fact that the project plan is also used as a benchmark from which to derive a project cost estimate and project completion timeline, it needs to be as comprehensive and exact as possible. Sounds like a big challenge for the built sector, right? It’s because IT IS!
Not only must a project planner assess all of the materials and labor required to complete a construction project, but they must also schedule those tasks in a way that improves the efficiency of the project as a whole. Plus, it must be done ahead of time and crossing fingers for little to no delays to occur in the meantime.
There are many responsibilities when it comes to planning and executing a construction project. A project manager wears many hats. A sampling of management responsibilities includes overseeing the project schedule, contracts, negotiations, planning the design process, and working with consultants. Another way project managers can help the process along is by working with local government offices to procure building permits.
How to plan a project?
A construction project has so many ramifications, that it´s best to be as detailed and careful when undergoing the initial steps of a plan. Stonemark highlights a step-by-step example of how this process can look like:
Set your goals
Once you already have the idea of how the project will look like goals starts with determining who the stakeholders are for the project. Everyone affected by the project should be included at this early stage, from the designers to the contractors and end users. This includes those who will be working in the new building, those near the new space, your maintenance team, executives, finance team members, and even government entities who regulate your project.
The broader this list is, the better. Once all the members are identified, the whole project team should meet to put together a list of project goals and determine the needs for the project. As a project manager, you will work together to edit the list and prioritize each item.
Define the scope of the project
From the list of project goals previously developed, the team identified to work on the project can then come up with a list of the features to meet those goals. The scope document will also provide details on how the goals will be achieved or implemented in the project.
In order for it to be successful, it should include the systems that will be used, construction techniques, and what specific scopes of work will be included in the project. Similar to setting your goals, defining all potential lines of work is also a must.
The team will put together a rough schedule for the project at this stage. Once the scope and amount of work has been decided on, the team should be able to estimate durations for the project stages, including design, permitting, construction, and move-in, as well as initial budget estimations for the project along with a contractor.
Before the beginning of the design stage of the project, the team should plan what the process will look like and who will be involved. The design team may have standard processes, but all relevant stakeholders must agree on it before the work begins.
Considerations in this stage:
- roles and responsibilities of each team member
- communication flow and risk management
- project progress meetings
Events like budget cuts, changing project requirements or needs, and unforeseen site conditions can all affect the progress on the project. Knowing who is responsible for identifying and mitigating risks like these is an important part of the planning process.
Now is where the fun begins (or continues)! In the design process, collaboration and communication are key elements to keep everyone updated and following the same pathway, as it´s normal that a project encounters multiple designers. Once the process plan has been defined, the project team can officially begin the design process. As this process moves towards completion, estimates will become more accurate, and more risks and issues can be identified ahead of time.
As part of this stage, changes, and adjustments as needed due to jurisdictional requirements, unforeseen site conditions, or changes in the scope of work, just to name a few examples.
Final reviews and bidding
Once the final construction documents have been reviewed and approved, they are later submitted to the entity having the authority to review and proceed with permitting. It´s likely they´ll require a plan to check corrections and ensure that the plans meet all building and local codes, which often create changes to the project even at this stage (and regardless of how much knowledge the team has of these regulations).
The project is then sent to the bidding process, who often reveals discrepancies or creates questions that may not have been raised before. This is why it is a good idea to have a contractor on board early on.
Afterwards, the contractor provides final pricing and a schedule, then the team can assess their plan and make sure the project is meeting the intended goals set at the beginning of the planning process. Do not fret, though. Changes can still be made, even during construction, but they become more expensive the farther along the project is. That is why the processes above are so important, as they actually keep construction costs down by planning more.
With this guide, can you tell the many elements that come into play when planning a construction project? Wouldn’t it be immensely beneficial to say “There´s an app for that”? Well, there is! And we are looking for more, because the industry is still ripe for solutions that can help us in these processes.
Examples of project planning tools to enhance productivity in construction
Every year during our annual call, Construction Startup Competition, innovative startups that provide a solution than can help in the planning of a construction project (whether at the very beginning or during the strenuous process once the project is running) make it to the top winner selection. This goes hand in hand with it being one of the categories that receives most investment within the construction sector.
Here´s a look a past winners of the competition and their solutions:
Ipsum, the first winners of the Construction Startup Competition and early members of our investment portfolio, offers a collaborative ecosystem that integrates everyone in the project site, hence changing the way construction projects are built from the field.
Through their SaaS enables platform ProPlanner, Ipsum connects schedules, with lookaheads, and weekly work plans in one vertical, and generates real-time analytics and reports from it. The startup´s final mission is to help improve the productivity and efficiency of the construction industry, working hard to achieve an economic and social impact, helping to create real “smart cities”.
One of the winners of last year´s competition, ProcurePro, offers a digital procurement & subcontract management software that empowers construction companies to streamline subcontractor engagement, helping increase efficiencies, improve quality and enhance governance, leading to higher project margins & profitability.
The New York based startup streamlines and simplifies many of the frustrating aspects of running a contracting business, leaving its clients and employees free to focus on serving their own customers, managing work orders, and tracking progress and profitability. Knowify can help contracting businesses manage service tickets, work orders, and contract jobs all on one platform. Their platform encompasses estimation, job costing, contract and change order management, project tracking, time tracking, invoicing, purchasing, billing, and scheduling.
How CEMEX Ventures promotes better project planning
We aim to foster the construction revolution and for doing so, we must tackle its lack of productivity first and foremost. “The productivity levels of the sector have been frozen in very poor levels for the past years. We understand that these challenges encompass way too many items, but by looking at startups that can ease the pain in one of its most poignant areas, which is the planning aspect of it, we know other enhancements will follow, such as less supply chain disruption, for example” said Gonzalo Galindo, Head of CEMEX Ventures.
Therefore, by adding a category on Construction Startup Competition that focuses on finding these solutions, we give more visibility to the entrepreneurs who are developing an effective response to this issue. Moreso, we allow more partners from the industry to also evaluate and identify the potential in these startups, with the aim to further collaborate or invest in them.
If you are an entrepreneur with a solution that will help us better develop future construction project, apply before September 4 to Construction Startup Competition 2022.