Improve the efficiency of your project plan in 5 steps
Before you begin, you need to develop a standard contract form that includes your payment terms, scope of work, available schedule and a clause for claims. Never enter into any work without a signed contract in place, so that you avoid potential disputes further down the line. Troublesome clients are an unfortunate reality that you should be prepared for. Always document any changes to the contract and make sure both parties acknowledge and accept these changes before going any further.
In construction, it is vital to arrange appropriate insurance to ensure you and your business are covered from claims against property damage or personal injury. In addition, you should ensure that all of your staff are fully trained and insured to use machinery and safety equipment. Placing emphasis on this component of the business has several benefits including peace of mind, a more professional reputation and potentially better profits as your business is likely to experience less turnover of staff if their safety is covered professionally.
Starting a construction project today is not the same as it was even just ten years ago. We are entering the fourth industrial revolution and new technologies are fundamentally changing how business is carried out. The time to invest in technology is now, not just financially but through educating yourself as well. Do this and you will have a step up on the competition. The right technology will make your job a thousand times easier and help you future-proof your business.
Your initial project plan should never be set in stone. Instead, it should be more of an aspirational guideline for how you see the project evolving. As soon as the project has started, and you start building, hurdles will be thrown in your way. Your plan has to be flexible enough to adapt to the unforeseen changes that always occur within such dynamic environments, such as construction or property development sites.
Your plan has to be flexible enough to adapt to the unforeseen changes that always occur.
If you go into the project with a flexible plan, you can adapt it as the project progresses. At the start, there will always be a lot of unknowns, which you can mitigate and plan against. However, you have to be aware that those plans might change. Once you have started with construction and truly understand it, then the plan should be updated, and only then will your plan become a solid, unchangeable resource to work from.
One point to note is that it is essential that you build financial and time contingencies into your plan from the start to accommodate these unexpected issues. The more experience you and the team gather, the better you will be prepared for the issues and can mitigate against them
2. Link your project plan to a clear financial forecast
It is essential to have a clear understanding of the financial impact of a project. Regardless of the project is funded, it is essential that there is a clear understanding as to when costs will be incurred and importantly how the cash flow will change depending on changes on site.
Draft a sound pricing plan and estimating process before accepting any contracts. Bear in mind that your clients will often expect to be quoted the full price upfront. Before trading, you need to have a process in place that allows you to build these estimates, taking into account the cost of equipment, materials, labour, overheads and your own margins. Many businesses start out by building budgets and calculators in Excel, and whilst this can work in the short term, you may find your business outgrows Excel as you start to win more contracts and grow.
If you can use software to link the project plan to your finances, then every time you make a change to your plan, it will automatically change your financial planning and estimates. This is hugely beneficial to the efficiency of a project. It will provide you with a great understanding of how the change in the plan has impacted the cash flow, and you can act accordingly helping you have greater financial control across multiple projects.
3. Tailor the plan to your requirements
Having a software package that can be tailored to your requirements is essential to the success and efficiency of your project. If you imagine that there are 20 elements of a construction or development project, from demolition to painting walls, there is a lot of budgeting to consider; both in terms of materials and job allocation. Using software will not only help to keep track of resources but will also provide a platform to work from for your next project. You will be able to look back at your previous budgets and costs, figure out what worked, what didn’t and plan accordingly.
Having a software package that fits your requirements is essential to the success and efficiency of your project.
4. Develop a plan that crosses multiple projects
Most development companies will have multiple projects running at the same time. Monthly resourcing meetings are essential to ensure that resources are utilised effectively across all projects. However, if something changes in one plan and resources are affected, then you need to understand how that will implicate the other projects.
Using software to develop a cross-project plan will provide you with the flexibility to identify cross-project impact if you move resources around.
5. Incorporate all of the above into a usable onsite tool
If you have a lot of resources spread across multiple projects, then it’s inefficient to create multiple fortnightly task lists for each project. You want one easily readable form that informs everyone, on every level, of their tasks for each project over the course of the two weeks.
This could be created in the form of a printable project plan that you can put up in the meeting room on-site, through to a clear and straightforward task list that can be given to all levels of staff. It’s about having software that can professionalise everything, from what’s been getting done to what has been bought and thought through.
Overall – it’s an imperative to always keep in mind that construction projects will constantly throw up unexpected issues that result in changes across the board and anyone that believes a plan or task list won’t change is kidding themselves. The important element is having the flexibility within your plans, workforce, etc. to be able to quickly adapt to these changes.
Bonus Step: Follow the best practices of a good project manager
It is essential that one or two other professionals are aware of the goings-on of the project at all times. Often, project managers are having to manage multiple projects at any one time, which could result in delays or oversight. Making sure that there are professional tradesmen on your team overseeing production, ensures that each particular project is being made a priority.
2. Visit the production site every day
Production slows down if you miss a day onsite. It is essential to the smooth running of a project to keep tabs on progress, not only to make sure you’re on a budget and reaching targets but also to keep the client or stakeholder updated with progress reports.
3. Call an initial project meeting
Always schedule a meeting before the start of any project. This is the time to get everyone together before construction starts so that you can organise a timeline of events. Make sure that the right people are invited to this initial meeting so that you can:
Create a floor plan, agree on a layout and walk through it with the team
Identify problems before they arise
Source and check materials
Agree on budget spend
Start scheduling tasks so that production can start straight away
4. Always check your materials
Buying and sourcing materials can be a huge expenditure, both in terms of time and budget. If materials have been over or under ordered, this could cause a huge delay in construction trying to rectify the problem. Double-checking the materials is essential to avoid any future delays. Alternatively, sourcing the materials yourself could not only save you a lot of money but also help minimise the chances of any delays.
5. Make sure you are approachable
To be a successful project manager, you have to make yourself approachable. Let your team know that you are happy to hear the bad news first. This is essential to identifying the problem before it hinders the project and will allow you to avoid future issues. Project management is more than ensuring tasks are running to schedule and monitoring budget spends, you also have to manage people. The more your team trusts you, the more you can trust that they will get the work done.