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An informative yet amusing look at the daily trials and tribulations at UPC

By Mick Underhill, Mar 6 2015 03:54PM

Its not about what you've done, its what you are going to do next

Its been a great start to the year for Underhill Project Controls. We have been producing a plethora of quality documentation for some very busy clients from pre-qualification submissions....to full tender bids....to producing construction programmes for imminent starts. All of what we have produced this year is sending the same message to the reader;

'This is exactly what we are going to do for you'

Submission documents have been detailing how long it will take to deliver the project, how safe the site will be run, the quality that will be achieved.....and what it is going to cost client. One thing is for sure, there needs to be a positive plan to show how you, the contractor, will deliver to your clients expectation and beyond. Following this we need to regularly report back to him to prove that our project plan is correct. One great tool for this is the Dashboard Report

What to include in the report? The list is endless but time, cost, resource & material usage are all important. The client may well have his own ideas on Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to include. Include what is useful to the reader, ignore the superfluous where possible.

Once you have decided what aspects of the project to monitor and report on, the fundamental thing to concentrate on is the accuracy of the raw data. If the programme information is poor then the dashboard will offer poor guidance to the Project Manager. He will live life in blissful ignorance of impending doom or conversely be rushing around like a headless chicken wasting valuable project resource accelerating something that doesn't require such priority.

It is imperative that you produce quality programmes with input from your team, where durations are based on constant rates with agreed time risk allowances. The logic links must sound by constructive investigation at time of building up the programme, (maybe even as a result of a collaborative planning exercise with your supply chain).

Dashboards aren't new, and Project Managers will have different experiences of using them, as such we can all get carried away with negative and positives of Dashboard reporting but essentially your base project tool "The Programme" needs to be right.

As I have suggested a client's view of the project is not about what we have done so we also don't just report historical data, forecasting is the most important skill in Project Management and Control. So we record the progress and data and if forward or behind the plan, we transpose it forward and compare to the plan. The Project Manager can then know - potentially - what awaits him.

If the status quo isn't acceptable for timely completion then, working with the team, the Project Manager can then revise the plan by a variety of methods including increasing plant and/or labour, introducing overtime or exploiting concurrent activity.

The bottom line is projects run more smoothly with unambiguous communication and accurate data with which to make informed decisions.

By Mick Underhill, Oct 13 2014 10:56AM

Recent experience has seen me face a new person…the small builder! Not stature, but small in terms of his vision of successful delivery of the project. I was asked to look into a substantial house renovation – complete strip, reroof, 2 storey extension and landscaping the garden which could stand in as a stunt double as the north face of the Eiger!!

I was amazed that an 11 month project was being completed without as much as a schedule or programme of work in place!

The client was told “We’ll be finished in September”. Obviously September arrived and the finish was nowhere in sight - it was a classic ‘Grand Designs Scenario’. I could hear Kevin McLeod’s scathing monologue in my ear ”they have decided to dispense with the employment of a professional project manager and chosen the self-management route….” It’s usually at this point where I scream at the TV. But here I was seeing it in the flesh!

To add to this melting pot was the client was paying the builder on weekly rate so was ‘somewhat stressed’ to see the project budget increasing exponentially into a rather frugal Christmas holiday period!

Avoiding the obvious ‘how the hell was the client so naïve’ questions….I will instead stay with the ‘how the hell does a builder run a successful business without programmes and schedules, question. My only answer to this is by pure luck and gift of the gab, and by ensuring his client base is utterly naïve to the building industry. In this example there was also a degree of bullying by the builder when trying to justify his management incompetence.

There has to be surety of outcome in any project and in the first instance contracts are there to help us…the JCT suite of contracts includes Home Owner contracts including one where they have chosen to self-manage. Secondly a competent builder has to have open communication with the client and speak to them about progress regularly a programme would allow the client to gauge this progress over time and give the builder something to plan his deliveries or specialist works around….or is that just too easy?

Private building projects can be a source of continual conflict and great stress, a simple contract and programme or schedule of work will go a long way to ensuring that prolongation of time and increasing budgets do not spiral out of control.

I’m not sure what the answer is but architect practices should have a responsibility when producing design schemes to inform the client of ‘the way of things’ and where they know the home owner is going down the self-management route advise them on the need for contracts, agreeing fixed prices over rates and ensuring they have an agreed completion date which has facility to be monitored.

Your local GP successfully managing a £300k construction project to the required quality standard as well as completing on time and budget is a ludicrous an idea as me opening a pop-in surgery to deal with the common ailments of the community ….I’ll bet I get a couple of diagnoses right but the majority I will get woefully wrong with disastrous results.

If you want a job doing, do it yourself….or if you want a job doing well, hire someone who knows what they are doing. There is nothing more dangerous than an over enthusiastic amateur, especially when their entire life saving and credit limit are at stake!

By Mick Underhill, Sep 2 2014 01:34PM

Project Legacy is a project I am keen to get up and running that primarily gives help to soldiers leaving the Army after their service.

While much good is done by various charities and organisations, I would like to do my bit in my field of experience

Construction Planning is a specialism that is finds itself forever searching for enough planners of the right calibre. Recruitment specialists tell me all the time they cannot find Planners, Planning Engineers, Project Controllers with the right quailifications or experience.

The Project will involve a transfer of my knowledge to service leavers showing an interest and aptitude for Construction Planning - meticulous planning is a trait that runs through many military engineers and I am keen to harness that for the benefit of the individuals and the construction industry. I will also act a conduit between myself and forward thinking companies who can see the benefits in employing a construction professional with some rather different experience to the table!

Watch this space!!!!

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