The fourth in the series of blogs for the MPA series where we explore Big Data in major projects.
Information management and data analysis need to be embedded as core functions within programmes and organisations for project controls functions to be ready for big data. This is not just the selection and implementation of software systems, but a complete organisational change to adapt to the role of big data.
How can we do this?
We see project controls and Project Management Office’s (PMO) as having a significant influence in this space. Within project-driven organisations, these bodies are well placed to sponsor and influence the adoption of better practices. Each of these functions has a wide reach across organisational units and collect and report significant amounts of data. The Project Controls/PMO function should look to align itself as the business owner or business representative for the organisation with respect to project and performance data. Additionally, they may also have a role to play in becoming the initial business analysts for the organisation.
Lessons learned from other industries
Modern data-driven organisations and IT organisations have been dealing with similar problems for a long time, and it is possible for the construction industry to leverage and tailor some of the existing information and organisational architecture management frameworks in order to kickstart their organisational transformation.
One possible starting point is to look to the open-source TOGAF 9.0 Enterprise Architecture Methodology and Framework; a simplified model for project delivery information management could be developed to satisfy the needs of an organisation looking to increase their information management capabilities. There are some obvious advantages to looking for solutions within this space which include:
- Lower cost of ownership
- The pooling of knowledge/experience
- Standardisation of solutions
- No vendor lock-in
What about joint ventures?
A key risk of implementing strong data management practices can be found in the common construction model of employing Joint Venture organisations during the delivery phase. When clients select a Joint Venture delivery model, they must be mindful of the fact that they are in effect sanctioning the creation of a new organisation, along with all the problems that that will bring. Joint Ventures must redefine all of the tools, processes and data management standards that they will employ, often under competition with the existing processes that are being brought to the JV from each of the parent companies. Moreover, those brought in to deliver the JV programme of work are focused on the day to day delivery of the programme; it is extremely unlikely that they will hold a strong strategic vision of integrated data management.
Without either strong guidance from client organisations or forward thought between the JV participants it is unlikely that well thought-through data management and integrated technologies will be brought to bear on the programme. We believe that efforts should be made to develop and standardise the operations of JVs with project delivery charters that set out ahead of time the systems, processes and procedures that all participants will follow, in doing so a more efficient operation will be possible within this space.
The Project Controls Architect
A key embodiment of all the principles discussed in this article may be the introduction of a new organisational role: The Project Controls Architect. This may either be a person, or a partner organisation brought in to assist in the design and implementation of a cohesive data integration and information strategy along with the development of integrated project controls. We believe that the ability to identify and work with representatives capable of creating and seeing through a strategy will be the greatest factor in successful, efficient delivery and readiness.
The role of organisational change in bringing big data to the project controls function is significant. It will require strong leadership to engender a culture that values a modern technology infrastructure and data-driven decision making. It will also require one or more consummate professionals to own the design, implementation and management of systems, data and related processes for the duration of the project and beyond. Data management within an organisation must be viewed in the corporate space. It is not sustainable for projects and programmes to implement their own standards and processes without overarching coordination. This does not mean an organisation must completely lock down their system but an appropriately thought out model will need to be implemented.
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