Most construction specific Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) implementations fail. This will not be welcome news if your company just spent tens of thousands of dollars implementing one. But we meet a surprising number of construction managers and owners who are unhappy with their current PMIS deployment. They typically come to us for help after discovering that their fancy new project management system is too costly and complex to implement. Worse yet, no one at their company wants to use it because it doesn’t help them do their jobs better.
We’ve had these conversations many times over the years – enough to know that the construction management landscape is sadly riddled with expensive and ineffective PMIS solutions.
How did the construction industry get to this point? We outline 10 reasons below. If you’re considering updating or implementing a PMIS at your construction company, we hope these tips help make the process smoother. In our next blog post, we’ll also share our vision for how a proper PMIS solution should be designed and implemented.
Top Reasons why Construction Project Management Information Systems fail:
1. The system is not flexible. Many PMIS solutions force a team to manage a project in a specific way. The reality is that most companies, projects, and people do things differently. Processes also evolve over time. A PMIS system should be flexible and adaptable – without requiring expensive custom coding.
2. Internal politics prevent adoption. Multiple departments are involved with managing a project. Each one has its own specific workflows and software platforms. Implementing a “one-size-fits-all” PMIS across these disparate groups often leads to resistance and lack of adoption. But who can blame them? Deploying a new software tool that doesn’t integrate with other departments’ existing platforms is making more work for them, not less. So everyone falls back on manually importing and exporting Excel files to collaborate. Not exactly a gain in efficiency.
3. The systems lack internal support. Individuals who are involved with projects from requirements through implementation make ideal project champions for choosing the proper PMIS. These champions are critical to helping a product gain acceptance in the organization and creating grass roots acceptance. Without internal support, systems “die on the vine” only to be replaced with another expensive system that never gets implemented. The system is blamed for the failure and not the organization.
4. Companies don’t understand what they have. Project managers and executives are busy. They often simply don’t have the time or technical skills to evaluate the capabilities of their current tools. So they bring in a consultant. But most consultants make money selling fancy new software platforms as well as the services required to deploy and customize them. But this approach overlooks the most efficient and effective option: improving the PMIS solution that the company already owns.
5. A company’s IT department “locks down” the application. Once a PMIS is absorbed into a company and hosted on their internal servers, the IT department takes over managing the tool. Further customization and feature requests from users are too often stifled or delayed. Users then have one more reason to not use the tool.
6. Business requirements are not valued. Many companies jump into buying an expensive PMIS solution thinking that the software itself will fix their issues. They then task the implementation of the system to those in the organization that know the least – usually the “newbies” since other subject matter experts are busy running projects. But this immediately devalues the product. A system is only as good as the people that develop and support it. There must be commitment to the entire software development lifecycle for a product to be successfully adopted in an organization. Without knowledge of the business processes, proper training, and acceptance by the organization, all enterprise software systems will fail
7. The wrong team is implementing the solution. Software development and implementation is a unique craft. Most construction professionals think they can do it because they managed a construction project. But the truth is they lack the technical experience to do the implementation right. On the flip side, IT companies that don’t know construction and try to build solutions often fail because they build tools that are not grounded in how work is actually performed in the field. A PMIS will fail without the expertise of the right team that knows both construction and how to implement software.
8. The solution lacks a unified vision. Companies typically buy the “best of breed” software to do specific things (dashboards, cost, contracts, etc.). Then they end up using only 5% of each systems’ functionality because the rest of the features don’t fit their needs and don’t integrate with other systems. We’ve heard horror stories of team members using up to 10 different systems to do their job – many of which become corporate mandates that make doing their job even harder. What ends up happening? These individuals enter the least amount of information they can get away in these mandated systems, but ultimately end up doing their real job in Excel. Again, less efficiency, not more.
9. Management is sold an “out-of-the-box” lie. Every consulting and software company will claim to offer a one-size-fits-all solution. But there is no such product. Most, if not all, PMIS deployments are custom coded. Each and every change will be expensive and make the tool more difficult to update in the future. The consultants you hired to install and configure your new PMIS will never leave because the platform is too complex for your in-house IT to manage. Ultimately, the cost to develop and maintain the product will become its downfall.
10. Companies try for the Hail Mary. Companies too often try to do too much when they deploy PMIS solutions. Instead of getting the small win, they end up in a state of constant re-engineering.
A better way to implement your Construction Project Management Information System
As we can see, the challenges and resulting opportunities that the construction industry faces in choosing a new PMIS are numerous. Stay tuned, because in our next blog post we will explain how to successfully implement a PMIS solution. The final blog post in our series will share how construction professionals can use solutions already deployed at their organization – tools like Microsoft SharePoint and Excel – to avoid these pitfalls and achieve better results.
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