Due to the current COVID-19 restrictions that have been imposed on public gatherings and travel, the 2020 AACE Conference has gone virtual. Attendees can still take advantage of all the presentations, technical sessions and networking opportunities – but this year from their own home office. Of course, we would all love to be there in person, but this year we’re all adapting to the current situation to still deliver high quality content, but in a modified platform. For those who aren’t familiar with the AACE, it is one of the most respected organizations on the planet for promoting the cause of best practices in project controls and cost engineering. They provide a deep wealth of high-quality resources for all areas of project management and project controls to ensure projects are delivered on budget and on time. If you’ve never attended an AACE conference in the past, this may be an ideal opportunity to try it out, as being virtual, there’s no travel involved and the time commitments can be much more flexible.
By now we can safely assume that everyone on the planet has been impacted in some way by the COVID-19 pandemic. This strain of the virus has the world grappling with a harsh new reality of lockdown, job losses, a spiralling economy and a great deal of uncertainty as to what the future holds for us all. Many countries across the globe, along with provinces, states and cities within those countries, have declared a State of Emergency to get out in front of this situation to minimize the impact on people’s health and the global economy.
Regardless of your background, faith or beliefs, this time of year can give all of us the opportunity to be grateful for all the good things in our lives. Even for those who don’t feel they have much in the way of good fortune to celebrate, it’s still a time to reflect on what we do have to be thankful for. It’s easy for me to say all that of course, but it’s a much trickier thing to do. Christmas can be stressful, and for some, a cold reminder of things they’d prefer to forget.
Most contractors today exist in a very competitive landscape where margins are tight, and customers are demanding. This leaves them little room for error when executing on projects – otherwise their profits will quickly be eroded, their reputation damaged, and their ability to sustain a healthy, growing company will be severely compromised.
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Risk is everywhere in business. Whether you’re a large or small company; or whether you run large or small projects – you are always running the very real risk that you’re project won’t succeed according to plan. How your business performs on a project however, goes well beyond just your own internal issues of cash flow and resourcing. The interdependencies that are inherent in construction projects means that what you do has a direct effect on your peer organizations and the owner. In other words: what you do is not just your own problem. If you blow it, you may end up blowing it for everyone around you. That doesn’t go over well – people talk.
How on earth do we manage to make sense of the chaotic volumes of information that gets thrown at us every day? If you’re anything like me, in any 24-hour period you can get hundreds of emails, documents, txts, tweets and messages filling your inbox and various other mediums. It’s impossible to believe we can do a decent job of cataloging and organizing it all in order to get back to it later.
I don’t have any stats on this, but I bet that over 90% of people use Outlook as an information management system – supported by hundreds of folders located somewhere on a company shared drive. And to some degree that works ok. There does come a point, however, when that system simply breaks down. I talk to a lot of people who plan, manage and procure construction projects, and easily one of the biggest struggles they fight to endure is how to tackle the barbaric amounts of information they need to stay on top of. Contracts, drawings, change orders, vendor invoices, daily site reports, budgets, status reports and on and on it goes. Each document and email thread can contain important information that’s critical to a project’s smooth and healthy progress.
At some point, engineering and construction companies need to upgrade the systems they use for managing all that project-related content. It’s like when you used to have no kids, and now you have three kids: you have to face the reality that you need to upgrade your two-seater car to something that can haul around the whole family. I specifically wrote project-related content as opposed to enterprise content. There’s a very big difference. The difference is: Project Data should reside with the project – not in a corporate document management system (or in Outlook or on a shared drive).
Back in the 18th century there was a period of new thinking called the Age of Reason; or the Enlightenment. The thinkers of the time were moving towards a largely fact-based view of the world and all things in it – using reason rather than sentiment or religion to explain things. Dominated by a well-known group of French Philosophers, it’s this period that has significantly influenced our current scientific approach to our view of the world. Amongst other things, they described the process of understanding things by breaking them down into individual parts. Like, a bicycle is made up of wheels, a chain, handlebars, pedals, etc. As though all whole things in the universe were merely a sum of their parts. At the same time as the French philosophers were enjoying their breakthroughs in thinking, there was a smaller group of British philosophers, like Edmund Burke and David Hume, who believed that there was more to it than just Parts.