East Bay puts construction management online
It used to take a full week to complete the paperwork, with five people handling the documents. Now, two or three people can complete it in a couple of hours.
Large contractors have used construction management software (CMS) for some time to monitor project costs and scheduling and to ensure that the job meets the terms of the contract award. However, because the technology was designed for contractors, it seldom met the needs of the entity awarding the contract. That is changing as CMS expands to reflect the owner/agency point of view.
Such an expansion will make CMS more valuable to local government agencies engaged in construction programs. With it, they will be able to allocate funding from different sources; monitor scheduling and budgeting issues for multiple projects and multiple contractors; and ensure on-time, on-budget completion of the agency’s total construction program.
The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), which supplies water to approximately 1.2 million residents of Northern California’s Alameda and Contra Costa counties, decided in 1995 to update its program management capabilities with a unified system that could provide immediate access to cost, scheduling and communications data. It chose Paragon Program Management System by Oakland, Calif.-based ViaNovus.
The system has helped EBMUD reduce the time and costs necessary for processing progress payment. Personnel now can feed the raw data into the program, which automatically computes the amount due each contractor. Custom reports allow the utility to generate monthly payment documentation in a district standard format. “It used to take a full week every month to complete the paperwork involved in the payment invoices, with five people handling the documents,” says Kevin Canada, a supervising administrative engineer in EBMUD’s Construction Division. “Now, two or three people can complete it in just a couple of hours.”
Canada says the software has reduced substantially the volume of paperwork his staff handles and has helped EBMUD streamline the distribution, sharing and retrieval of documents. Project team members can submit and/or access letters, memos, meeting minutes, review comments, field inspection reports, change orders, invoices and progress payments. They can immediately share delivery problems or other information that might affect the job’s progress.
Although CMS encompasses a range of target users, EBMUD chose a system designed for the entity that is financially responsible for the project. For example, if an official needs a progress report with specific details on vendor payments or costs to date, that official can compile and sort data and quickly create a report without having to call the contractor or individual vendors.
Tips for choosing a CMS
Look for a system that is designed for the owner/manager, not just the contractor.
Be sure the system is capable of providing data on multiple projects simultaneously.
Determine whether you want installed software or a Web-based solution that can be accessed from any Internet-connected computer.
If your projects are funded with multiple sources, look for a system that can track funding allocations as well as budgeting and scheduling.
Research the capabilities that are most important to you: planning, budgeting, funding, scheduling, reporting, document management, forecasting, risk analysis, information sharing and ease of use.
Ask questions about the service provider’s history and its clients.
Ask about training, on-line help and other special services.