Construction Project Management Pain Points: Top Issues Hurting Your Bottom Line

We take a look at some of the major pain points of construction project management and how it hampers growth for companies. From project delays to poor communication and lack of a centralized system, we analyze the biggest thorns in the side of project managers.

Communication Issues

Effective communication is absolutely critical for construction projects to succeeed, yet miscommunication remains one of the biggest pain points. Construction projects involve multiple teams, trades, and stakeholders that must coordinate and collaborate seamlessly. Without proper communication tools and strategies, vital information can get delayed or lost as it passes between various parties.

Some of the key communication pain points faced by construction firms include:

  • Miscommunication between teams and departments - Construction projects require coordination between the owner, architect, engineer, general contractor, subcontractors, and more. If these parties fail to communicate design changes, schedule updates, RFIs, submittals and other key details accurately and timely, it can lead to significant problems. For example, if an architect's design change is not properly conveyed to the structural engineer and concrete subcontractor, it could result in rip and replace work down the road.
  • Lack of collaboration tools and platforms - Many construction firms still rely on paper-based systems, spreadsheets, and manual processes to share information between the office and jobsite. Without digital collaboration platforms and document control systems, data can be fragmented across multiple sources. This makes it difficult to get a unified real-time view of project status.

Improving construction communication requires investment in solutions like project management software, document sharing platforms, and mobile capabilities. This enhances collaboration, connects data, and allows teams to relay information in real-time. With seamless communication, construction firms can mitigate misalignment, confusion, and delays across projects.

Increase in Net Working Captial

Construction projects are notorious for going over budget. In fact, a study by McKinsey found that large projects typically go over budget by 20% on average, with some projects exceeding initial estimates by up to 80%. There are several key factors that contribute to cost overruns in construction:

Unexpected costs - Even the most seasoned construction professionals can't predict every issue that might arise. For example, inclement weather, defective materials, or skilled labor shortages can all result in unanticipated expenses. Change orders from clients also frequently add costs. While smart contingency planning helps, projects will inevitably incur unexpected costs that bloat the budget.

Increase in Net Working Capital - As projects drag on, companies have to spend more to keep the projects afloat. This includes salaries to employees, cost for holding on to rented equipment and sub contractors etc. On the other hand, the income is simply not there as the project is yet to complete. This results in a net negative cashflow, affecting companies’ ability to bid on future projects sooner.

Lack of Visibility

Construction projects involve many different teams working across multiple locations and using various systems to track progress. This leads to a lack of real-time visibility into the big picture. Without access to consolidated data, project managers struggle to track overall progress and identify issues early on.

Key challenges include:

  • Inability to track real-time progress across the entire project. With teams using siloed systems and spreadsheets, there is no single source of truth. This makes it hard to get an accurate, up-to-date view.
  • Difficulty identifying issues in their early stages. When data is fragmented, emerging problems like delays or budget overruns are often spotted too late. This causes knock-on effects down the line.
  • No insight into productivity and performance. Lack of visibility means site managers can't easily track contractor productivity or identify high performing subcontractors.
  • Resource allocation decisions made in the dark. With limited visibility, it's challenging to determine optimal resource levels and re-allocate based on real data.

The inability to access consolidated, real-time data across the entire project lifecycle is a major pain point. Construction firms need solutions that break down data silos and provide complete visibility in one centralized platform. This is essential for making informed decisions and managing successful projects.

Safety issues

Construction sites can be dangerous environments. Failure to follow proper safety protocols and provide adequate training for workers can lead to serious accidents and injuries. This exposes construction firms to liability risks. Some key safety issues construction companies face include:

  • Failure to enforce safety protocols. Many accidents occur when safety rules like wearing hard hats or using fall protection when working at heights are not followed consistently. Poor safety culture leads to more accidents.
  • Inadequate training for workers. Construction workers need to be properly trained on how to identify hazards, use equipment safely, follow safety procedures etc. Insufficient training means workers are unprepared to work safely.
  • Communication gaps. Language barriers, lack of signage, improper safety briefings etc can all lead to confusion and unsafe practices on site. Clear communication about safety is essential.
  • Lack of oversight and accountability. Without proper supervision and enforcement of safety policies, workers are more likely to cut corners or make mistakes leading to accidents.

Construction companies that fail to prioritize safety open themselves up to OSHA fines, project delays, lawsuits and damage to their reputation. A strong safety culture and robust safety programs are essential to avoid injuries and incidents on construction projects. Investing in proper training, equipment, and oversight goes a long way in improving safety.

Insufficient Collaboration

Collaboration is key for successful construction projects, yet insufficient collaboration remains a major pain point. When different parties like architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers don't coordinate properly, projects suffer.

A lack of coordination leads to costly mistakes, redundant work, and avoidable delays. Emails get buried, phone calls missed, and information falls through the cracks. Documents aren't updated promptly and tasks lack accountability. Contractors blame each other rather than collaborating to solve problems.

Construction firms need strong project management to facilitate collaboration. A centralized communication system improves coordination and information sharing. Clear responsibilities and workflows prevent the confusion of overlapping roles. And a collaborative culture focused on collective success, not individual metrics, aligns all parties.

Inaccurate reporting

Construction projects generate massive amounts of data across multiple systems and stakeholders. However, many construction firms still rely on manual processes for aggregating and analyzing this data to generate reports. This introduces significant risks of human error leading to inaccurate reporting.

Some common issues include:

  • Data collected in spreadsheets or on paper forms that must be manually entered into a system. This redundant data entry opens the door for typos, missing information, and inconsistencies.
  • Lack of standard data formats and taxonomies. Different teams may describe the same item differently, making data consolidation difficult.
  • Human errors that result in wrong data. Oftentimes, this is the most difficult to identify and rectify, especially in the absence of a system where every data entry is recorded and attributed to specific personnel.

Inaccurate data and reporting cause poor decision making, incorrect forecasts, lack of accountability, and mistrust among stakeholders. Construction firms should invest in digital solutions that automate data collection, analysis, and reporting to deliver greater transparency and accuracy.

Legacy systems and processes

Construction companies often rely on outdated tools and workflows that hamper efficiency and make it difficult to get a clear picture of project status. Many still use spreadsheet software like Excel for scheduling and budgeting. While spreadsheets are flexible, they are error-prone and don't allow for easy collaboration or real-time updates. As projects grow in complexity, construction firms need solutions that provide greater transparency, automation, and analytics.

However, there is often resistance within construction companies to adopt new technology. Many construction professionals are used to "the way things have always been done" and are hesitant to learn new software platforms. They may perceive innovative solutions as unnecessary or too difficult to implement. Leadership needs to make a compelling case for change, provide proper training and support, and recognize that cultural shifts take time.

March 26, 2024