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How can Agile Project Management be applied in the construction industry

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO APPLY AGILE PROJECT MANAGEMENT IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY?

Currently, Agile project management practices in construction projects are still an upcoming area of research and trial & error. As we previously highlighted, it is difficult to fully integrate Agile project management practices into construction projects due to its linear nature, extremely complex dependencies, and extensive use of outsourced services. Therefore, there is a recognised need to investigate further into this topic. The key lies in embracing Agile practices inside the traditional Waterfall working methods and utilising digital capabilities.

In this article we will examine the most recent development in the Agile Project Management space by the global project management authority PMI, the Disciplined Agile. PMI’s Disciplined Agile might just be the key that will unlock the adoption of Agile in the construction industry.

WHY DO WE NEED TO CONSIDER ADOPTING AGILE PROJECT MANAGEMENT IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY?

According to a 2020 McKinsey report, construction is the largest industry in the world, accounting for 13% of GDP worldwide. However, productivity growth lies only at 1% and has remained stagnant for the past two decades. The same report highlighted that the industry will face mass change and disruption (further led by COVID-19) and that all players in the construction field will need to invest in enablers like Agile in order to survive in the digital driven world. Evidently, a survey conducted by McKinsey found that 82% of respondents (made up of global industry leaders in construction) considered the shift towards becoming an Agile organisation to be critical. In order to help construction firms become more profitable, project managers will play a vital role in leading construction teams to embrace new ways of working.

HOW CAN WE ADOPT AGILE PROJECT MANAGEMENT IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY?

1. Adopt Hybridised Agile and CPM with PMI’s Disciplined Agile

Agile is fundamentally different to traditional project management methods such as the Critical Path Method (CPM) as it does not require the project manager to ‘predict’ all the risks, issues, and other variables up front. But, as mentioned in the beginning of this article, there are some inherent difficulties with applying Agile to the entire project life cycle of construction projects as its origin is from a very different industry (but similar in many ways), namely software development.

Project Management Institute’s Disciplined Agile is a hybridised approach that allows the organisation to pick and choose and apply LEAN, Agile and traditional methodologies to suit their context. This contextualised ‘Ways of Working’ can be applied from the top down (i.e at the enterprise level) as well as the bottom up (i.e at the team level). It enables this through the Discipline Agile Toolbox, which is a repository of processes, decision support tools, management approaches, and methodologies.

As an example, a construction project can be organised to run the LEAN Startup model for its Feasibility study phase. There are many advantages to applying the LEAN model when there is a high degree of uncertainty, complex stakeholder management, and the work has to be done very quickly and cost effectively. The subsequent phases such as Contract Management (that includes tendering) could use Scrum Agile with several iterations to get through the tender process. The Design phase is also a good candidate for either the LEAN or the Continuous Agile methods. The Construction phase could be managed using CPM for most of the Build lifecycle.

There are other ways of applying Disciplined Agile. For example, the overall portfolio of construction projects can be managed with Disciplined Agile for tracking progress and reporting purposes, to allow accurate and fast delivery of information to stakeholders. How the organisation wishes to mix and apply Agile and CPM across its entire portfolio of construction projects is almost limitless in possibilities.

The following diagram provides a very high-level view of PMI’s Disciplined Agile and the concept of applying contextualised Ways of Working across the organisation.

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2. Adopt digital capabilities 

When discussing emerging trends and essential features of project management, technology and digital software is a key player. In order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of project management teams, construction firms will need to embrace digital transformation and bring in the right people to deliver the data, analytics and insights that will lead to working smarter.

Cloud based Building Information Management systems are becoming increasingly used in digital enabled construction project management. These types of softwares allow the progress of construction sites to be digitally visualised, as well as make progress claim reports and exchange real time cost data between stakeholders. Through the ease of collaboration and decision making, the BIM can help teams to increase their productivity and work with enhanced data accuracy and budget management.

Benefits of BIM Technology 

  • Increase in efficiency through reliable and accurate updates provided in real time. Whilst the model is being developed or changed, the owner and project team can easily examine alternative concepts and reduce the time spent in the design process.
  • Access to a database that allows for projects to be based on past proven success, by leveraging historical data and industry experience.
  • Improved communication and stakeholder management as there is enhanced transparency. All the involved stakeholders can view the progress of the project and have a visual on what the end product will be like.
  • Decrease in the costs involved through risk mitigation, reduced chance of error and insurance costs.
Alan Kwonhttps://pm-coe.com
Alan Kwon is a co-founder of PMCOE. Alan is a highly respected project manager with over 20 years of experience. Alan's past executive roles include Project Director at IBM, Partner at Accenture, and MD of Pilgrim Technology.

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