As any systems integrator knows, well-trained employees are key to running a successful company.
As industry demand increases, companies are seeing the payoff from investing time, money, and resources to build organizational project management expertise. These payoffs include lower costs, increased efficiency, improved customer and stakeholder satisfaction, and improved competitive advantages.
It’s important to make sure the project team understands the four basic steps of any project—and what’s needed to complete those steps:
- Defining the project
- Implementation/project sitework
In this blog, we’re focusing on the most critical (and riskiest) phase of the project for the project manager: implementation or project field work.
The Importance of the Implementation Phase (Project Field Work)
By the time you reach this phase, the project manager should have reviewed and validated the project scope with the customer to plan, schedule, coordinate, and allocate resources before a component is delivered to the site, a screw is turned, or a cable is pulled.
Up until this point, the project manager’s efforts have been focused on making project implementation possible and straightforward. Although the actual “project field” progress may only be 10%, 75% of the project management work is completed at this point. If the planning of work has been done appropriately, then the field work should become a case of paint by number.
During the implementation phase, the project manager must ensure that the project plan is executed in a timely and controlled manner. Project managers can use documentation to communicate and coordinate tasks within the team, provide clear instructions to the installation team, eliminate miscommunication, reduce project risks and liabilities, create a paper trail, and create a long-term reference tool. Project managers also procure materials at optimal quantities and prices, manage subcontractors, and anticipate and react to problems intelligently.
Project managers need several tools to make their jobs as easy as possible: keeping and maintaining a project binder, keeping a daily logbook, and good written communication, for example.
Components of the Implementation Phase
Submittals and Approvals/Installation Drawings
One of the first important tasks will be the submittal and approval of installation drawings. Project managers must review drawings for compliance with project requirements. This includes communicating with the engineering team and client. Communication with engineering can flush out technical components or aspects that must be procured, clarified, or coordinated with other contractors and remove liability if a contractor fails to meet project specifications. Communicate with the client to confirm the scope of work and communicate any necessary changes.
Product Cut Sheets and Sequence of Operations (SOO)
The project’s product cut sheets and SOO, in addition to the installation drawings (block diagram, device locations, and point-to-point), should be submitted for customer approval. This will allow you to gain consent of the client and inform them of what they’re getting to avoid any misunderstandings during project execution.
Client approval requirements are often spelled out in the contract or additional documentation. Whether they’re required or not, it’s good practice to get client approval of submittals prior to purchasing any equipment or doing any field work.
Project managers will usually use subcontractors for specialty work, and there are several rules to follow when dealing with subcontractors. Following these rules will ensure smooth operation with the subcontractor.
- It’s important to always use a detailed subcontractor agreement.
- Make sure to confirm the sub’s ability to meet project requirements and that the project is well defined.
- Share relevant information with the subcontractor, and don’t antagonize them by providing directions on how to do their work.
- You don’t have to provide conduit sizing and routing—that’s the sub’s responsibility.
- Make sure to conduct a site walk whenever possible.
Managing Field Work
Project managers are responsible for successful installation of the systems. The installation process must be carefully managed to ensure project profitability. At this point, the scope of work, schedule, submittals, and materials procurement should be aligned with the client’s requirement.
Leading Installer Turnover
A formal turnover from the project manager to the lead installer or field manager should be conducted on every project. This turnover is as important as the sales-to-operations turnover in the beginning of the project. The responsibility of the field work should be delegated from the project manager to the lead installers (although the project manager is still accountable for the project from beginning to end).
The most common challenge is to keep labor hours within budgeted hours. Site readiness is one of the most common causes of labor overspend, especially on small or turnkey projects. In many instances, the field team shows up to the jobsite and can’t start or are delayed because of others.
The purpose of conducting a site readiness check is to create an effective approach for validating customer site readiness and ensure that expectations are established prior to site arrival to promote consistent customer experience and operational efficiencies (minimizing downtime and revisits).
The process of making sure a site is ready involves:
- Contacting the customer one or two days in advance to confirm the start of project sitework
- Communicating key project milestones (prewire, device installations, commissioning, etc.)
- Identifying the commitments of the customer and other trades (access to the jobsite, conduit installation, IP addresses, power supply [120VAC], IT availability, etc.)
- Explaining the “site-not-ready” minimum charge (4 hours/crew)
Installer Conduct and Onsite Behavior
The installers and field team are key stakeholders during this phase of the project. They play an important role that goes beyond the physical installation of wire, devices, and panels: They’re on the frontline interfacing with the general contractor, customer, and other project stakeholders. How they behave and act on the job could have a measurable impact on the project outcome, your relationship with customers, and future work.
In October and December, Enterprise Performance Consulting is partnering with NSCA to offer online Frontline and Onsite Project Management Training.
After completing this training, many integrators see noticeable results within hours. “It literally happened that day,” says Scott Wright, president at Lifeline Audio Video Technologies. “When we showed up for work the next day, there were procedures in place that outlined who was now responsible for each task. It made us more efficient literally on Day One. We saw an immediate return that could easily pay for itself in a short time period. In the past, whenever we invested in training, we sat through a day of class and said, ‘That was cool,’ but didn’t change anything. This time we did. We also found deficiencies in our design-build projects that we never knew we had.” —Nadim Sawaya, CPP, Enterprise Performance Consulting
Get details here.