Research shows that, in recent years, the percentage of budgets allotted for technology has increased dramatically across all sectors of construction — including aviation, hotels, offices, manufacturing and research facilities, hospitals, plants, refineries, bridges and roads.
Developers and owners continually express interest in emerging technologies. This includes integrated technology to help better manage large numbers of complex and vital day-to-day business functions, preventative maintenance and unplanned operational issues or safety hazards. For example, life safety systems lead first responders through a structure via a heads-up display, even when vision is obscured due to smoke or darkness. These heads-up displays are also being adapted to feed real time information to maintenance workers about systems or components they are working on, helping them work more safely and efficiently.
But tech requirements aren’t limited to logistics. Today’s owners are increasingly interested in LEED-systems and other energy-efficient tech such as computer-guided shading systems to monitor sunlight and maximize energy efficiency. These same owners are seeking intimate involvement in overall project technology concept and design.
The increased coordination requirements of integrating these special systems have led builders to reevaluate their approach to project management.
Increasing Coordination Increases Risk
In the new, tech-heavy building landscape, diverse systems must interact continuously in a manner allowing the owner to use resulting data to effectively manage an entire set of systems from a single source. The special systems technology world has a completely different language and a phenomenally high level of complexity compared to other components of a large construction project.
Because of the high level of coordination required, these demands can no longer be met — nor the risks managed — by simply subcontracting the scope of work away, or even through oversight from traditional project management resources.
Subcontracting Is No Longer Sufficient
Historically, the general contracting world has done little more with advancing technology than subcontract the entire technology piece of any project to an electrical subcontractor. The subcontractor would do all that was necessary to meet the owner’s needs and stay within the contract specifications, while the general contractor’s involvement would be limited to overseeing the cost and schedule status of that piece of the project.
However, technology elements now account for upwards of 10 to 20 percent of a project budget, making it more risky to subcontract that portion of the project away. General contractors are now expected to provide turnkey management for the entire process, ensuring customer satisfaction with all special systems — no matter how complex.
Builders Are Bringing Technology Management In House
Until now, most builders have not had the in-house capability or expertise to manage technology systems of this scale. That has begun to change with the integration of experts in various technology fields into special systems program management teams, as well as new partnerships with specialized technology manufacturers, consultants and special systems subcontractors.
These program management teams remain on site for the duration of a project, working with the owners, owner representatives and technology specialists, and assisting in building requests for proposals to technology vendors and contractors, evaluating responses and hiring subcontractors to execute the work.
These newly formed program management teams work alongside the construction teams and project owners to manage technology and deliver quality projects on time and on budget.
What Texas Companies Should Consider When Forming New Teams
The ideal program management team has extensive experience in both technology and construction. This means its members understand the needs of both the construction process and the technology end user, and can help control costs, reduce risks, manage implementation, overcome challenges and meet critical schedule milestones.
The team is also flexible, understanding the technology designed at the beginning of the project may require a refresh or redesign midway through the process. Tech-savvy team members stay abreast of the technology landscape, ensuring owners are educated about changes in the market and helping them make good decisions. Whether modifying to allow for newer technology or staying with current designs, the project management team’s analysis should account not only for the cost or benefit of the new technology itself, but also the schedule constraints associated with change orders.
This new world of special systems program management introduces a new set responsibilities for any general contractor. Owners expect their builders to work with them from beginning to end, providing a new level of service and value. The tech expertise provided by a special systems program management team allows designers and general contractors to focus on their business while the Information Technology teams work with subject matter experts toward successful deployment of the owner’s special systems.
Jim Gregg is Vice President and Business Development for Dallas-based Austin Systems Group a 100% employee-owned company. He has served others on his 23-year journey in all manner of technology, from end user to designer and installer of many different systems for corporations throughout the US. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org