How Automation Makes Project Management Smarter

Miree Le Roy - Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Written By: Sara Carter, Co-Founder of Enlightened-Digital

According to global management consulting firm McKinsey, the engineering and construction (E&C) sector is worth more than $10 trillion a year, yet remains largely undigitized. Legacy systems and processes have helped project managers move the needle on some of the industry’s most complex projects; however, the entrance of automation, artificial intelligence, and cloud-based software hold particular benefits for this thriving industry.

This article takes a closer cost-benefits look at automated project management solutions, as well as their impact on the E&C sector.

Benefits and drawbacks of automating processes


  • Increased time to implementation— According to Datix, deploying an enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform can take anywhere from three months to “a few years.” If a company isn’t planning on using cloud-based software, they’ll have to shell out even more for on-premises hardware (desktops, servers, etc.). Business processes and internal data have to be converted over to the new system, and employees will need extensive end-user training. In many cases, implementation takes place in predetermined phases; however, this can be understandably frustrating to E&C executives who need to get projects moving on schedule.
  • Need for continued support— Software systems, especially those created for enterprise organizations require consistent maintenance. A constant IT presence is necessary to ensure updates are made on time and data is being kept securely. E&C companies should ask potential vendors what their level of responsibility is, and if they will be paying extra for IT support or hiring their own in-house professionals.
  • Data security/privacy concerns— As mentioned, keeping data secure is a primary concern for companies looking to automate business processes. Sensitive data is being stored with increasing prevalence in digital format, raising questions about monetary and efficiency losses as a result of a security breach. Vendors often have fine print about the level of responsibility for data security, so it’s important to ask questions about how much of the burden the company will be taking on versus the vendor.

  • Benefits:

  • Increased operational efficiencies— Companies in the E&C sector remain competitive by running operations that are efficient, from both a cost and time standpoint. Automating routine tasks and assessments, and expediting communication can help with cost and schedule overruns, as well as regulatory compliance concerns. Removing these productivity blockers can help move the needle on complex projects.
  • Data-driven insights— Historically, spreadsheet-heavy reporting and analysis have been an effective means of gaining insight into areas of improvement or weakness. The benefit of project management software in reporting lies in its unified reporting dashboards. Now, E&C professionals can see all of their disparate data in one place, enabling them to make more agile business decisions.
  • Predictive modeling— Predictive analytics is an emerging field in project management. Machine learning algorithms use historical data to help extrapolate likely outcomes across a variety of variables. From a project management standpoint, this can help with predictive maintenance and cost projection. Being able to anticipate potential logistical bottlenecks before they happen can reduce maintenance and other associated costs by as much as 50 percent.

  • Choosing the right software

    Once all the variables have been weighed, it’s time to pick a vendor. Due to the thriving apps marketplace, it can be difficult to know which is the right fit for a business’s particular size, industry, and anticipated growth trajectory.

    Integrated project management (IPM) works at an organizational scale, which is extraordinarily valuable for companies in the E&C sector. Their companies can be siloed, so having flexible solutions in place that more effectively stimulate the flow of conversation between cross-functional teams and automate basic tasks helps information flow more freely across departmental lines. It’s important to outline the scope for each project, as well as a management and execution plan, in order to make the most of a digitized system.

    McKinsey predicts that the future of the E&C sector lies in automated project management. Adjacent industries such as manufacturing and transportation, who previously were not considered project competitors, are already beginning to operate more like ecosystems. Tools, algorithms, and software solutions are being developed that lower the barrier to entry for similar companies to take a slice of market share. Thus, the E&C sector will need to catch up in adopting automated solutions in order to remain competitive.

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