Are You Managing Your Firm's Risk or Are you Putting your Firm in Jeopardy?

Posted by Brian Sullivan on August 2, 2018

Engineers Working

Mitigate risk is a common phrase heard throughout the Architecture & Engineering industry, but what does it mean and is your firm doing the right things to truly mitigate risk? Often times, risk translates to dollars, but there is more to it than just money.

What Does Risk Mitigation Really Mean?

Webster’s Dictionary says that risk is a situation involving exposure to danger. And mitigate means make less severe, serious, or painful.  So firms are looking to make danger less severe or at least less painful.  Why not avoid the risk completely? What about no risk at all?  How do we accomplish that?

In the A&E industry, we manage, design and build projects for clients of all shapes, sizes and complexities.  What risk are we talking about?  What is the danger we are trying to avoid? Here are some examples:

  1. Missing deadlines
  2. Exceeding project budgets
  3. Losing the project completely
  4. Losing your client
  5. Damaged reputation
  6. Losing money (yes, back to money)
  7. Litigation

What Can Happen with Poor Project Information Management?

So how can your firm avoid having these negative events occur in the first place?  Most of the dangers and negative consequences faced by A&E firms can be traced back to mismanaging information and can be easily avoided by managing information (emails, documents and deliverables) in a centrally located Project Information Management System. 

Here are some examples of what can occur when there is poor Information Management:

  • Employees spend hours looking for the right document or email because information is all over the place – (desktops, network folders, FTP sites, Outlook, etc.)  In the time spent looking for files, they could have been designing, managing the project, and/or managing the client.
  • Employees using Network File Folders can inadvertently move, rename, and delete files or folders, – making it difficult to find anything.  This can be especially challenging when teams are working on multiple projects managed by different project managers that use various organization methods.
  • Firms have difficulty with version control; they often struggle with managing revisions to contract deliverables and/or documentation.  Wrong versions are sent out to sub consultants, construction companies or the client/owner. 
  • Re-design and re-work is then necessary, because part of the project team was not working with the latest and greatest information.
  • When an A&E firm is called on months or years after a project is complete to provide a particular email, drawing or spec sheet to illustrate why a project was designed or built a certain way, without an easy way to find the required documentation, a firm could be at risk for litigation.

What if a project team member kept all of their project files on their laptop for easy access only to lose the laptop during his or her commute to work, never to be returned? How long would it take to recreate all of the files and how far behind is the project team on deliverables as a result?

What if you had an older version of an excavation drawing on the FTP site the contractor is using? What if the contractor used that drawing and dug the foundation in the wrong location? What will the outdated drawing cost your firm?

An A&E firm can move closer to mitigating these risks and even avoiding these risks all together with a central project information management system. Implementing the right system will ensure that you and your teams are always looking at the latest and greatest documents and drawings from one place of truth, saving critical time and money on each and every project. 

How to Mitigate Risk and Improve Project Information Management

With a better understanding of mitigating risk and avoiding risk, what are ways that you can help your project managers and team members to improve how they manage project information? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Give project managers the appropriate tools and resources to manage projects of all sizes and all client complexities – never stop training and challenging your projects managers to find better ways to manage their projects. Ask them about their biggest obstacles and challenges and see if there are internal barriers to success, additional training needed or other ways to elevate the project deliver experience for clients.
  • Implement a centralized project information management solution – better manage your project-specific and companywide emails, documents and drawing deliverables so your teams can find information quickly, ensure they are working on the latest drawing version, easily access key project information from any project site and reduce or eliminate risk.

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