“You don't actually do a project; you can only do action steps related to it. When enough of the right action steps have been taken, some situation will have been created that matches your initial picture of the outcome closely enough that you can call it 'done.'” -- David Allen
The last century saw a lot of innovations. Ideas that just didn’t help humans to live a better life, but that helped them achieve what they had to, in a much simpler and better way.
A simple analogy can be taken from the fact that a pulley is used to reduce the amount of force needed to lift a load. Imagine a world without pulleys and many of the tasks humans do today will not seem trivial. A lot of time and effort is saved by using this simple but very powerful tool. But it was not just a machine or a tool that had helped us save our time and energy. We invented principles and practices that have enabled us to get the maximum out of something by doing the minimum. Something I had seen at a supermarket in Italy can be taken as a perfect example. In any other supermarket I would buy items, go to the counter, wait in the queue and let the person at the billing counter scan my items and put it in a bag and give it to me. What was being practiced at this particular supermarket was just astounding. They had a device which scans the product and adds the rate to the customers’ bill. Each person entering the supermarket is given that device, something that is very similar to the device the person at the billing counter has. Everyone would take their item of choice, scan it and proceed to buy their next item. When they arrive at the billing counter, their bill would have been generated automatically! This practice helped them reduce a lot of time waiting in the queue and also accommodate more customers per day . Practices such as these which help us in reducing wastes and improving productivity are called Lean practices or Lean principles
Just in Time invented by Toyota is a very famous lean principle followed by millions in the automobile, manufacturing and engineering sector. The Agile methodology, very commonly used by everyone in the IT industry, has a lot of lean principles included in it.
What we can understand is how effective it will be if we can adopt such practices in our daily life and in the work we do. Lean principles or methodology is a set of steps that help us to reduce the wastes in our processes and so spend more time on value addition or value creation. The time you save or the energy or the money you save can be put into something else that adds value to your product or your life. Lean Plando tries to achieve the same.
Lean Plando is a collaborative, cloud solution that helps construction projects eliminate wastes and increase productivity. It tries to address the problems in the construction industry. Yes, it is very specific to the construction industry. The construction industry has advanced a lot. But, I would re-think about the last phrase. The construction industry has advanced a lot in the way it has evolved from using manual labour to using machines and tools everywhere. It has helpedto save a lot of time. But what about practices ? How many such new practices has actually impacted in reduction of time / effort as compared to other industries? Well, first and foremost, this industry is one in which you have lot of inherent wastes, delays and uncertainties. There are various factors affecting the project than just execution delays themselves like delayed method statements, owner decisions, government approvals, availability of labour, materials, equipment, unsuitable weather and many more that can delay your construction project from a few days to a fewmonths. Is there a tool or project management application that helps you to manage your projects taking into consideration all these matters ? Yes and No.
Yes because you do have applications that help you to manage your construction project or any other project for that matter. Microsoft Project and Oracle Primevera are two of the most widely used applications in the world to manage construction projects. And No because they just help you to manage but not to reduce wastes or increase productivity. This is where Lean Plando comes.
Lean Plando is not a project management application. It is a tool that will help you to adopt lean principles in your project. I will explain in detail about how we try to achieve that but let’s first see how Microsoft Project or Oracle Primevera help you to manage your project.
Generic Application vs Domain-specific Application
Microsoft Project (MS Project) is used in many industries including construction, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, government, retail, financial services and health care and IT. This in itself is a differentiator between Project and Plando. MS Project is a generic solution. Any project that can be split into various tasks and activities can be managed with MS Project. Whereas Plando caters specifically to the construction industry. This helps Plando to consider many domain specific elements that play vital role in the decision making of construction projects. Constraints and delays are a part of this. The main modules of Microsoft Project include project work and project teams, schedules and finances. Microsoft Project is designed to help users set goals for project teams and customers by creating schedules, distributing resources and managing budgets. However, it does not have any intelligence to provide insights into critical items nor will it notify users to act on them on time. In this age of productive tools and mobile technologies, far more can be achieved to help project managers. Lean PlanDo does this and much more.
Plando is a product on the cloud. MS Project or Oracle Primevera have to be downloaded and installed in your system. With Lean PlanDo, you can login from anywhere, anytime and almost from every other device with you. Be it you are a project director or a manager, planners, engineers or a foremen, whether you are a developer or a contractor or a subcontractors, you will have a need for a productive tool to manage your work. Lean PlanDo is the productivity tool that will add value to your work.
The most important aspect in Lean Plando which distinguishes itself from other tools is the Lookaheadplanning which forms the integral part of the lean workflow. The lookahead is a 6-8 week rolling window, split into 2-4 weeks that rolls over the master plan. Refer image below
The activities and task are spread across the window. This view basically allows a user to plan and manage activities from the current date till the next 6 weeks. The workflow involves a task breakdown process followed by a constraint identification and management process. Constraints are those bottlenecks that prevent your activity from starting. Ensuring that the activities and tasks are constraint free becomes the core aspect to ensure timely completion and smoother production.
Variation from base dates
In MS Project, based on the dates you will get a view of the progress of your project. In Plando, we take a step ahead and show you how much have the dates varied from the base dates to the updated dates. Refer the master plan below, the red dotted lines show the activity with base dates while the thickened green colour shows the present state of the activity. This gives an idea to the end user on how much variation has occurred in the actual execution compared to the expected plan.
Impediments are wastes. Anything that causes delays or a bottleneck in your project have to be managed properly like constraints which are part and parcel of the construction industry. And if your application cannot track them, it is not going to help you manage your project well.
In Plando, we try to keep things simple. Just select what constraint causes the delay from a library and set a finish date for it. That’s it and the application will take care of reschedulling the whole project based on the constraint. As mentioned before, if you plan and add your constraints to your activities and tasks at the plan section, you know that you need to take steps and measures to resolve them. Focusing on delays uncovers problems and Plando strives to give you just about the right time to let you focus on your constraints and act on them. Trust me, it’s going to be much simpler.
Insights on Data
Both the products offer insights on the data present by providing options to generate reports, charts and graphs. MS offers a wide variety of options, most of which may not be used at all by the end-users. Lean Plando keeps it precise, incisive and simple. Insigths into what needs action, critical itsm that may cause delays for a proactive workflow are what are provided by lean plando. Apart from this, there are options to generate either monthly or weekly reports.
Coming to the analytics part, the data that Plando offers for the end-user will give a clear cut picture of where the project stands at this moment and where the manager needs to focus like a map with a compass. Something you don’t get in other tools. It will show you if your project is delayed or ahead of schedule (img 3), what are the critical items, how many activities are delayed and more importantly the Percentage Plan Complete (the number of planned activities completed divided by the total number of planned activities shown in percentage) data (Img 4). Refer image below
Benefits of Lean PlanDo over MS project or Primavera
There are lot of reasons why you should choose Lean Plando to manage your construction projects. Here are few reasons, some of which have been already mentioned above.
- Communication and collaboration is a key requirement of every project, and yes MS Project addresses it but they are costly (>$10k - $20k) to setup and configure for a practical solution.
MS Project - Cost of collaboration
Hardware, Installation, Customization and Training
- Percent Complete
MS Project has problems with calculating percent complete. If a task is scheduled for 9 days and you run the schedule at the end of day 2 the task will be 22.22% complete. Also, a task with 45 hours of work and 23 hours of actual work will have a PWC of 51.11 % percent complete.You won’t have these problems in Plando as the project percentage complete is calculated taking into consideration the actual dates as well
- One page summary dashboard doesn’t exist
You don’t have a one page summary dashboard which will give you an overall picture of your project in either MS Project or Primevera whereas Lean Plando gives you a detailed summary of your project telling exactly if your project is on track or delayed or running ahead of schedule.
- Weak for managing multiple projects
It is always difficult to manage multiple projects with MS Project or Oracle Primevera whereas you can switch between multiple projects with a lot of ease in Lean Plando.
Paradigm shift ?
Lean Plando is a unique application which tries to bring in lean principles for you to help manage your construction project in a better way, increase productivity and reduce wastes. It will definitely help you to foresee things and gain more transparency and efficiency. It is in the cloud, secure and collaborative. The lookahead allows you to look at your project in a different way. A shift or a change from the way you have been looking at your project in a typical project management application. We believe this will be a paradigm shift in the construction industry and if you are a part of it, you will reap the benefits of it.