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How To Drive Project Certainty
With Planning and Scheduling Tech

 

Originally aired on 08/11/2021

1 Hour Watch Time

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Scott Seltz:
Good afternoon, and welcome to this webinar, How to Drive Project Certainty with Planning and Scheduling Tech. This event is brought to you by ENR and sponsored by InEight. Hi, I’m Scott Seltz, publisher of ENR, your moderator for today’s presentation. Thank you for joining us. Please join me in welcoming, excuse me, our presenters, Nate St. John, Head of Product for Planning, Scheduling, and Risk at InEight, Brad Barth, Chief Product Officer at InEight, and Quinn Siner, Corporate Scheduling Manager at Kiewit.
Scott Seltz:
Nate St. John is an up and coming advocate in the industry. He has firsthand experience with pre-planning, baseline development, progress and execution and closeout. Nate is also an AACE international certified planning and scheduling professional. Brad Barth is a member of the company’s executive leadership team and a key architect of the company’s product vision and strategy. Prior to InEight, Brad spent 20 years in a similar role at Hard Dollar, where he helped define the project cost management category of software that later became the foundation of InEight.
Scott Seltz:
Quinn Siner has over a 15-year career combined experience and project controls with on project planning and scheduling, earned value management, and forensic analysis. In addition to provide onsite and remote assistant projects across North America, he’s led the way to the establishment of a companywide scheduling performance monitoring and response system. I’ll rejoin our presenters at the end of the presentation, have a Q&A. And throughout the presentation, please don’t forget to submit your questions in the Q&A section of the webinar console.
Scott Seltz:
Now before we bring our presenters on, let’s learn a bit more about today’s sponsor. InEight is a leading developer of capital project management software that enables contractors, owners, and engineers to overcome their greatest project pain points. InEight solution span every phase of construction, from design to estimate and from field execution to turnover. They give project stakeholders the real-time information and insights needed to minimize risk, improve operational efficiency, control project cost, and make educated decisions easily. And now I’m going to hand things over to Nate St. John to kick things off. Nate.
Nate St. John:
Well, thank you, Scott, for the warm welcome. Thanks, everyone, for joining us and for ENR for having us. Real lucky to have two thought leaders and very experienced people on the call joining me, Brad Barth and Quinn Siner. I’m going to kick it right off over to Brad, perhaps maybe give a little more depth and expansion on InEight.
Brad Barth:
Yes, thank you, Nate. It’s great to be here. Scott did a perfect job of teeing up InEight, maybe just add a couple of points. One of the things we get asked quite often is, where did the InEight name come from? So why is it spelled like the number? So a little bit of trivia there. So it’s actually the eight categories of software that you see on the screen there. So our vision, as Scott said, is to really tie together project controls, really all the way across scope, cost, and schedule. And that breaks down into these eight categories that you see on the screen there.
Brad Barth:
So our mission is all about project certainty. And we do that by tying together the roles and the different types of data that falls into those eight categories. So, I guess, that’s the first point. The second point I wanted to make was particularly relevant to this session today, as a software provider to this industry, and in particular, the project controls folks inside this construction industry. And it’s in a nice position, we have a nice vantage point, we get to talk to hundreds of organizations, whether they’re on the owner side, the engineer, CM side, contractor side, hundreds of organizations a month that we get engaged with.
Brad Barth:
And normally, they’re coming to us with, hey, here’s a problem we’re trying to fix or an opportunity we’re trying to take advantage of, trying to improve. So we end up getting engaged with a lot of our customers at a pretty detailed level. So we get to really get to understand what’s working, what’s not working. We start to see some themes that we not only try to bake into our software, but also helps us really understand what are the things that are problematic in the industry, in general, as it relates to project control. And the other side of that coin is how can technology help solve some of those problems. So that’s the premise for this session. And back to you, Nate, and we’ll get going.
Nate St. John:
Okay, thanks, Brad. Excellent kickoff. So in order to first get a flavor for our audience and who’s on the call, we’d like to just do a couple poll questions. So the first one here, which organization type best describes you? Are you a contractor engineering firm? Let’s see. Construction manager, owner rep, or an owner. And we’ll give it about 30 seconds for those to trickle in. Okay, so it looks like it’s starting to shape up with a pretty even split between contractor and then construction manager, owner rep. Some engineering and some owners as well responded.
Nate St. John:
So pretty good spread today. We’re happy to see that. I guess let’s just jump to the second question real quick. So which role best describes you? Do you fit under the planning and scheduling role, perhaps a cost engineer, construction manager superintendent, or a design engineer? And again, we’ll give it a few seconds for people to provide some input. Okay, again, it looks like it’s pretty appropriate for the title, planning and scheduling leading the way.
Nate St. John:
We may have heard Brad’s feelings a bit with only a few cost engineers on the call, since that’s probably how he entered the industry with all that costs experience at Hard Dollar, but we won’t discriminate against them at all. So very joking aside, we’ve got a great opportunity to incorporate planning and scheduling, unifying that through scope and the project control model at InEight. So at this point, I’m going to kick it back over to Brad to maybe give us some feedback on the state of the industry. He mentioned at the top of the hour, how InEight has a unique perspective and opportunity to identify trends. So, Brad, if you wouldn’t mind walking us through some of the things that we’ve picked up in our experience and maybe talk to some of these points.
Brad Barth:
You bet. You bet. Yeah, these stats, a lot of you have probably seen these stats or similar stats. We know it’s a tough industry. And it does have a reputation, our industry does have a reputation for challenging projects, let’s say, coming in on time and on budget is often the challenge with complexity of these projects, and all the things that we deal within construction that you don’t necessarily have to deal with and other types of industries.
Brad Barth:
We’ve got frequency of change throughout the lifecycle of a project, the pace of the work, the site conditions, unforeseen situations that we’ve got to deal with, numerous stakeholders, all of those things contribute to the challenges that we face as we’re trying to bring projects in successfully. So what you’re seeing on the screen here with some of these stats, really just reflects that. Or we’re getting better as an industry, I think, over time. I’ve been in this industry for a little over 30 years now.
Brad Barth:
And I see those stats changing, but particularly on the mega projects, which is more and more the trend, bigger projects, more complex projects. Those are still challenged in terms of bringing that project certainty and avoiding those surprises and overruns. So we think there’s an opportunity for technology to help participate in solving some of those challenges. I will also point out that, again, back to that vantage point or perspective that we’ve got, InEight does a survey. We just finished doing a survey, our annual global capital projects industry survey.
Brad Barth:
We surveyed 300 organizations about equally split on the owner side and the contractor side, around their optimism in the industry, and all bunch of different things that’s available at our website, by the way, at ineight.com, free to download, great, great survey, lots of stats. But I’ll just share a couple of them with you. And it reflects what we’ve been talking about so far. And that’s one of the questions we asked is, how often do you guys complete projects on time? Was it from your vantage point you see projects coming in on time and on budget?
Brad Barth:
And it was about half and a half, is what we saw. So contractors answer that question, 51%. Again, 51% of projects coming in on time and on budget. So lots of room for improvement. Owners, by the way, were a little bit below that. So they were about 47% of the projects they were involved in, were coming in on time and on budget. So that’s, I guess, good news, bad news, lots of opportunity for improvement. And that was the other question that I’ll point out we asked in terms of the confidence level in that improving.
Brad Barth:
So knowing where we are today, what’s our optimism that we have the opportunity to improve on that. And that was, basically, those … Let’s call it 50% success rate that people were seeing jumped up to about 78%, depending on who you ask, 78% to 83% or so saw those numbers go up. And nobody really saw them going down. So there is good optimism that some of these problems can be solved. Some of them are just the nature of the industry. But I think the opportunity to apply some of the tech that we’re going to talk about today, particularly around planning and scheduling, I think, can have a big impact on improving those numbers. So back to you, Nate.
Nate St. John:
Yeah, sure. I’d like to get Quinn’s opinion on this as well. I guess, Quinn, from a contracting perspective, do any of these resonate? And I guess, do you buy into the comment that more often than not, projects fail due to poor planning rather than poor execution?
Quinn Siner:
Yeah. So, first of all, thanks for having me. It’s great to be part of this conversation. When I first saw these stats up there, I looked at the premature start and I got to thinking what we do in my organization as we look at the time and space between when we actually plan an engineering project to when we actually start the construction of the project. And that’s a big deal for us, because we found that, historically, projects that are hurried along at the very beginning and don’t have adequate time to plan do the engineering work, they fail more often.
Quinn Siner:
So that’s something that we’ve tracked for, I don’t know, probably five years. And it’s really interesting that it comes up in this global study that we see here and global metric, because I’m seeing that at our organization right now. And then you as you talk about overschedule and then overbudget, I guess I can mostly speak to the scheduling aspects. So within my organization, I see hundreds of projects. I’m at this global corporate level. We deal with all projects from a couple million dollars up to mega projects that are billions of dollars.
Quinn Siner:
And I get this bird’s eye view of how are they doing, schedule wise. And specifically, we look at schedule performance. And just in the last couple months, I’ve been tracking the schedule performance for the last few years. And it is true that our schedule performance are always below the bar. We’re not making schedule. I mean, there’s always various reasons for that. I don’t know if I agree with within my organization, that 80% number. But surely, the data does suggest that from the past, maybe decade that we’ve been tracking this type of stuff.
Nate St. John:
Yeah, that’s interesting insight. I always go back to the sentiment that, more often than not, again, it’s poor planning rather than poor execution. It’s upstream issues, taking the time to plan things out, and allowing people downstream a fighting chance to hit their productivity rates. Contractors know how to build work. So if you set them up in a space where they can achieve productivity, they’re going to hit productivity. It’s just what can we do as an organization, as a lead planner, as a scheduler to properly align those expectations to give them a fighting chance.
Nate St. John:
So I want to move on a bit maybe into more specifics of the content for today, surrounding planning and scheduling and highlight maybe a few things that, as schedulers, we’ve always been told. So I’m sure everyone on the call has seen a similar slide to this. It’s very simplistic, but extremely powerful. It has a lot going on. Just to reiterate, rolling up different schedule efforts and layers and connecting those, if you look at this example, starting with a preplan, which is your level one bar chart, going to a milestone schedule, then detailing that out to CPM, doing some look aheads all the way to daily planning.
Nate St. John:
I mean, that’s a lot of scheduling. And that’s a lot of planning and that’s a lot of effort. So I’d like to maybe get Quinn’s take on this. Could you walk us through maybe what technologies are traditionally use that at each stage, and if there’s any opportunity to advance technology to make the process of managing a schedule management plan more achievable?
Quinn Siner:
Yeah. So if you start with the level one milestone type schedules, you’re typically drawn on some sort of Visio. And then you move into CPM schedules, and everybody knows the big elephant in the room is P6, that’s what’s always mandated in contracts. You’re stuck with that, and I don’t think some of these technologies have changed in the last … I’ve been doing this for 15 years. And I haven’t seen very much like big change and how we do things. There’s other people that try to come in and take some market and do different things.
Quinn Siner:
But then you’re still going from CPM, from the P6 down into Excel or Smartsheet. I guess they got Smartsheets now that a lot of people utilize, some of the contractors on the phone may also know about those. But really, Smartsheet is nothing more than a really souped up Excel. So you’re still using the same technology. And it’s still, I guess, antiquated in my mind.
Brad Barth:
And, Quinn, I would ask too, I guess, do you see, in your organization, the use of … You named a number of them, but you can almost look at each one of those green bars there and say there’s a different tool that’s used for each one of those things. And that I suspect creates its own challenges in terms of keeping things in sync. And as the project evolves and all those challenges, we talked about things changing, scope changes, design changes, how do we make sure everybody is on the same page with all these different tools. Is that a challenge that you see as well?
Quinn Siner:
Absolutely. I mean, ultimately, you have all these different schedules and different types of tools because they’re communication tools. You got to communicate at various levels to various people. It’s really hard to get it from synced up, from one to the next, from the CPM to the short-term schedule, which maybe in Excel, and then back into the CPM schedule. And it’s a really manual process, which takes a lot of time, takes a lot of effort. And a lot of time, it’s error prone in my mind. You go back and you try to sync up, well, what’s in the CPM versus what’s in the daily schedules? And they don’t sync. We do that a lot in our forensic analysis, and you get two different stories of what actually happened on the job.
Brad Barth:
And then maybe just …
Nate St. John:
Yeah, that’s a really good … Go ahead, Brad, please.
Brad Barth:
Yeah, sorry. Just to tie up on that subject. I think one of the opportunities that may be driving some of that optimism was some of those disconnected systems and processes can come together into more of an integrated platform. You then start to have the opportunity to learn from the data probably better than you can right now, where that data might be scattered and a whole bunch of different places. But the opportunity to … Because we talked about is it execution, is it planning. Like you said, contractors know how to execute. They know how to build stuff.
Brad Barth:
If we can improve the planning part, and part of that planning improvement can come from lessons learned and even taking advantage, things like machine learning, that can start to become more and more prevalent, more accessible to folks to learn from previous projects and help us plan better on future projects, help us identify risk better. So I think it’s a good tee up, Nate, in terms of the … I think maybe where some of the dimensions or angles where technology can come to bear on this problem.
Nate St. John:
Yeah, absolutely. Quinn and I, we’ve worked on the same project in previous lives. And the expectation today is that each one of these areas within the plan are communicating in sync in real-time. And that’s not absurd at all. That’s absolutely a valid request. What is falling behind is the technology to get us there. And so, at a high level of managing this schedule program, there are significant modern day challenges. And so, again, I think I’d like to at this point to go back to the audience and maybe just do a quick poll on which do you find is the largest challenge in planning and scheduling.
Nate St. John:
And we’ve cornered you into four buckets, but I don’t think there’d be much argument for either of them. We have lack of stakeholder buy-in, running aside real schedule. What I mean by that is maybe we’ve been guilty of running one that we’re actually communicating internally, and then maybe doing a different one externally. The third option, accounting for scheduling risks. And then the final one, aligning your field planning with master schedule. Communicating what’s actually being executed in the field to stakeholders on the project at a higher level.
Nate St. John:
So we’ll let these trickle in for a few seconds. This is a pretty even spread guys. Side real schedules, we’ve all been guilty of it. We’ve all been there, and we’ve done it for valid reasons. So, yeah, all of these buckets looks like we did a good job in identifying some traditional problems. So I want to maybe highlight a few that this group wanted to chat about and developed, coming into this presentation, and we put it into two buckets. So the first bucket on the left here, the idea of there’s lack of validation. Buy-in naturally drives validation.
Nate St. John:
And what I mean by that is, if we can invite people to have some skin in the game, to give people a voice and an opinion, then validation will be an output of that exercise. And the second bullet there is just inherent from what we laid out, is that we want to assess the expert knowledge in the room. On the right side of the screen here, the idea of just disconnect in general. So risk adjusted plans versus just a traditional plan. If you think of standard scheduling software when you plan something out, it’s reporting on a best case scenario.
Nate St. John:
And that best case scenario is called early dates. And if anyone hits their early dates on this call, along a six-year project, send me a job invite because it is so challenging. And then the converse of that, the flip side is risk adjusted plan, which is actually providing a most likely scenario. And that’s what we’re urging people to target. And then the second one, which was one of the most commented on in the poll was how do we link what’s happening in the field to what our stakeholders are hearing in terms of communication? And I think, Brad, we could probably add in another bullet here about maximizing past data captured to support future endeavors. You want to maybe speak on that bullet a bit?
Brad Barth:
Yeah, absolutely. So I think those are perfect areas there for improvement. And it goes back to the nature of the construction industry and the projects that we’re all involved in, creates these pressures that you don’t see in other industries. And those pressures come about particularly as change happens. And so, being able to connect these different business processes that come into play and planning and scheduling, keeping all the teams aligned, and then the stakeholder problem too.
Brad Barth:
We got multiple stakeholders with different … They care about different things on the projects. So it creates this … Ultimately, we’ve seen many, I should say, in the industry, I’ve done many organizations in the industry, have gone out and adopted various solutions and point systems if you want to think of them that way to do certain things. They’re very good at certain things that they do and they create data. But the part that’s missing aside from … It’s very difficult to keep everybody on the same page, not only inside of, let’s say, my organization, but inside of the other stakeholders that we’re working with on a project when we’ve got all these different views.
Brad Barth:
They don’t have a single source of truth. But that challenge compounds itself when we want to try to capture the results from project A, let’s say. And even though project B and C and all the way to X, Y, and Z are going to be different than project A, there’s lessons to be learned there. I think everybody would agree from previous projects. Risk that surface. So if we wanted to look at what was our expectation versus the reality, what was the actual outcome? It’s easy to have an as built schedule, so we know that maybe it was going to take 100 days, it took 150 days.
Brad Barth:
Okay, well, why? Why did that difference happen? What were the reasons? And is there something we can learn there to help us plan better the next time? So back to that planning versus execution side. We can always be making incremental improvements in how we execute, but I think there’s a great opportunity to if we can pull all that data together across the whole planning and scheduling spectrum and start to learn from it so that the next time we’re planning a project with some similar scope here, some similar scope there, we can look at, hey, where did we go wrong in the past?
Brad Barth:
What risks came up on those previous projects that we need to be thinking about? So building that realism into the plans, I think, is a big opportunity here. Because maybe another thing to list there on a prone to failure is just that you touched on it, but that human optimism, that drives those early dates, that people are naturally optimistic. So having a good set of data with that context can help be a balance against that natural optimism.
Nate St. John:
Yeah, that’s good comments. At InEight, we have this idea of a knowledge library. And it essentially is a repository where you can populate as-built and markup feedback from experts and realized risks. And you can populate this repository. And then using today’s technology of artificial intelligence and machine learning, we can make associations when we’re building a new plan in context of historical data and what we’ve experienced.
Nate St. John:
So we can surface recommendations to the planner when they’re executing some sort of action within the plan to suggest, hey, by the way, we noticed that you were in this scenario, do you remember that on this job, 20 years ago, this thing happened? Would you like to take an account for that? So, Quinn, I want to get your opinion, is there anything here that sticks off the page from a contractor’s perspective? Anything we missed? I’d love to get your thoughts on some of [crosstalk 00:27:36].
Quinn Siner:
I think I maybe just add some comments to that. We talked about it. Yeah, the data and we have this large organization that we’re part of. We have data from the five years, six, seven years of scheduling data. It’s all there ready to be mined, but we can’t mine it very easily. And it’s so difficult to get to in such a manual process that we’re not using our lessons learned from past projects, because we don’t have any mechanism to get to it and pull it out in a useful way. And it’s not curated data.
Quinn Siner:
That’s, hey, everything isn’t standardized because we work with hundreds of clients across the United States and Canada. And they all have different ways that they want us to produce a schedule or produce a plan. So then that’s what we’re stuck with. So then you’re trying to mix these two things together, or these many different processes together and it just doesn’t work out.
Nate St. John:
Yeah, that’s the power of capturing that. It seems like a simple idea. And in principle, it is. But the complexity, the accelerators that are built in, the advantage of using today’s technology to mine that and provide it in a meaningful context can really make waves within the planning scheduling process. So I guess moving forward, getting to the meat of this conversation today. So how tech can drive project certainty? So at InEight, specifically, what are we doing about these problems that we’ve just identified?
Nate St. John:
So I want to walk through just a few slides, a couple screen captures from InEight schedule, specifically, to talk about what opportunity software companies and technology have to solve some of these very discrete pointed issues that we’ve identified. So, Brad, maybe kick off this first one. You can see the title here, solutions for plan validation, maybe talk about what we’re doing at InEight to hit that title.
Brad Barth:
Yeah, for sure. And this is a perfect follow up from some of the comments that Quinn just made. I think when you think about some of these challenges that probably everybody watching this runs into, frankly, us, as technology providers in this industry have really let you down. We haven’t made it easy. We make it easy to do things and create schedules, create plans, create budgets, but making it easy to learn from past results has not always been a great thing that we’ve done, although I think we’re making good progress on that.
Brad Barth:
But another thing that we haven’t historically done very well is drive that collaboration, make it easy for subject matter experts involved in the project to contribute their knowledge. So, oftentimes, as you touched on it, Nate, I remember a project from 20 years ago or ran into these issues. And that’s relevant to this new project we’re doing. Well, if you don’t remember that or you weren’t involved in that project and you’re out of luck.
Brad Barth:
But with the new … Let’s call it more modern cloud based approach, like InEight schedule that we’re showing here, we can enable a lot more collaboration, easier collaboration. It’s not, hey, somebody is anointed as the P6 guru. And if you want to get anything baked into the schedule, you’re sending that person an email or calling them up or going through reviews once a week, once a month, whatever it is, where I think particularly the younger generation is coming up more expecting a collaborative approach.
Brad Barth:
And probably all of us, as we collaborate now on our smartphones in such an easy way, we expect that of the software as well. So what you’re seeing here on the screen is that collaborative approach where subject matter experts can participate, like what we’ve done as a tech industry with drawings. If you think about drawings now, it’s very easy for people to bring up drawings, mark them up, route them around through a workflow. That’s expected now with drawings, dealing with RFIs, things like that.
Brad Barth:
We’ve done the same thing here, I think, with schedules now where let’s invite people to participate, maybe have no idea how to run the scheduling software, they don’t need to. They just need to be able to see the things that have been assigned to them to provide their input or their markup. And they can just put their input right into the tool very easily. And then whoever’s in charge of the schedule can accept that input, evaluate that input, and then ultimately make the decisions.
Brad Barth:
But I think this is a great example of that, hey, as systems get smarter and we get more data into the systems over the years, the system itself can start to make suggestions and help us learn from previous projects. But that’s never going to replace the human knowledge. And that’s a big part of what you’re seeing here, is being able to make it easy to get that subject matter expertise baked into our schedules.
Nate St. John:
Yeah, essentially to expand on the screen share here, what we’ve built in is an ability to send an invite via an email for someone that is an expert to click on the link and come into their own copy of the schedule. And I like, Brad, the point that you made, is it needs to be simple and it needs to be digestible. And so, what you see on the right hand side is just a simple scorecard. What we’re doing right now is asking somebody to provide their competence on remaining durations of a schedule. Now, this isn’t altering the underlying master copy of the schedule.
Nate St. John:
This is just their own instance. And if you do this across the project team and you ask for four, five, six members to provide feedback on one item, you’re going to get some varying consensus. And that consensus sets us up perfectly to assess and potentially run and have conversations around risk assessment. So if we move to the other slide, the next solution here for assessing opinions, if you think about the old days or what we used to do in the past, we would go to a superintendent or somebody and, hey, give me your three-point estimate.
Nate St. John:
And then they’re thinking, I got to think of three different answers for you, et cetera. And we run some calculations, and then we try to apply it. What we’ve done is we’ve learned to capture that feedback and develop what we call a consensus pool. And so, what you’re seeing on the screen here, just for an example, is there’s three members here that have provided feedback on one activity. So if you can see where it says deterministic, the remaining duration on this one activity is 33 days.
Nate St. John:
The first person thinks that it’s going to be closer to 37, the person in the middle, P.S. the initials there, thinks it’s going to be all the way up to 42. And then the final person thinks we’re actually going to beat schedule and it’s going to be 20 days remaining. So what we’re doing is we’re using that variation and consensus to drive the three-point estimate, and in the risk world, provide a weighted triangular distribution to be assigned to that schedule activity and then picked up by a Monte Carlo simulation.
Nate St. John:
So to come up for air for a second on that, what we’re doing is we’re using human intelligence to drive the uncertainty ranges as the basis for a risk assessment. Let’s kick it over to Quinn. I mean, there’s a lot to digest there. Quinn, you’re actively involved in risk workshop facilitations at Kiewit, et cetera. Are you using this tool? What kind of benefits are you seeing? Do you just have any other comments on this from really, quite frankly, an end user?
Quinn Siner:
Yeah. I’ll make it quick. But we started looking at risk assessments, Monte Carlo been around for decades. And we started looking at it maybe seven years ago, and we brought in a consultant and they had this system they used and it was based on, hey, NASA space launch, how are we going to … All these calculations, and it was just too complex for basically the people in the room to do. Plus, it was too time consuming. So you didn’t get really projects that wanted to do this, because you’d have to sit through days and days of workshops.
Quinn Siner:
Well, fast forward, this tool that we have here, InEight risk really gives us an opportunity to speed up that process and makes it simple for someone like myself. I don’t need to be a 100%, have been doing this for 15 years risk assessments. I can run and I can get the inputs from all the team members. And I can do it on any size job. That’s probably one of the biggest things. It doesn’t have to be a billion dollar job. It can be something as low as $10 million or less $50 million. It’s just the ease of use. And I can’t say web-based is so great, because then everybody can get into it and provide their input right there. It’s been fantastic for the last couple years that we’ve been using this.
Nate St. John:
Yeah, that’s good to hear. And again, just to circle back, the foundation on this is human intelligence. And the validation of a schedule is one of the most critical stages within planning to avoid the common mistakes that we spoke about at the top of the hour. So I think it’s a good segue into accounting for risk adjusted plans. The outputs and what a user would get for providing their input are things that most people are probably familiar with, on the left side of the screen here is your risk exposure histogram. This is, what is your exposure? What do you have to cover?
Nate St. John:
And then after we identify, well, and quantify what you have to cover, okay, on the right hand side of the screen, what are the main contributors to that risk exposure? Where do I have to focus my attention in terms of mitigating or bringing back some of this exposure? So I mean, we could go on and on about how we can dive into the analytics, running pre and post mitigation, identifying co-critical paths to understand where they fit in multiple iterative runs of a Monte Carlo.
Nate St. John:
I think the biggest thing here though, the biggest takeaway is that it produces, at InEight, what we call a third dimension of confidence. Well, real quick. Let me provide a scenario here. So you’re, let’s say, a contractor, you’re going to go submit a proposal to an owner, you’re always going to bring your schedule, budget, your cost budget, but then this third dimension of confidence. And that confidence is a result of risk adjusting a plan. So it comes in the form of a percentile value.
Nate St. John:
So a typical conversation in a competitive market might be, hey, mister, missus, owner, here’s my time budget, my dollar budget, but I’m also telling you that we’re 80% certain we’re going to hit these targets. And so, although my competitor might be slightly faster, slightly less expensive, remember what we talked about, they’re providing a best case scenario. And so, it’s now to the owner, what’s your tolerance? Do you want to accept a risk adjusted plan upfront or do you want to roll the dice and expose yourself to compounding delays upfront and downstream impacts, delay disruptions, arbitration, litigation, et cetera?
Nate St. John:
So we’re starting to notice that the conversation is turning a bit. This is an implemented on every job that we sell product to. But what we’re noticing is that owners are really starting to listen. So in context and cognizant of time, Brad, do you have a quick comment there before we go to the next one?
Brad Barth:
I was just going to say I always hear you say, Nate, about one of the goals here for this product is to democratize the risk assessment process. And that’s what, I think, Quinn really just alluded to, and that’s just rather than that risk assessment process being a formal thing, we bring in a high price consultant, we do it once a month or something. Now when it’s baked into the tool, you can almost do this continuously proactively, and that democratize part of it, is really the main point. You can involve all the different folks that need to be involved in that really easily.
Brad Barth:
I think that collaboration and the risk go together, too. Because as you identify areas where we might have the most risk, you’re probably not going to do a three-point estimate on every single piece of scope. But where do we have the most risk? Where do we have the largest potential impact up or down? Yeah, let’s do that. Make sure we’re getting those different perspectives and evaluating them. So I think this is an area where the technology has really come a long way in helping to, as you say, democratize that risk assessment process.
Nate St. John:
Yeah. Well, it’s certainly a goal at InEight and we’re seeing some very good traction on it. So it’s exciting times. Let’s move to this last example, and Brad, maybe you can kick us off on this, so solution for schedule alignment. At the top of the hour, we talked about how can technology incorporate a connection or an intimacy between a CPM schedule and what’s executed out in the field.
Brad Barth:
Yeah, this is another perfect example of trying to bring all those different types of planning and planning horizons into one purview and ultimately, one set of data. So a lot of times, and I definitely want to get Quinn’s thoughts on this, but a lot of times we see people managing the CPM schedule to a certain level, maybe level four, level five. And then we get into that what I call the last mile, where we’re getting down to what’s this crew going to do on Friday, what’s the subcontractor going to do on Friday. You’re really down at that daily level.
Brad Barth:
And so, that short interval planning, we might be looking a week ahead, three weeks ahead, whatever horizon we’re looking at. But what we’ve tried to do here, what you’re seeing on the screen is that event level or daily level of planning, which might often be done out in Excel. It might be done in a system that’s just designed for that hourly type, almost like a virtual whiteboard kind of a thing. We’ve taken that speed and that flexibility that you don’t have in a P6, let’s say, to do that very flexible. Hey, we got to move this crew to a different thing.
Brad Barth:
Let’s do that for their work on Friday, and that changes what they do on Monday, making it really easy to do that. But we’re doing it in the context of the CPM schedule. So all that activity, ultimately, is aware of the CPM schedule. So that lowest level in the CPM schedule, like I said, if things move to Friday, then they move to Monday, if that breaches the CPM schedule, we know that as we’re planning. So that immediate visibility to issues that we need to resolve, we find that out as we’re making the plans, not down the road. So I think this is another great example of how connecting all those different planning types and various planning systems that people use today connecting that all together can have a huge impact.
Nate St. John:
Yeah, there’s a huge market gap here in particular. Quinn, if you had a connection like this and was alerted every time, a superintendent wanted to push out work beyond the CPM, what kind of life does that create for you as a lead planner scheduler? I mean, what’s the benefits there that you’re seeing from a contractor perspective?
Quinn Siner:
[inaudible 00:44:30] those early warning signs that you need to adjust something down the line. I mean, it’s an iterative and circular process, that by the time you get through the circular process manually, it’s already gone. So you’re already too far down the road. So if you can get that more in real-time, that’s going to be super beneficial. Like you said earlier, real-time is what we need now, what we expect.
Nate St. John:
Yeah, absolutely. So we’re …
Brad Barth:
Another thing coming out of that, Nate, too, is that virtual whiteboard, if you think of that out the job trailer. We got the whiteboard up, we’re moving magnets around or using the grease board to move crews around and that kind of thing. But that’s as far as it goes with a connected solution like this, not only is all that planning and scheduling tied together, but once you’ve got all the crews lined out or the subcontractors lined out, where they’re going to go, what they got to do?
Brad Barth:
Then being able to turn that into a daily plan, for example, that gets pushed out to a foreman or a subcontractor actually go execute and then track, what did we do? And what did we get done? Well, we only got half of that work done. So that comes right back to that virtual whiteboard. We still got half of that work to figure out the next day. So, closing that loop, again, I think back to where we started and the optimism that I think we’re seeing in the industry around how technology can help solve some of these long standing problems. I think this is a perfect example of it.
Nate St. John:
That’s a perfect segue into the final slide here, Brad. We do want to save some time for a little bit of Q&A. I guess the unifier at InEight is that it sits on a connected platform. So could you just provide some comments or commentary around the benefits of using and going after a connected data approach?
Brad Barth:
Yeah, you bet. And I can provide some perspective on that. As I said, I’ve been in this construction technology space for about 30 years. And early on, everybody was focused on creating what we now refer to as point solutions that do certain things and do them really well. And the result of that several decades later is that organizations are using 10, 20, 30 different systems to manage project controls. The theme, I think, that we’re seeing, not just in InEight, but in the industry, in the technology space, relative to construction over the last 5 to 10 years is more of this platform based approach, where we can take the functionality in those point solutions, bring it together into one unified platform.
Brad Barth:
And that does two things. It helps people work together better. So one of the other graphs that you often see at construction conferences as a project evolves, you have this two step forward, one step back, two steps forward, one step back, and that’s reflecting the fact that, hey, maybe an estimator does a bunch of work. And then now we’re ready to go create a schedule, let’s say, so some of that work gets handed off, some of that knowledge gets handed off, but some of it, we’re starting over on.
Brad Barth:
And then when that schedule goes out and now we’re creating work packs or daily plans, some of that work transfers, some of it doesn’t, we’re starting over. So there’s this continuous … To some degree, starting over, as things go from role to role and even for stakeholders, from owner, engineer, contractor. So I think one of the benefits of a platform like this is that you don’t have that step back. All the knowledge that everybody is contributing, regardless of their role is right there and accessible for everybody to take advantage of for their own role.
Brad Barth:
But secondly, it’s creating data that you may not have been involved on a project from last year or five years ago, but now you’re doing a project that could benefit from that knowledge of those that did experience that project. And so, having this connected platform gives all of the data of the right context. You don’t have 20 different sets of data that it’s like trying to put square pegs in round holes with a platform approach. The data, it fits. So you’re not having to go out and cleanse it or do a bunch of heroics out in Excel.
Brad Barth:
You’ve got good data, good quality data, and then it’s accessible to everybody. Alright, so we call that collective knowledge. So if the three of us complete a project, but there’s 100 people in the organization, they all get the benefit of the experience that the three of us went through on that project. It’s at their fingertips to not only use in a structured way like, hey, give me averages, give me a high low graphs, things like that, but also to drill in and just get the context of the narrative and the notes that people put in there to help.
Brad Barth:
And that really makes us smarter on the next project, but it also helps us scale the organization. So as new people come in, don’t have 30 years of experience or 10 years of experience, but they can benefit from all that knowledge that’s been built up. So, again, I think those are some things that are happening in the construction technology space in this platform based approach. You’re seeing that in other industries as well, we see it as we compare ourselves to other industries, whether it’s financial, automotive, manufacturing, whatever it is, that trend towards this platform based approach is really in full swing and for lots of good reasons.
Nate St. John:
Yeah, well said. I feel like platforms are potentially the future here. There’s so many benefits of entering an ecosystem like this. Well said. And I think we’ll leave it at that with final thoughts. Scott, I’ll kick it over to you. I’m not sure how much time we left for Q&A, but we’d be happy to field a couple questions.
Scott Seltz:
That’s great, Nate. And thank you, Brad and Quinn, for a lot of great insights. Before we have you address the questions that have come across from our audience, I’d like to remind our viewers to please take a few moments to complete our webinar survey now or when you see it on your screen or at the conclusion of the presentation. And if you do have a question for our moderators, please … I’m sorry, I’m the moderator, for our presenters, now would be a good time to submit.
Scott Seltz:
So, gentlemen, the first question that I posed to you from our viewer is actually a two-part question. What project specific and historical metrics does the software use for the development and assessment of planned durations? Or is that up to the scheduler? And the second part of the question is, are historical performance metrics used in the risk assessment? Or is it just based on collaborative human intelligence feedback?
Nate St. John:
That’s very good questions, I’ll take a stab at this if Brad and Quinn don’t mind. So some examples of what we can populate in a knowledge library include an xer type as-built schedule, Microsoft project schedules, Excel. It’s what we called unstructured data mining. And some of the things that we look for in our machine learning and inference engine applications are rates, unit rates, time phase locations, descriptions, risks, potential logic sequence.
Nate St. John:
We have a few clients out there that have a rich knowledge library where they can accelerate and actually produce recommended sequence. And so, it really is a robust spectrum of benefits in terms of schedule type attributes that can be populated in that knowledge library. And so, I guess for the second part of the question are historics left out of the risk process, so something we didn’t have time to touch on. We use three different intelligent types. Or rather, we provide three different intelligent type options when you’re conducting a risk assessment.
Nate St. John:
So you can choose to select human intelligence, which is what we highlighted in this and using humans to drive the consensus and the distributions. As a risk practitioner, I can override and provide pre-determined risk ranges. And the third element is I can leverage augmented intelligence. And so, if I had a rich knowledge library, it will provide a suggested range by mining that knowledge library. So it’s absolutely applicable, not only in the planning stage, but throughout the entire application.
Scott Seltz:
Brad or Quinn, would you like to add on to that?
Brad Barth:
I think Nate sum that one up perfect. Let’s see what other questions we have.
Scott Seltz:
Great. This viewer is asking, does InEight have pulled planning database because it influenced the CPM?
Nate St. John:
You said pull planning, Scott?
Scott Seltz:
Yes.
Nate St. John:
Okay, so I’m not sure what the user or what the question is in terms of a pull planning database. The way we have structured our short interval planning module, and there’s more exciting times to come in recent marketing releases next month, but you could execute a pull planning type process within short-term interval scheduling. And then that, again, as a reminder is built within the context of the overall CPM schedule. And so, we have an opportunity in short-term interval plantings, rather new feature in part of InEight schedule, but we have an opportunity to then capture the activity in SIP, using a pull planning approach and incorporate that into a knowledge library.
Nate St. John:
So if the question was going towards, do we capture that? Yes, we have an opportunity to do so. And I would target that person to the short-term interval planning portion to execute a pull planner, last planner type of session.
Brad Barth:
And probably worth mentioning, too, Nate, that the planning process, there’s a lot of processes out there that people plan using. And we try to be agnostic to that. We’re not building specifically for pull planning or lean planning or AWP or your list goes on and on. So one of the things that’s important to us is to make sure that the tool is flexible enough that it can adapt to any of those types of approaches. And even within an organization, depending on the projects you’re pursuing, if you’re a contractor, an owner on a certain project may require an AWP process, let’s say, on a certain project.
Brad Barth:
Whereas you prefer maybe lean planning or pull planning approach by default. So that is something that we really spend a lot of time on to make sure that the solution is flexible enough to morph to whatever approach you want to use. And, Quinn, I know, obviously, within Kiewit, I mean, you guys have a lot of different approaches you bring to bear on these projects. And you guys have done some AWP approaches on some industrial projects that I’ve seen, as well as some other approaches. Am I reading that right? Is that what I [crosstalk 00:56:55]?
Quinn Siner:
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think, ultimately, it comes down to flexible enough and simplistic enough for everyone to utilize. That’s probably the biggest thing. And I think that this short interval planning on this product has hit those marks, where it’s simplistic enough, but yet can still do the things we need to get done and feedback into where we need to feedback into.
Brad Barth:
And a general trend too, I mean, it seems like there’s more focus on that kind of … We used to do sort of, hey, let’s do the left to right planning and let’s start building out the schedule. And now it’s more … Let’s start with the end in mind and work our way backwards, which is, again, an area where the technology supports that approach.
Scott Seltz:
Yeah, absolutely. So I think we have about 30 seconds for one last question, gentlemen, and I think this might be actually aimed at Quinn. How does your firm develop durations, which seem to be major problems?
Quinn Siner:
Sure, sure. So I mean, it’s typically across the industry, it’s all quantity days. So we have a proprietary complex system that we take all the takeoff quantities. We establish the unit rates for those quantities and we look at a Storix from past projects and we develop our number of days it takes for that specific operation. And then we adjust as we see fit if we need to work night shifts or add extra crews to that specific operation. It’s a critical one. Then there’s a lot of back and forth after that. But short answer, quantity driven.
Scott Seltz:
Great, thank you. Unfortunately, that’s all the time we have for questions. So please join me in thanking Quinn, Brad, and Nate for their presentations, as well as our sponsor, InEight. Excuse me. If you have any additional questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to click the email us button on your console. We’ll share those questions with our presenters, and they’ll get back to you directly. Please visit enr.com/webinars for the archive of this presentation to share with your colleagues, as well as information about our upcoming events.
Scott Seltz:
Make sure to tune back in for our next webinar strategies to adapt for successful resource management, four factors affecting profitability, airing August 17th at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. We hope that you found this webinar to be a great investment of your time today. Thanks again for joining us. Have a great day.
Nate St. John:
Thank you.
Brad Barth:
Thank you.
Quinn Siner:
Thank you.