Where Digital Transformation Gets Real: The Decmil Story
Originally Aired on Sept. 30, 2020
50 Minute Watch Time
Digital Transformation is a trendy term, but what does it really mean? And how do you make it happen in the real world? That’s been the riddle faced by Decmil, one of Australia’s premier civil engineering and construction firms. In the face of onsite project challenges and multiple disconnected systems and processes, Decmil took bold steps to bring together its people, processes, and technologies.
In this webinar, Decmil offers multiple perspectives, from risk management to project controls to field operations — all sharing the lessons learned, best practices, and unfiltered advice on how the right capital project management software does more than just manage capital projects.
William Burrows: Welcome everyone to Where Digital Transformation Gets Real: the Decmil Story. My name is William Burrows, and I’ll be your host today as we hear from Decmil, one of Australia’s premier civil engineering and construction companies, on how they’re using capital project management software to transform process and deliver real-time data to key project stakeholders.
First of all, some introductions. My name’s William Burrows as I’ve just said. I’m the InEight implementation lead that’s been working with Decmil through their transformation process to adopt InEight solutions. Joining me today are Aine Flannery, Allan Fett and Pat Furlong. Good morning, everyone.
Aine Flannery: Good morning, Bill.
Allan Fett: Good morning, Bill.
Pat Furlong: Morning.
William Burrows: I’ll ask each of you just to provide a brief introduction. Aine, we’ll start with you.
Aine Flannery: Thanks, Bill. Aine Flannery, I’m the group manager of commercial and risk here at Decmil. I’ve been helping with the implementation of InEight, and I’m a superuser for Control, Change, Contract and Basis.
Allan Fett: Hi everyone, I’m Allan Fett. I’m a product controls engineer for the group function at Decmil. I’m involved with all of the modules for InEight, although working with the relevant SMEs to make sure that we run it correctly.
William Burrows: And Pat?
Pat Furlong: Yeah, I’m Pat Furlong. I’m the Operations Manager for Decmil in Queensland, and I was one of the first … One of the projects under my control was one of the first projects to use InEight in a group.
William Burrows: Decmil has learned some harsh lessons over the last 12 months, especially around risk management, with some issues on some key projects. Can you tell us a bit more about the business and commercial drivers that led to Decmil’s digital transformation initiative?
Aine Flannery: Yeah, Bill. We had two of our key projects specifically over the last 12 months that we had some issues on, and when we sat down and we were looking at what we could do better, we realized that a lot of it was down to not having real time data come through. We have a group support within our head office within Decmil, but unfortunately that support was only coming to the forefront when issues and risks had eventuated. We weren’t there for … we were not able to mitigate any of those risks, and it was more about trying to resolve issues and disputes rather than proactively working with a project, delivery teams and mitigating those risks through the project delivery phase.
What our executive management team really needed was software that could give us the real time data and integrate the way that we do business within Decmil, make it a consistent business approach, and bring that transparency throughout the project delivery phase through, so that we could support it in a timely fashion.
William Burrows: So from a project controls perspective there wasn’t a Decmil way, there wasn’t a single way of managing your projects. Does that sound right? What was that landscape like prior to this issue?
Aine Flannery: So prior to the initiative to get the new suite, we had in excess of 40 systems that some of which were purchased, some which were built in house, and some which were basically Excel data that people were capturing throughout the project. That really meant we did not have that business-standard approach across our projects, and it made it very difficult when we were doing end of the month reports to try and get any sort of consistency or visual across each project. It also meant our staff would finish on a project and then maybe start on another project and use some of the systems more like an a la carte menu of some our suites. They were picking and choosing which ones to use. It made it very difficult just to get consistency in the way that we approach things.
William Burrows: It must be difficult for even the project staff as well moving from project to project, that sort of putting down one set of tools that work over there and then picking up the next set of tools. Did you see that impact in your staff as well?
Aine Flannery: We certainly did, and what we found was that it sometimes led to a high turnover in staff because invariably an engineer wants to build things, went to university to build, be on the job doing what they like. They do not want to be building Excel sheets and trying to get trained up on systems, they want to be out on the field where we get the best out of them, and they get to enjoy their day. And we really found that the amount of systems we were using were making it a much more manual administrative process to try and get data from the project. And as you know when you rely on Excel, formulas….
William Burrows: Yeah. You can hide anything in an Excel spreadsheet, and also you’re free to make as many errors as you like as well.
Aine Flannery: Right.
William Burrows: So Allan, you’ve been with the digital transformation process from the start with Decmil, and I know that you were a part of it a long time before and was part of the solution. Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to InEight and why the whole solutions, all of the solutions were selected by Decmil?
Allan Fett: Yeah, of course. To begin with, our engineers love creating spreadsheets, we just like to get them out in the field to make sure they’re doing their jobs, not creating spreadsheets. So when we first started looking for InEight, our brief actually was to look for a product consistent to standardize the doc control systems across the business. So we actually went out to about 11 vendors looking for some document management systems, whittled it down to three, and InEight put a proposal in that had this option on the back saying, “whole complete project delivery system,” and we looked at that and thought that’s what we want, we want that.
So we re-briefed the other two companies to say, “Hey, do you have anything similar to this?” We got all three proposals back in and we could clearly see that InEight was the right one for us. It does go a long way to helping us to standardize systems when we have a core system that the project team only sees, so trying to get to that Decmil way was a lot easier with a system like InEight.
William Burrows: Yeah. So, and it was obvious when you’re looking at that sort of that digital transformation, that sort of a point solution, document management, wasn’t really what you were after in the end. It was actually, you were after something that solved that landscape that you had those in house developed point solutions, the spreadsheets that could sort of cut through that and simplify that Decmil way of approaching your projects.
Allan Fett: Exactly. And it’s not like we … We weren’t out looking for a document management system but when we saw InEight and what it could offer, we realized that could solve a few more problems. And we do have a few in house developed systems that they’re coming on the end of their life and so it became the option, do we try to put in more money and resources into building them out, or do we just do what we do? We’re not a software company, we’re a construction company, so someone like InEight is perfect for us.
William Burrows: Fantastic. Pat, you’ve had a long career delivering major projects. You’ve got some great experience particularly on some of the major projects for Decmil as well. How important are these robust project controls systems that … delivering success for both the client and for the business?
Pat Furlong: In my opinion unless you have proper system control systems, you’re inevitably going to fail. So if you go through the whole process regardless of the size of the project, we bid a job, we win it, so starting out fundamentally on your estimating system, your estimate is handed over to somebody like myself in operations, and we have to deliver the project. So we need to have simple controls in place that for me, that tells me what my real time progress is against the cost that I’m extending at any point in time.
Because just true to nature of the construction industry, one of the major issues of that is change. A variety of things change along the way. And if you cannot access exactly where your progress is in P6 and align that with your spend, you really don’t know where you are and you don’t have control of the project. You need to be able to distill all of the information, simple reporting.
So in my position I have to report back to the executive management team. I’m responsible for the project. I’ll have a project manager below me who will be boots on the ground delivering, but we need to get consistency in how we deliver the information whether that’s on progress, cost, safety, quality, they’re all linked. Previously we’d be running off of different systems, and as Aine and Allan have said, there were Excel spreadsheets creating stuff in the absence of something else, and we’d have these 40 systems, but nothing is talking to one another. So what happens is you have a lot of people doing a lot of hard work with not necessarily the right result. So, I’m excited with InEight and what the possibilities are … it should make life a lot easier for our people.
On the time side of things though, we have to deliver information to our client as to where the project is, what the issues are, as well as internal reporting, it’s slightly different. But if you have got consistent information that cannot really be challenged, your time gets a lot of confidence in your ability to deliver, and as a result, the likelihood that you will get repeat business. And then the people will want to stay with you.
William Burrows: In your experience Pat, do you think that … I mean, the problems that Decmil faces around the way that the system’s developed….is that common to the industry in Australia, do you think?
Pat Furlong: Absolutely. I think in Australia, I shouldn’t say this, but I think we’re a bit behind other parts of the world and other industries in particular, how we use technology. Going back and creating spreadsheets, manually reconciling whatever it is, quantities or money or whatever it is, to be quite honest with you, it’s in the dark ages and it costs an awful lot of money. We have to get a lot smarter in how we deliver our projects, both in knowing the systems we use and our stuff is manufactured and your reliability and quality and safety, that’s what this business is about. Now if you don’t do that in construction, we get left behind.
William Burrows: I want to dive into some project examples in a bit. What’s your experience at the project level, the impact on your frontline management and so forth around these point solutions or spreadsheets and managing data at that level? What’s the impact on the project staff?
Pat Furlong: Well what happens in a lot of instances, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a big or a small project, is that typically if you take a supervisor for instance, he is in the construction industry, he is employed to put people to work. But maybe whether it’s five people, 10 people, 20 people, but whatever it is, but he’s responsible for their production. And ultimately at the core phase, it’s all about safety and quality in production and achieving your targets.
But what typically would happen is that a supervisor previously with Decmil might spend four hours behind a laptop, punching in information into spreadsheets. Maybe it’s something I desired, it’s information I wanted, but that’s not with that guy is employed to do. Likewise with an engineer, he’s trying to track progress, or whether it’s purchasing, whatever it is, but what we have is all these multiple streams going on that takes an inordinate amount of hours to do it, and sometimes not produce reliable information.
So it’s all about getting the raw data and to be able to process in various formats to give all of the outputs we require. But ultimately it’s about where we are on production, where we are on cost and how we perform on safety and quality.
William Burrows: And I suppose that was Aine what you were pointing to around, you have supervisors that you think they’re employed to supervise but end up drawing spreadsheets, and that’s where that fatigue comes in and that potential for turnover of staff comes in.
Allan Fett: And Bill, one thing is when you report from Excel spreadsheets like that, the different people who look at it get different results, and so your report’s not consistent, either. There’s a multitude of reasons why you want to go to a system where your report is generated for you, you don’t have to generate that report. It’s a different-
William Burrows: Yeah, and the data comes from process, managing the process as opposed to managing the spreadsheet.
Allan Fett: Yeah.
William Burrows: Allan, we’re already sort of seeing that the different levels that this transformation touches within the organization. And can you tell us a little bit about the approach that you took to that change management, the digital transformation, and how your approach evolved over time as well?
Allan Fett: Yeah. Well to begin with, our marketing department from the get go decided to brand it, so they actually branded the whole integrated solution as Vega, which is the name of a star. They’re trying to give an analogy to a solar system I guess, with the inner core of that solar system being InEight, and then the peripheral systems being the outer core.
We also utilized our intranet quite well for communication because I mean, you can send emails allowing people to knowing more about it, they’re trying to give them knowledge about it. But people get sick of email, email fatigue so an intranet site was actually a one stop shop they could come for all information that would have a separate page for each module, so in a … let’s say progress for one point. Our time sheeting system has a page up there that has the user guides, the superusers as Aine talked about, and then linked to the InEight knowledge library, InEight University. So we’re able to communicate in that way.
And then one other thing we did was, we started off with a waterfall approach which normal construction, traditional waterfall approach, let’s do this activity then this activity then this activity. We realized pretty quickly that wasn’t going to work. Some teams just aren’t ready, they’re just not ready for that change, they’re not ready to embrace it yet. They haven’t seen the vision for the Decmil way, so we had to actually step back and try a different approach.
We actually looked at agile project management, which I’d highly recommend for software implementation. We’d wait for a team to be ready, and then we’d look at that and say, “All right, which system are they going to be using?” We’d then write up the requirements for that, build the scope and then construct it if you like, and implement that piece of software for that team. So we actually started off with a waterfall approach and moved our way to agile, which was a raving success at the end.
William Burrows: That approach of reading that organization readiness, but also one of the things you did was the working groups that you initiated as well. Can you tell us a bit about that? Because I think that was really fundamental to not only communicating and involving people in the training process, but being able to read that organizational readiness within departments and focus the benefit.
Allan Fett: Yeah. It also gives people ownership because we have our subject matter experts or our superusers, we bring them into not a room but a Skype meeting if they were across states, bring them together and ask okay, this is what the system does, how do you think we should use it? What’s the best way? What are you lacking at the moment, what do you need? And so we’d get the input from them and then, so they’re building the process as well with us that they actually feel part of it, they’re part of that journey that, digital transformation, so it’s definitely a way you’d want to go about it, rather than try to tell them how to do their job where getting them involved can give them ownership as well as a structure to go with.
William Burrows: And I think through that process, you also saw the potential for a staged benefit as well, so all on at one point in time was perhaps not as realistic as implementing staged benefits where the organization can get used to things, and also learn about the tools whilst moving to the next stage, so that iterative process, I suppose.
Allan Fett: Yeah. As Pat said, we actually started trying to roll one of the modules out on his project, and during that process we really learned how best we wanted to use that module, which was great. And then we tried another project with one other module. And so to begin with, we’d try to send maybe four or five modules out to begin with, but it just … that’s not going to work. So by learning each module as you went along, we’ve now got to the point where our new project that we’re rolling this out and we’re going to roll all the InEight systems out on it, and it’s going to have the full benefit of the whole project.
William Burrows: Just talking back to communications and the communications, it’s one of the things that struck me from the first meeting I had with Decmil, was that marketing and branding initiative and the communication, and I think that that really made it clear to the organization the vision of what you were trying to achieve with this digital transformation. How did you find that as a tool to overcome any resistance as you were going through it, that people understood the vision and understood the benefit? Did that help with that resistance management and change management process?
Allan Fett: Yeah, definitely. You need the support of your executive leadership team, otherwise if they’re not going to push it, no one’s going to get on board. But even when they’re pushing it they’re still going to be resistant to change, it’s just natural. People love the evil they know so they’re used to their system, they know it doesn’t do everything they want, but they’re aware of that. So when you get a new system you have to show them that firstly, this does what your system does, but it also does better things. It does more functionality, better reporting, the data is shared between other systems. So you need to take them on the journey with you, and not try to lead them down the path.
Aine Flannery: If one project manager is using the system and is getting reports, is cutting down on the administration and the manual input that his team is having to do and been back out on the field, and then through communication internally, we’ve found that a lot of our other project managers, they’re suddenly, “Okay, maybe we were a bit shy to embrace the modules, but now we want them. I want what he has, he seems to have an easier end of month process, he seems to be able to review his programs a lot better, he’s building models in terms of the pre-contract phase that I wish we could do.”
So naturally, I think we’re all a little bit competitive and want the best thing. I’ve found with them, with InEight is if you can get a recommendation from a colleague or a peer on the same level as you, people take it in much easier than just your executive [inaudible] it down saying you must use this, and not really explaining the benefits or myself, Allan or Pat just explaining and going to meetings and meetings and any guides. I think when you get a recommendation from a colleague, that’s really when it hits home and people really want to embrace it.
William Burrows: Pat, at the project level, what’s your experience I suppose, with implementing change? What works, what doesn’t work?
Pat Furlong: People in general resist, right? So InEight, what it should bring to us and what it will bring to us is that we need a baseline where we’re at, like what our production is. And to me, InEight brings all that across all projects. So it’s driven by humans at the end of the day, and it’s all about performance. So what we don’t actually understand, and I shouldn’t really say this, but what we don’t understand is what production norms should be and ultimately, your production has to get better and you have to get more reliable. And the long term viability in the business is all about that.
Traditionally in construction to say, on labor there’s about 50% waste at a minimum right through the industry. If you increase, if you can get your production running at another 1%, 2% increase in your productivity and we understand where you are, what that goes to your bottom line as a business is enormous. And they’re the benefits that I see what InEight will bring to us and to just bring consistency. Going back to where Aine is at, is that if you’re looking after three or four or five projects, or as the group you look after all the projects, you should be able to benchmark in time what the norms and what the production norms are, it’s going to make it more competitive, you win more work, and you’ll have a much better business.
So to answer your question, it’s really about leadership and driving, just explaining to people what success is going to look like, what their future working life will look like and believe you me, everybody wants success and wants to be part of it. So, and in this industry we need to be attracting the right people, we need to make an exciting place to work and as I said, you need to be successful. And if you’re successful, you have a very successful business, we all get well rewarded for it.
William Burrows: And I think it’s a great point that people … your supervisors don’t want to come to work to draw up a spreadsheet, they don’t work to be inefficient. And so really, I think that it’s that communicating that benefit isn’t it, letting them know that this might give them back some hours in their day potentially, that might make that sort of data management side of their day easier, and at the end of the day enable them to better manage their crews and do their job more efficiently. And I think people generally want to do that, people don’t want to come to work to do a bad job.
Pat Furlong: Absolutely. They want to understand what their deliverable is and where to succeed relative to that. Everybody likes beating the goal or matching it, and it’s equally important commercially to understand when things are going wrong that the flag goes up, you’re not achieving whatever the deliverable is, and to start the investigation process as to why and rectify it, rather than later as Aine touched on earlier, is finding out five or six months later when you don’t have the relevant information and you cannot influence something you’ve already spent, in very simple terms. But you can influence what you will spend your money on and what the outcome will be. This stuff make any sense to you?
William Burrows: Perfect sense. I’d like to touch on a few … dive into a few examples of areas very specific examples. And I think Aine, one of the places we’ve talked about a lot through the process, and it was certainly one of the pain points that came up very early in the piece in the conversations with Decmil, around the month end process. And can you give us a bit of perspective around … I’m mean, obviously Decmil has a number of different projects running at any point in time, that month end review process. Can you give us a view into the pain you felt around that process and the issues you faced at that month end time?
Aine Flannery: Yeah, certainly Bill. In terms of our guys and within the project delivery space, they were losing up to a week of their month trying to collate data because their systems didn’t necessarily speak with each other. You had to take information from one system, take information from another, then suddenly realize there’s an error in one, try and rectify that error, try and bring all that information together to then put it into something that they’re confident in and can talk behind when they sit down with their executive team to explain where their project is at.
And then from an executive level, you’re sitting listening to the reports and you’ve got questions, “why is this number changed, how has this occurred?” …“if there’s a risk here how is that not seen within this report, just who’s the mitigation owner, what’s happening?”… We kind of felt like those probing questions were putting more pressure on the guys to spend even more time away from the field and the and more time worrying about their reports so that week might extend to a week and a half, sometimes even more into two weeks. So you’re nearly losing 50% of your time trying to collate data, and that’s why really, we needed that real time data to come through.
And now that we’ve rolled out some of the modules across some of our projects, we’re finding that we’re getting information a lot earlier. For example, schedule risk analysis from the Basis module now ensures that key people across various disciplines are reviewing programs before we lock a baseline. A construction manager will naturally look at his activities and where he wants to go. A commercial person like myself will look at the procurement phase and think, I think that could be a bit short in terms of getting a contract let in two weeks. We might have pricing back, we can’t do that, so don’t plan your activity.
And having key people now review that schedule the way that Basis is set up to allow that work flow to occur, has really helped us in terms of not having activities too short, pushing them out to make sure the client from get go knows that we can deliver a job in X amount of time through these activities, the construction manager’s confident and the executives are confident. And we now also update our end of month reports with that schedule risk analysis, which covers both time from a schedule basis and the associated cost with that. We’ve found a real benefit across our projects that are using Basis to date.
William Burrows: Perfect. And that confidence came up a lot in your answer there. It’s about that confidence that you have the risks, the risks are being managed and that the information that you’re getting from your projects teams is accurate and timely. Pat, from your perspective, obviously a lot of the challenges start at the coal face phase, you’ve started compiling those. What’s your perspective of that, the pain you felt in preparing those month end reports and your confidence in the data that you’re putting together?
Pat Furlong: Right, just to answer your question. So, Aine just focused there on the internal report. You must remember, we have to produce an equally demanding external report to our client. So at 4:00 p.m. here’s another, he has to get that data again and he has to present it in a different format, selling a different story. So in addition to that is we can have … now it may have become two weeks or two and a bit weeks, and what it does is it consumes quite a number of people to try and collate all this information.
So if you look at the Basis report which started with the coal face, which will have quite a lot of information on it, it will deal then with progress, it will deal with where you are on quality… so without safety, quality, design, take all those deliverables, they are huge areas in their own right, but there’s all systems running all these separate areas. We have to try and pull all this information, be consistent and try and present it in a concise report, which a concise report may run at 50 or 100 pages. To me, nobody reads a report after four pages, truth be told. Then you have to pull all the financial information which is running on a separate system.
So to get the data imported and to be able to produce those reports in a consistent format, it’s light years ahead of where we are. I kind of explained to you how big a change that is, right?
Allan Fett: And Pat’s right. If you have a report that’s 100 pages long and it’s all text or just numbers, no one reads that. So one of the benefits we’re getting now is some Power BI Dashboards that visualize that data, allay the indicators that make you go oh, I want to dive deeper into that, what’s wrong with this, it’s going up except for this little bit, what’s happening there, so it allows people to focus their attention a bit better.
Pat Furlong: Absolutely.
William Burrows: And the thought again to … you were involved Pat, with a large field services contract in remote Queensland. I think just sort of diving in with a specific example of what you’re talking about there, there were a number of challenges on that project around, perhaps issues that weren’t of your causing that really needed to … you needed to inform the conversation with the client, resource allocation and not only using that resource usage and allocation for payroll and costing sides, but also informing the client around that. Can you talk us through some of the pain points that you had on that project around those different data sources or different data uses, I suppose?
Pat Furlong: Yeah. Well, I talked around a few points there, because it was multiple projects went down over a long period of time. So we started off, we got a contract, I won’t go into the exact technical detail of what it was about, but it was a pretty repetitive contract, you construct thousands of the same thing. And just say we start off with, just start out with 500 man hours or $200,000 or $300,000 per unit. And I go about this in a number of ways, the client wanted to get a lot more reliability in production promise.
The client turned around to me and said to me, “I will invest some people,” and this is kind of an analogy with InEight, “I will invest some people in continuous engineering and improvement so we won’t be adversarial. What we’ll do is, I will empower you to employ two or three people, and their sole focus is to make the process a lot better.” So in short, what we did was we went from a unit cost of approximately $250,000, $260,000 over a two year period, to a unit cost of $80,000. So what happened was, and we’re doing the same work, so what happened was we got a lot better, we got more profitable, and it’s a win win for everybody. So to me, InEight, it won’t produce those type of results, but it will get us there.
So we went to a different model of contract then on the same contract whereby, I won’t say the contract was adversarial, but the administration was horrendous. I think we had one single contract but within that contract, we maybe executing 30 contracts simultaneously to the same [inaudible]. So we all have to allocate the resource. It’s remote, it’s two people, it’s four people working. You have to … we had to invoice on the basis of the allocation of hours, time and resources per work. So many items of work may be two hours and involve four hours travel. So what was happening was, we would get lost in the detail, in the minute detail, and we would miss the big picture. So that would be allocating our labor, that would go off in one stream and we would invoice our client.
But maybe on the other hand, we have to take another data set of information, and we have to pay the guys. Inevitably, the left and the right don’t match. We’re either billing too many hours and not recovering them, or the other way around. And this sounds so simple, but it was an absolute nightmare. Then in addition to that, it was quite a bit of change going on, something changed and the change would be a trained supervisor addressing calendar … a supervisor in the field changed days, or no access or whatever. And this might be only a plethora of six hours, 10 hours, 20 hours, but when that happens 50 times a day, the next thing it’s 400 hours. And you multiply that by the unit rate of the guys, it’s a lot of money. I’m scratching my head here, I’m saying, “What is going on here?”
So, and that’s what Allan referred to, we went about trying to capture change which was quite successful. But what we discovered then, we weren’t quite ready because it wasn’t aligning with our payroll systems and other systems. Now we’ve advanced from that. I mean, that’s a lot of labor we took on and forwarded to other projects. So, but again it goes back to, you have to outline what success is going to look like for all your employees, all the guys and girls that are working out there, and when they start seeing that little bit of success, they want to be part of it. But big change, it’s a big change in mindset, but you can get that. Not impossible, far from it.
William Burrows: You mentioned that the relationship with the client can become almost adversarial. I think from that field services contract, it seemed like it wasn’t the relationship, it was really just that confidence in the information being provided. It’s about that managing the conversation, early identification of issues and communication. So the issues that were occurring weren’t unknowns or unexpected, but it’s just when they are again back to Aine’s point about timely notification of risk, when you find out about it after the fact or it’s not communicated as it’s happening, that seemed to be more of an issue. Is that the case, Pat?
Pat Furlong: Yeah. Well the case is, so a lot of contracts by their nature are adversarial. That doesn’t mean the relationship’s adversarial, but there are very stringent demands on when we have to provide information in reality. So if you have a contract and you have to provide your allocation and what are your resources within 24 or 48 hours, it has to be accurate information. And invariably, it’s not. You miss that timeline or you miss notifications or whatever it is, but that’s gone. Your contractual position is very weak, the issue being that you shouldn’t be getting yourself into those positions in the first place. If we were gathering the data right, and that’s where we’re going and where we will land, it takes away those issues. But it sounds so simple to do it, it’s actually quite complex.
Every … if they’re trying inevitably… they will have different drivers and they will use the information for a different process. You don’t know how that’s being used to rely on, what the progress is on there, if the budget’s there, if you got capital expenditure approved, so on and so forth, which our guys not necessarily understand all the time.
William Burrows: So if we get to a point where we’ve got process driving the data collection, and then back to Allan’s point about dashboards and so forth, we can use dashboards then to fulfill different units of the data
Pat Furlong: Absolutely.
Pat Furlong: And instill confidence in all the stakeholders. So if you go internally in your reporting, I have revenue … it’s very simple, the process. I have revenue of X and I have 100 employees, and my expenditure is X and one is not matching with the other, there’s something fairly basic going on here. Likewise, your client will want to know the reliability of what you’ll produce as well. Now this is not only a Decmil problem, this is common in the industry, and we are going to get a lot better than everybody else.
William Burrows: I want to touch on another project. You were involved in a solar farm development, and one of the things that I recall from that one is again systems creation, setting up the product control systems to succeed on the project. How much effort went into setting up the project controls on the solar farm development in order to get that data that you needed?
Pat Furlong: It was enormous. We resourced the P6 program, but then we went back on our Excel spreadsheets again. I would like to know every day, so I had a quality system running side by side with it, a different system. So renewable projects are fairly simple by nature and construction, but there’s huge amount of repetitive nature of what you do. What you need to understand is where your real progress is, so progress to me is understanding each side of from a quality perspective, that’s when it’s finished. So you might have physical progress of let me just say, if 50,000 piles is gone where there might be only 10,000 piles actually signed off for the next activity to start.
So if you try and gather all that information together you have somebody inputting something on P6, you’ll have somebody else running a spreadsheet, another guy out counting how many piles have been done. A piling machine and GPS [inaudible] should be able to automatically produce a report that [inaudible] gives you those numbers and against plan, but we got to set up most of it, trains of Excel spreadsheets to capture that data.
Now it worked well, but maybe there was half a dozen people doing that. And if you take the cost of that over eight months or nine months or a year, it’s a significant cost, which the next project you won’t be competitive if you do it again.
William Burrows: Well, that’s a good point about the next project as well. So you spend the time, you set up the systems on that project, and this is one of the areas I suppose Allan that you’re looking forward, it’s the kind of benefit that will develop over time. Not only do we get a process that rolls from that project to the next project, because I imagine that as that project team is disbursed after the end of the project, that skill and knowledge around the process is also disbursed. But also the data, so the next similar project that comes up.
And Allan, this is one of those areas where we start to look at benchmarking for the future as well, to be able to see what was our performance on this, to drive those better decisions in either estimating or monitoring through that month end process. Can you tell us a bit about the benefit you see coming down the track there as well, Allan?
Allan Fett: Yeah, of course. To begin with, those subject matter experts that you got on each project who are developing these processes, we’ve gotten them in a room at the moment, so as they learn how to do their job better through using InEight, they’re going to actually add that to our procedures and our process, so the whole company’s going to learn from each individual person. So it’s going to be a continuously learning process, which I think is pretty exciting. I’m sure the guys are going to get on board because it also gives them like I said before, ownership of it as well. And when they’ve got ownership of it they have pride in it, and they want to do a better job.
Back to your point about the benchmarking data, so that’s something that as we start to use InEight, we’re going to be keeping track of our productivity, our norms. And then that’s going to work back into InEight Estimate to allow our estimators to actually estimate accurately, that we’ll be aware of when we go and look at a job and we know what we allowed for, we know the program for it, it’s going to be a more true reflection of how we deliver that project, and it will give our executive team better information to make decisions about it.
William Burrows: Fantastic. I love your first point there about having those SMEs come back into a room and operationalize the learnings from the projects as well. So it seems as though that’s a shift straight away where instead of leaving it to the project team to invent systems, it’s now an organizational learning initiative led by management as opposed to driven by the project teams. It must be great to see processes and procedures develop around a robust set of tools, and you’ll be able to measure performance of improvement over time just in that one step there, I imagine.
Allan Fett: Yeah, definitely. Also it’s the people who are doing the job, so it’s not being written by someone in the back office who doesn’t know how it’s happening in the field, so the guys in the field say, “Actually, we don’t do that, we do this.” Obviously, each project is going to have its own requirements and deliverables, but generally the standard approach is going to be quite similar with obviously the little bits and pieces you need to do for that particular project. So it’s definitely going to be great to see where that lives in a matter of two or three years’ time.
Aine Flannery: I think one of the things that to Allan’s point we’ve done as well Bill, is the knowledge library that’s within InEight, we’re starting to populate that. Because we are diverse and we cover different sectors in different states throughout Australia, we would have lessons learned workshops in the past like most companies will, but invariably they would not make it around all the states and all the sectors through, and we may be making repetitive mistakes. And the great benefit of the knowledge library is that that goes in there and this prompts whether you’re in the estimate phase or you’re doing your program, to let you know whether it’s a warning, like make sure you look at for such and such, this happened or there’s an opportunity with this, so it works both ways through risk and opportunity.
And that knowledge library will live on. We have some great people within Decmil with over 30 years of experience in the industry, and making sure we share that knowledge throughout all of our business practices and really help us succeed in the future.
William Burrows: Absolutely. I think we’ve talked a bit about the process and efficiency in the way people do their jobs, getting the staff focused on doing a job rather than managing the data associated with the job. But that benefit, the benchmarking through account codes and activity codes, the knowledge library and so forth, that is the other benefit that all that data I’m guessing Allan, all that data that you might capture across a project lives in a spreadsheet somewhere on a server if you’re lucky at this point in time. But you’ll have a central source of truth for that data going forward.
Allan Fett: Yeah, and not just a central source of truth, you’ve got a central reporting place as well since everyone comes together for the one report, or one spot to report on. So that there I think is pretty powerful, and I think we’ll fully recognize the benefits until we actually start to try different things and try different reports. So it’s going to be exciting times in the next couple of years. Well, for people like me who love data anyway, I’m very passionate about it. So at least I’ll be excited.
William Burrows: Me too, I’m excited. It’s been a great journey to this point and I’m looking forward to what the future holds for Decmil as well. Look, this is a great discussion, I think we’ll wrap it up there. And I’d just like to wrap it up by saying that Decmil’s story, it’s a story that we hear from a lot of our clients, that the pain points we’ve been through here today really are consistent. And Pat to your point, across the industry we’re seeing the same issues. Solid data, point solutions that don’t deliver what capital project management software would deliver, that confidence and data retention that enables not only efficiency in current process, but better business decisions to be made down the track as well.
I’d like to just also say that from my perspective, we go through this again with many clients, and I think the real success that I see with Decmil’s implementation through this digital transformation is that executive leadership and executive sponsorship of the change management process is that clear communication and consistent communication that cuts through the ability for people to make their own decisions around what they think the end benefit might be, I suppose and look, that ability to read the organizational readiness for change, and adapt the process and the implementation process as you move forward.
Before we wrap up, can I just go back to each of you and ask for one final piece of advice that you’d give your youngest self if you had to go back to the start of this again? Aine, can we start with you?
Aine Flannery: Yeah. I think for myself Bill, I’d probably be more strategic in which project we put which module out on first. I think as I told you earlier, getting those key wins earlier on from your internal resources really helps the people that are resistant to change, because once they hear the benefits from a few of the modules rather than the whole suite together, it really helps other people adapt and want to bring the modules to their projects, so definitely been strategic in the placement of some of the modules within the suite.
William Burrows: Making sure that message gets out from their peers as opposed to just from the top.
Allan Fett: I think mine would be have a bit of faith. It’ll work, you just need to put the hours in and a good attitude. I think they’re the ones. Keep your good attitude going, have a positive head about it, and just have a little bit of faith.
William Burrows: Fantastic. And Pat?
Pat Furlong: Yeah, I would say that the biggest driver is to outline what success looks like. It generally doesn’t bring people on the journey. Rather than trying to demand that you use the system, you need to outline what the outcome is going to look like and how it’s going to benefit everybody, and then it’s a benefit for the business. If it’s a benefit for the business, it’s a benefit for the individual.
William Burrows: Ultimately if your supervision and management get a few hours back in their day because their process is a little bit more streamlined, then surely that’s a big benefit right there.
Aine Flannery: [inaudible]
William Burrows: Excellent. This was a great discussion. I look forward very much to our continuing partnership between Decmil and InEight into the future. And thank you, and thank you everyone, for watching.
Allan Fett: Thanks, Bill.
Aine Flannery: Thank you, Bill.
Pat Furlong: Thank you, Bill.