Construction Project Management

Construction project management software for developers, architects & planners

InLoox: Construction Project Management Software

Author: Carola Moresche | Last updated: Tuesday, February 13th, 2024 | Time: 10 Min.

What is construction project management?

In construction project management (CPM), all phases of building or infrastructure construction are planned, monitored, controlled and continuously evaluated. The aim is to keep an eye on all processes throughout the entire duration of the construction project in order to be able to react to delays as quickly as possible. The aim is not only to keep all parties involved in the construction project informed about the current status of the project at all times, but also to minimize potential risks that could lead to budget overruns. There are few other industries where the challenges are as great: there are countless, sometimes parallel, interdependent processes and a large number of active stakeholders as in the construction industry. In addition, construction projects are subject to strongly fluctuating external factors such as weather conditions, supply chains, political upheavals and legal changes.

In order to get to grips with the challenges of complex large-scale projects in the construction industry in particular, construction project management with clear responsibilities is of fundamental importance. Regardless of whether it is a single project or the management of a construction management company, architectural firm or subcontractor.


Responsibilities in construction project management

In principle, construction project management is the task of architects and civil engineers. In addition to architectural and engineering firms, general contractors or specialized construction project management offices often take on this task. In addition, during the construction project phases, future facility management, i.e. the operation of the building or infrastructure construction, requires information in order to be able to take over operations smoothly after completion. Depending on the project phase, the responsibilities in construction project management change in terms of the execution of tasks. However, the management of the construction project itself should be continuously in the hands of one person, office or company. This is the best way to ensure that there is one responsible party who can be contacted by all other stakeholders and can provide information on the status of the construction project.

Challenges in construction project management

Construction projects face a number of challenges. Tighter budgets and stricter regulations are putting construction project managers and project teams under enormous pressure. The biggest challenges in construction project management are best illustrated by the magic triangle, consisting of scope, time and cost:

  • Scope: the larger the construction project, the more stakeholders are involved and the higher the degree of complexity and dependencies.
  • Time: external factors such as legal framework conditions (high bureaucracy), weather conditions and ultimately geopolitical events have a disproportionately high influence on construction projects and can lead to considerable delays and require intensive change management.
  • Cost: the two factors of scope and time are inevitable cost drivers. As the profitability costs are very much in focus in construction and infrastructure projects, it is important to pay the greatest attention to them. 

The years since 2020 illustrate only too well how much external factors can affect the previously booming construction industry. It is simply no longer possible to build profitably without construction project management and professional project planning. As far as the stakeholders in construction project management are concerned, there is a special feature that also occurs in few other sectors: a large number of specialist planners such as structural engineers, energy planners or planners for technical building equipment (TGA planners) and specialist tradespeople are required, whose work processes are not only closely interlinked but also interdependent. Maintaining an overview of these complex processes and dependencies is one of the biggest challenges in construction project management.

Phases in project management (HOAI)

In order for construction projects to run in a structured and, above all, transparent manner, the construction project must be planned in phases. This is best done by means of Gantt planning of all necessary processes and milestones.

In Germany, the Fee Structure for Architects and Engineers (HOAI) and the Construction Contract Procedures (VOB) provide a precisely defined process for construction project management. Although the VOB is actually only mandatory for public construction projects, it is also often used as a guide in the private sector. Since 2021, both the HOAI and the VOB are no longer binding fee agreements as required by the ECJ, but merely serve as guidelines. In Austria, the reference work HIA (Honorar Information Architektur) of the Federal Chamber of Architects and Consulting Engineers and the guidelines of the Federal Guild of Construction for the cost estimation of planning services are used to determine fees. In Switzerland, the SIA standards and the SIA fee schedule provide a uniform structure for the construction industry.

InLoox Construction Project: planning template with construction phases

InLoox-Template: Construction project plan according to HOAI ©InLoox GmbH

The project phases according to HOAI:

A construction project is generally planned according to the HOAI service phases. The individual phases contain basic services and special services that represent tasks. Depending on the scope of the contractor's project, it may make sense to divide the project plan into sub-projects in order to create greater transparency and maintain a better overview. When structuring into sub-projects, the dependencies between the sub-projects must be taken into account and visualized so that the effects of delays or planning changes from one sub-project on the other sub-projects are not overlooked.

The 9 construction project phases according to HOAI are:

  1. Basic determination: Clarification of the task, analysis of the property and project conditions.
  2. Preliminary planning (project and planning preparation): Development of an initial concept, taking into account legal, functional, technical, economic and ecological requirements.
  3. Design planning: Detailing of the concept into a design with precise details of design, construction, materials and technology.
  4. Approval planning: Preparation and submission of the documents required for the necessary permits and approvals.
  5. Implementation planning: Detailed preparation of the implementation documents, detailed drawings and technical descriptions.
  6. Preparation of the contract award: Compilation of the contract award documents, determination and compilation of the quantities as a basis for the cost offer.
  7. Participation in awarding the contract: obtaining, checking and evaluating offers, negotiating with suppliers, preparing the award proposal.
  8. Project supervision (construction supervision): Monitoring the execution of the construction project to ensure quality, compliance with plans, schedules and costs.
  9. Project management and documentation: Monitoring the rectification of defects, documentation of the overall project, support during commissioning and use.

Depending on the construction project, the individual phases can be very extensive and affect many specialist areas.

Digitalisierung im Bauprojektmanagement (BIM und PMS)

A large number of digital tools have now found their way into the construction industry. BIM (Building Information Modeling) stands for this digitalization in the construction industry and is used successfully in modern architecture, engineering and general planning offices. What does BIM actually do? On the one hand, BIM is a technology, i.e. a software tool, and on the other, it is a method. This means that both the building and the construction process are completely and centrally mapped digitally. The aim is for clients on the one hand and contractors such as construction companies, architectural firms or specialist planners on the other to always have up-to-date and consistent information and plans from the model thanks to the digital twin of the building.

Project management software for the construction industry

The construction project phases according to HOAI describe what needs to be done. The digital twin through BIM visualizes the building digitally. With project management software, the way in which the construction project is to be implemented can now be visualized digitally in Gantt charts and task boards. In addition, thanks to clear responsibilities through resource allocation at project and task level, realistic capacity planning can provide real-time information on when which people are available. Based on this, time tracking provides the costs to be invoiced and a complete construction project cost accounting can be carried out via interfaces to accounting software. The question arises as to which features are useful in construction project management software. Modern project management software should have the following useful functions to support you during all phases of a construction project:

  • Construction phase plan in Gantt chart with dependencies and deadlines
  • Mapping of sub-projects in project groups
  • Tasks with start and end dates and clear resource allocation
  • Workload display at project, department, team and person level
  • Workload planning using project data, individual working time calendars and Outlook calendar appointments (vacations, away days, regular appointments)
  • Cost calculation based on time recording at task and project level
  • Data evaluation via construction project portfolios in dashboards
  • Automated reports, e.g. on construction project start, current construction project status, sub-project acceptance or project cost status
  • Storage of documents with links to projects, construction plan phases in the Gantt, tasks, budget items or time recording entries
  • Construction project diary in the form of project comments and changes in the project for seamless documentation

This selection of features in project management software for construction project management enables the clear, transparent and binding planning of construction projects and the reliable evaluation of project data from the construction portfolio. The advantages for all stakeholders in a construction project are clear:

Clear deadlines enable adherence to schedules

In construction project management, deadlines are often months if not years in the future, such as for complex large-scale projects or infrastructure projects. But even a detached house must be completed on time, as delays have an immediate negative impact on costs, even on a small scale. Clarity in setting deadlines is therefore essential to ensure that the construction project runs as smoothly as possible. One of the best methods for achieving this is partial planning in a Gantt chart with processes, milestones and tasks. The visualization of dependencies between the processes and the ability to set restrictions such as "not later than" creates transparency and increases adherence to deadlines.

As dependencies exist not only between the processes of a sub-plan, but of course also to other sub-plans, the construction project software should enable this type of linking to project groups.

Despite the high degree of digitization on construction sites, printed project plans are of course still an important means of maintaining an overview. For this purpose, specific print settings in the software are useful, which enable A3 prints or multi-part prints, for example.

Resource planning of large projects: Sample project as InLoox template (c)TNL Umweltplanung

Ressource planning of large scale construction projects: InLoox template project in Gantt-chart ©TNL Umweltplanung

The potency of dependencies

It cannot be stressed enough: Visualizing dependencies in a digital construction project tool makes it much easier to continuously monitor the progress of the overall planning. Thanks to the automatic calculation of progress in the individual tasks, not only the progress of a sub-project can be determined, but also the progress of the project group, which represents the entire construction project in all phases. Every project stakeholder involved can therefore see in real time how the construction project is developing, where delays are emerging and where planning may need to be changed.

Multi-project coordination

In reality, construction projects do not take place one after the other, but are carried out in parallel. Time overlaps between several construction projects at different locations are the rule, not the exception. To help construction project planners, architectural firms and engineers maintain an overview of their project portfolio, professional project management software includes dashboards that visualize these portfolios.

As no one in multi-project management can keep all information on all projects in their head, all relevant information on the projects, phases and tasks is stored centrally in the project management software and is available to everyone involved. Whether in the planning office, on the construction site or at the customer's premises.

Identifying capacities & resource management

Like so many others, the construction industry is suffering from a glaring shortage of skilled workers. In addition to a shortage of building materials that has worsened since 2020, human resources are in short supply. As a result, construction companies, architectural firms and specialist tradespeople have to achieve great things with just a few people. This is only possible if they know exactly how much they can utilize their people and at what time. It must therefore be clear whether further construction projects can be taken on next year or whether the current projects are tying up all available resources.

For resource management that reflects reality, it must not only be possible to determine the workload based on the workload in the construction projects. The PM software should also be able to take into account time off, different working time calendars such as part-time and routine appointments from day-to-day business. In most cases, either the Microsoft Outlook calendar or the data from HR software is used for this purpose via an interface. This gives construction project planners a real and reliable utilization value for their teams and enables them to make realistic capacity planning in real time.

Communication in the construction project context

A central platform for all construction projects can also greatly improve the way in which communication takes place. In construction project management, information is often exchanged in many different ways: by email, telephone, SMS, post from authorities or via chats. It is very difficult not to lose the project context or task context in the process. To improve this, the content from these communication channels should find its way into the project management software. Ideally either automatically or with just a few clicks.

The best approach is to save all important information in the construction project software via project comments or task comments and linking to emails or documents. A positive side effect of this is the automatic management of a construction project diary. Such functions in digital construction planning software are very helpful, especially from the point of view of quality management and legal certainty.

Automatically create reports

Automatically generated reports make it even easier to communicate project information from construction projects. Construction projects are based on classic project reports such as the project start report, project status report or progress report for a project portfolio, project budget status report and, of course, the project completion report.

Typically, the content of reports is also based on the construction project phases and are created automatically at a specific point in time - either at the start or end of a phase - and sent to the relevant people. This makes work considerably easier and saves a lot of time on manual summaries for reports in programs such as Microsoft Word or Excel. Typically, there is a report designer that can be used to create templates for standard reports according to the individual specifications of the site management or authorities.

Project budget under control

Ultimately, every construction project is about maximizing the profitability of the building project. The bottom line is that the sometimes astronomical investment costs must be worthwhile. All the advantages mentioned so far contribute directly or indirectly to the fact that construction companies and all other stakeholders increase transparency, planning reliability and adherence to schedules by digitizing their construction project management. Of course, this also goes hand in hand with cost transparency. Keeping construction project budgets under control is an art, but professional software not only makes it easier, but above all more reliable. The cost status is visualized in real time at project or project portfolio level and it is clear to see where the actual costs are running ahead of the target costs. This makes it clear at an early stage when projects are losing profitability and which cost drivers are responsible for this.

Whereas previously all budget items had to be compiled manually in Excel spreadsheets or cost calculation programs from various sources, with consistent use of project management software, project accounting can be completed with just a few clicks. Using interfaces to ERP systems, information on other resource expenditure can also be used automatically and even output for fee accounting via an interface to the accounting program.

Establishing process standards

What has worked well once can be established as a standard after two or three further successful deployments. This is particularly efficient and provides orientation for best practices. Even in complex projects in the construction industry, there is a high potential for standardization thanks to the HOAI phases. If a construction project deviates from these standard processes and tasks in some phases, these individual intermediate steps can be planned into the standard template. After all, it is often the combination of standards and individualization that makes for success.

You don't have to reinvent the wheel with every new construction project: With phase planning or task templates, the creation of project schedules becomes more efficient and nothing is overlooked. This saves you valuable time, which can be far better invested in the execution of the construction project. Your team will appreciate the templates.

Real-time data always at your fingertips

Construction project management does not take place in a quiet room. Construction project managers are often on site from Monday to Thursday for site inspections, visiting authorities or customers - and not in the construction management office at their PC. It goes without saying that construction project data must be carried everywhere, ideally on a smartphone or tablet. Modern project management tools are always at your fingertips on the browser or in the app and the status update on your construction projects is just a swipe or tap away. 

During inspections in particular, it is important that photos and notes can be recorded immediately in the associated task or project so that no detail is forgotten. Especially when it comes to recording defects or last-minute changes to minor details, clients and building owners appreciate being able to rely on complete documentation.

Success factors in construction project management in practice

Architectural offices, engineering offices and environmental planning offices have been successfully using project management software for years to complete their construction projects not only on time but also profitably. A look at three exemplary use cases of the InLoox project management platform makes the success factors clear:

1. Consistent digitalization of all processes 

The number of employees at TNL Umweltplanungsbüro doubled in a short space of time, which made it necessary to structure all processes. With more employees, communication coordination between the individual people and teams became more complex and it became more difficult to avoid redundancies in work steps. The decision was therefore made to restructure and digitize the processes from the quotation stage onwards. The aim was to avoid "gut decisions" but at the same time to support dynamic working methods throughout the company. You can read about the positive effects of this in the case study on the use of InLoox at TNL Umweltplanung.

2. Digitization of documentation in the project context

On-site appointments and inspections are the daily bread of the staff at Dr. Maier Umweltbüro. The work of the environmental specialists, who provided environmental support for the construction of Stuttgart21, for example, mainly takes place outside and is heavily dependent on weather conditions. Meeting deadlines and documentation are often a challenge, and administrative tasks often end up at the bottom of the to-do list. When it was no longer possible to manage the project efficiently by calling out, the team decided to digitize and document consistently using the InLoox project management software. It is now very easy to save the data collected on the smartphone in the field in the project and task context in InLoox, share it with colleagues and coordinate the next steps. You can read about the other advantages of using InLoox at Dr. Maier Umweltplanung in the case study.

3. Continuous tracking of project costs

Profitability in construction projects is the goal for all construction companies. However, when it comes to realizing large projects with a small team, efficiency and effectiveness must be paramount. At Brückner Architekten, one of the leading firms for architecture and interior design, a combination of employee responsibility, delegation and micromanagement has led to the continuous tracking of efforts throughout the entire construction project life cycle. The resulting possibility of constant plan/actual comparisons leads to a much higher target achievement rate and the project is implemented more quickly. Read our case study to find out why the use of InLoox at Brückner Architekten has also become a USP in customer acquisition.

Conclusion on construction project management

Construction project management is not a part-time job. It cannot be a secondary task to manage and coordinate the planning, execution and acceptance of a construction project. This requires people with expertise who also have project management skills. The more difficult conditions caused by developments since the first year of the pandemic in 2020 have led to a shortage of all resources that are fundamental to the construction industry. It is therefore now more important than ever to use the advantages of digitalization to handle construction projects as profitably as possible, even under resource constraints.

*Note: This article does not claim to be exhaustive and does not constitute legal advice.

Best-Practice Insights

This is how leading architecture and environmental planning offices work more efficiently with project management software and complete their construction projects profitably.

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