Diligent planning is as important in business as in personal life. Billions of rupees are lost in projects due to delay in completion. Often it is attributed to lack of resources at a crucial time, when the project was at peak. Whether it is a material resource, an equipment resource or even a human resource, which is abundant in the country waiting to be employed. Most of the times, it could be avoided with proper resource planning and forecast.
Although, people have been doing manual project planning since as early as 1950s using Critical Path Method. Recent advances in planning software like Microsoft Project, Oracle Primavera P6 and Trimble TILOS have made it way easier to manage enormously complex projects or even a portfolio of such projects.
Primavera was first released in 1983 by Primavera Systems Inc., which was later acquired by Oracle Corporation in 2008. One year later, a local Seattle company released another project planning software which was bought by Microsoft in 1985. Since then, Project and Primavera have been the market leaders in this domain. Neither Primavera nor Project was created specifically for construction industry. In fact, Microsoft used a software similar to Project before its release for managing internal software development projects. Later, as construction projects started to become increasingly complex with involvement of long array of different types of resources, construction industry started to pick up the software. However, it’s still far early to say that project scheduling using planning software has become an integral part of the construction management process. This is concomitant of lack of skilled planners in the market. Most of the construction veterans prefer doing the projects in the conventional way. Fresh graduates are rarely trained in the software during their education and must spend extra time, effort and cash to acquire those skills. Most of the technical institutes offering civil engineering have roughly 4 credits for teaching construction planning. Rest emphasizes on the theory more than practical. Planning projects theoretically and manually is not only painful but meaningless too. A project plan chalked out on a piece of paper is as good as it is in the mind of the planner alone. Using a spreadsheet program is only faintly better. It’s labor-intensive, hard to update, practically impossible to collaborate with others and most importantly inefficient (possibly consuming more manhours than it saves).
The course “Practical Application of Project Management Software” at RICS School of Built Environment, Amity University familiarizes “MBA in Construction Project Management” students with various software used for project planning, monitoring and control. The course starts with an introduction to MS Access and MS PowerBI which enables planners to store, manage and analyze enormous bulk of shared data. It’s followed by MS Project, Oracle Primavera P6 and Trimble TILOS. These are the software routinely used by construction planners to prepare initial schedule for projects as well as monitor and control it throughout the execution stage.
The pedagogical approach for this course involves active learning, hands-on practice, peer discussion and group assignments with emphasis on persuasive presentation. Students start with learning the interface, then moving on to create a new project from scratch. Once, they are acculturated to the interface and basic operations, they are provided with real case data for in-depth analysis and practice. For continuous monitoring and assessment of student learning, students are given mini tasks to perform in class. They practice in their individual computers provided to each student in a fully-equipped modern computer labs at RICS. Once accomplished, students exhibit their tasks to their peers in the classroom, which promotes peer-to-peer discussion and active learning. Students are also encouraged to do self-study of the software and share new tips & tricks with fellow classmates on the school’s learning management system MySBE.
Students with knowledge of planning software are preferred by many employers looking for construction management related job roles. In a campus placement process for a Project Planner role during annual placement season at RICS, the planning software took most of the scope of the written exam as well as the personal interview. The employer was a Dubai-based construction firm.
We can expect a rise in use of these digital tools once public companies start emphasizing on use of planning software for public projects. It will create huge hole in the market for skilled professionals, which will be filled by the early learners.