Specifying Electronic Project Controls Systems in Project Specifications

Specifying Electronic Project Controls Systems in Project Specifications

This executive summary provides an overview of the benefits and risks of including electronic project controls solutions in your front end specifications.

Background: Technology is rapidly impacting the way capital project information is managed. With the advent of email and project controls applications more and more information is being generated and transmitted electronically on capital projects. Combine this with distributed project teams across the globe and the need for increased control of the increasing volumes of information being generated poses the challenge of how to address these controls in the project specifications.

Project specifications are legal documents stipulating how a project is to be executed by the Contractor. Historically specifications have been based upon information being submitted via paper to the client or Engineer for review. The specifications provide timelines, formats, and delivery requirements for this information. With the advent of electronic information specifications have been updated to require documents like O&M manuals and project schedules be submitted electronically. The next logical step is to include pay estimates, change orders, RFI, submittals, and all other forms of project communication. Todays project controls solutions provide flexible work flows that allow for controlling the sharing and exchanging of information electronically. They give the users the same level of control as the current paper process without the cost of the paper. Cost savings of these systems is reaped by the clients, engineers, and contractors since no one on the team has to pay to ship, log, or file the burdensome volumes of paper on a project. All these cost savings role up to the client in the form of lower cost projects. Electronic project controls systems also provide incredibly detailed audit logs and reporting on this information. Electronic systems greatly reduce the potential for human error resulting in greater control and information accuracy. By specifying a system in the front end specs the contractors and engineers know exactly how they are going to be communicating with the client and can include the cost savings in their bids.

With any change there are always risks to consider. Legal risk is always the biggest concern on everyones mind when up dating specifications. The courts have ruled that electronic information is to be treated the same as paper unless proven that it was tampered with. To mitigate this risk clients should select a tool that is maintained by a trusted 3rd party and provides complete audit logs. Clients should also review an update to their specification with their legal counsel to make sure all applicable local laws and ordinances are met. Going to an electronic project controls system means the system must be available 24X7 to the contractors and project participants to prevent potential project delays . To mitigate this the project controls system should be deployed in multiple secure data centers with highly available building systems. With electronic project controls systems in the specifications less sophisticated contractors will not bid the work. This will lead to a smaller pool of bidders on smaller projects. Some owners will view this as a positive since they will have a smaller pool of highly qualified bidder where some will view this as a cost risk since a small pool could mean higher bid prices.

With modern project controls solutions providing for the same level of information control as paper currently provides there is little reason not to update your specifications. Clients are continually looking for ways to cut costs and increase control over their large volumes of project information. Todays project controls yield both the costs savings and improved control. Including the project controls system in the project specifications reduces legal risk to the client as well as can lead to greater cost savings.