Project management practice generally accepts that clear communication channels and the ability to distribute information appropriately can impact project cost and time, but what areas actually deserve “best practice” consideration?

A recent article posted on PM Hut entitled: “Implementing Project Management Best Practices” got me thinking about the implications of using the Coreworx Request for Information (RFI) module to help institute organizational best practice. Finding opportunities to improve project performance and reduce project risk make the Request for Information process (or “Technical Query” if you prefer) a good candidate for best practices.

‘Best practices focus on the “critical few” areas that if performed well on a project significantly improve project outcomes. … Best practices are not theoretical or text book solutions. They represent approaches, concepts, and tools that have been consistently and effectively utilized in “actual” situations to deliver positive results on projects.’
PM Hut: Project Management Foundations – Implementing Project Management Best Practices

Thinking about it at the most basic level, the request for information seems harmless enough to me: someone asks a question and someone else provides an answer. But formal project correspondence is always loaded with devils in the details. Will the answer be returned quickly enough to address that critical safety issue on site before crews arrive? Can I be certain that the answer will be provided by the right discipline engineer using the correct design revision? I’ve also sat in stunned disbelief after hearing horror stories about an unscrupulous contractor who flooded an owner with requests for information fully knowing that the owner couldn’t furnish responses quickly enough to prevent claims and change orders.

In my time at Coreworx I’ve seen projects get great results by applying workflow automation to the RFI practice. Here are some examples:

  • Reduced response times
  • Clearer lines of responsibility and enforced authorization
  • Visibility to delinquent parties, bottlenecks and team workload
  • Compliance to policies and consistent execution on every request
  • Access to correspondence history to support dispute resolution
  • Greater accuracy, with links to authoritative sources of information, data validation and iterative reviews

The combination of training, process support, expertise, monitoring and controlling, and work process rules considered for best practice may be unique to a specific project or organization. Automating RFI first requires a clearly defined process map; it is the perfect opportunity to identify areas of best practice as well as areas for improvement.

Identifying inefficiencies and vulnerabilities in your traditional RFI practice today will make it much easier to quantify results of an automated solution. You may want to consider some of these metrics:

  • Volume by discipline or area
  • Typical cycle times
  • Delinquency rate
  • Volume of claims associated to RFIs
  • Number of errors or revisions in responses
  • Time spent by coordinators moving the process to completion

Is RFI a process to automate as a best practice for your project? Check out the Coreworx website at Coreworx RFI module.

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