Christian Burger is president of Burger Consulting Group, a Chicago-based IT firm. He’s been in the construction industry for nearly 25 years, working for FMI (Fails Management Institute) and software developer JB Edwards and Company prior to founding his firm in 1997. Much of his work is concerned with IT strategy for clients. He publishes regularly in industry journals, frequently speaks at industry, and teaches a technology course for Northwestern University’s Masters of Project Management program. We recently spoke with Burger about Building Information Modeling (BIM), and project management analytics.
What’s trending in project management technology?
Burger: The industry is moving in a collaborative direction. We had an early collaborative period, in the early 2000s, and today it’s version 2.0. Now contractors must decide—do they want collaboration for project management?
Isn’t mobility in project management solutions really the state of the art these days?
Burger: Superintendents, and many others, are doing project management functions on the jobsite. So in addition to collaboration, you’ve got mobile—for meetings, inspections, and more.
Isn’t cost management also increasingly becoming part of the picture, too?
Burger: Now, project managers need more flexibility—and cost management is part of that. And more project management technologies are building cost management into the tool.
Isn’t a certain amount of technical knowledge among contractors regarding project management tools expected now? And isn’t that bar of knowledge constantly rising?
Burger: Really what you’re looking at is BIM [building information modeling], augmented reality… A good project manager has got to be able to see that schedule [or another task] gets done. As a project manager today, you’ve got to be thinking BIM, or you’ll become a dinosaur.
Do you see many companies providing analytics in project management technology?
Burger: Absolutely. Now you have clash detection, sequencing, 4D, 5D—to look at the projects, you must have a different grasp. An old school project manager could visualize it in 2D, but when you’re in a model, you’re in a 3D world. And that model is being looked at and modified by many people.
To what degree are owners driving greater adoption of technology?
Burger: International work, government, some retail owners, and anybody that’s big and located at many sites is doing it, because the know what they need. The owner handoff is a big deal; they want the model handed off. They know the value of BIM, and expect it.
So to sell such technology, one must sell to the owner?
Burger: A lot of technologies can be spun up quickly in an organization, though BIM is not one of them. It takes time [to implement], but BIM will change the way you work.
Do you expect drones to be used in project management?
Burger: Probably in the future, yes. The advantage of drones to project management would be checking on work—they can give camera access of a hard to see location. It also could be good for things like liability, where drones could help show who’s on the jobsite.
What problems does project management tech still have to work harder to solve?
Burger: Some of the very large companies are starting to mine data. They’re looking at average RFI response time on a job, and average response time on submittals. When they’re seeing data that shows there’s a problem, they’re responding. Smaller companies aren’t mining that data much, yet. A portfolio-oriented project management solution could help that.
How important is BIM capability to long-term prospects of AEC firms?
Burger: It’s everything. I was with a $200 million general contractor recently and they didn’t have BIM, and they’ve lost jobs due to having no BIM capability. Not having BIM will keep you from attracting good people, as well. And BIM reduces re-work, cost, and change orders.
Aren’t contractors who haven’t adopted these tools putting themselves out of work?
Burger: The room for old school contractors is getting smaller and smaller for those who fail to adopt the new technology… You’ve got not choice, if a company is going to take a hand in their own destiny, then they’ve got to get on board with technology. Not just their IT department, their whole organization must be on board with this.