Construction has changed. It is no longer a business simply associated with bricks and mortar. Construction has become a comprehensive offering that includes everything contained within a building. Because of this, more electrical contractors are finding themselves right in the middle of the construction industry. This also means contractors need to be tuned into changes in the industry. One current trend is using technology to make the construction process more automated and, thus, more simplified than in the past.

Construction project management has matured into a technology-driven business practice that keeps projects on track from before they even start to long after completion. Once construction project and portfolio management (PPM) software became more widely used, increased coordination and efficiency changed the lifecycle of construction projects.

PPM evolves into ILM

Technology companies, such as Meridian Systems, have built on the PPM philosophy and created an enhanced solution, satisfying demands to better manage the project’s entire span. It has created what we now know as infrastructure lifecycle management (ILM). ILM combines different management functions, such as project and portfolio, facility, business intelligence and business process. This brings real estate, construction and facility professionals into one system of record to manage entire portfolios of capital project and facility lifecycles.

Traditional PPM solutions focus on managing the build phase of construction projects and require users to move from one software module to another during daily project and portfolio--management activities. ILM solutions blend disparate application modules into one technology suite to effectively manage all project phases—the entire plan/build/operate lifecycle—as one cohesive function.

ILM entered the market in 2003 when the cost associated with construction inefficiencies was starting to become apparent. In fact, the inability to share timely, applicable information equates to roughly $15 billion in lost revenue annually. Considering this, a comprehensive application combining key features can generate enormous economic benefits to stakeholders across the entire plan, build and operate ecosystem. Building owner/operator organizations can be significantly impacted because they have multiple departments or business units, each responsible for the phases within the life cycle.

“Until ILM technology became available, capturing PPM data was a disjointed or siloed process, creating huge inefficiencies and cost impacts that shaped the success of any project,” said Sue Watkins, director of marketing, Meridian Systems.

According to Watkins, the company was founded because there was a need for more sophisticated tools to manage capital projects. ILM technology allows for visibility in real time. One such ILM solution is Proliance from Meridian Systems.

“Analytics allows organizations to keep a pulse on the performance of its projects,” Watkins said. “Before ILM technology, project reports would take days to compile and would only provide historical snapshots. ILM allows project teams to zero in on potential issues as they are occurring.”

Watkins explained that ILM addresses three key business problems. The first is tighter project cost controls and an enhanced ability to manage contracts. The second is the automation and standardization of business processes across all projects. The third is the ability to have constant visibility across an entire portfolio of projects in real time.

Watkins also said that although certain construction sectors are slowing, using technology geared toward increasing efficiency and project management can help offset slowdown losses.

Public and private building owners, construction and engineering firms, and government agencies that take advantage of sophisticated tools, such as Proliance, to track the design, construction and operation of their facilities are realizing ILM benefits. These benefits include faster project deployments, leading to increased revenue, productivity and, ultimately, a greater competitive advantage.

This can mean added ease in terms of system design and maintenance for contractors who are adept at using such solutions. Today’s ever-changing built environment is becoming increasingly complex and interdependent, which is why solutions, such as ILM, are becoming a mainstream option. Contractors should think about such technology to aid them in their own ever-changing role. Simply dealing with only electrical power systems is becoming rare.

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at JenLeahS@msn.com.