There is a better way of doing Operation (Project Ops) management for Capital and Infrastructure development projects of all sizes: say Hi to the Traxion Suite!
We have seen Operations and Project managers overwhelmed by the sheer number of moving parts of their Infra projects and struggled to keep everything headed in the right direction. We’ve seen them feel helpless while schedules slip, with no clarity on what the root causes of slippage are and therefore, no way to stop them. So, we decided to build them a brand new digital suite of tools from the ground up!
Time slippages and cost overruns are unfortunately all too common in most large-scale infrastructure projects. They are immensely expensive and the single largest reason for project failure the world over. A recent study on just 450 infrastructure projects show cost overruns of Rs 4.28 lakh crore ($5.8B)!
Over the last decade, me and my team have worked on several Core infrastructure construction and O&M projects across a wide variety of sectors (Highways, Utilities, Pipelines, Construction, etc) as part of their planning & technical consulting teams. We have spoken to and have been intimately involved in how a construction project gets planned and executed at scale, of sizes ranging from a few tens of crores to hundreds (~$10m+) and thousands of crores (~$100m+). What we saw from our ring-side view dismayed us!
A typical week in the life of a construction project manager involves the following:
– Juggle multiple MS Project Gannt plans
– Hourly calls with field and line managers
– Daily budget calls with Finance & Management teams
– Design calls with CAD & Engineering teams
– Bucket loads of MS Excel micro level activity & site wise plans from coordinators
– A regular stream of additional excel sheets and word documents with data on
Inventory management, order management, logistics and warehouse, stock audits
– Several calls with Vendor/Contractor teams on contract, targets, billing
– More recently, a minimum of 4-5 video conference calls a day
– A few hundred emails back & forth with each of the above
– Probably several thousands of messages on SMS/WhatsApp
– A generous amount of yelling, cursing and head bashing on their respective desks!
– Rinse & repeat
What’s more, we found that most organizations have an army of staff whose only job was coordination, status gathering, MIS updation, vendor management, delivery management, quality checks and a whole host of ‘project support’ activities solely to ensure that the project stays on the rails.
Now it’s not that these mega corporations, or their managers, weren’t tech savvy, of course they were. Over the course of a typical week, they used a wide variety of digital tools to enable them to do their jobs better. A sampling:
– MS Excel / Project / Office 365 (of course)
– Email (obviously)
– Google tasks/Asana for task management/issue tracking
– Whatsapp groups for chat
– Teams/Zoom for video calls
– Large and bulky ERPs for Accounting, Invoicing, Contract, Inventory management
– VTS systems for asset tracking
– Some field mobile apps for attendance & location reporting
– Distometers, tape measures and other field measurement tools
– Some IoT sensors for structural monitoring (rarely)
– Google, Whatsapp pinned locations on map for location
It seemed apparent that there is a glaring need for a tool or suite of tools that could make most, if not all of these of these functions, simpler, more logical, centrally organized for ease of access and offering a unified interface to the user. There simply HAVE to be several tools out there to do this right? Well, as technical consultants, we set out to find them so that we may find the best of them and advise our clients to use them to make their lives easier.
However, this proved much harder than anticipated. There were literally hundreds of products that could broadly be grouped under ‘Task management & Project Management’. After doing a deep dive into these, a majority of them only seem to cover assignment of tasks to individuals or groups of staff. A few included some concept of calendar functionality with due-by dates.
All the other functionality that a manager needs, would involve several individual tools, whose interfaces would have to be roughly stapled together to form some semblance of an activity workflow.
There were also overly complex, very bulky and more importantly, very expensive ERPs from Oracle, Salesforce, Peoplesoft, which have some of these functionalities off the shelf, but require extensive customization, sometimes using their own, closed language and development toolchains. Several of the organizations, we found, had invested in the rollouts of these vast, organization-spanning ERPs as a part of their senior management’s ‘Digitization & modernization’ activity. However, we found that at the working levels of these organizations, these ERPs were barely ever used, or for that matter, even well understood! At the most, it seemed that only for activities that had commercial involvement such as contracts, accounting, inventory order management, vendor management, and similar was the use of the ERP systems mandated. In fact, anecdotally we found that most often company staff cited that usage of the ERP actually caused more delays rather than streamline their activities!
Ok, so it eventually dawned on us that we would have to build this for ourselves! So we quickly conceptualized and built out an MVP in a few months and took it back to the customer. We got our first Letter of Intent that day. We’re happy to report that this launch customer is still with us, continuing to guide the direction and growth of our product and has even awarded us the, organization-wide most Innovative Digital Solution, 2020.
The core philosophies we set for ourselves for designing Traxion were the following:
1. Break-open the project monitoring cycle by promoting radical visibility & transparency
across all levels of execution
2. Promote closed loop Performance Tracking:
Plan -> Assignment -> Real-time Tracking -> Plan
3. Bring Geo-spatial & Location intelligence to the management cycle
4. Provide a mobile & SaaS based platform to bring together all PM technology & tools
5. Integrate real-time decision making tech to enhance agility (IoT/Sensor Fusion/Alerts)
6. A common platform that can be used for both major phases of Capital/Infra
development projects: a. Construction & b. Operations & Maintenance (O&M)
So, this is how the Traxion journey started!
Our solution has greatly evolved over the last several months, adding in several new modules and features. Most importantly, we have acquired several new customers, both Public and Private and we’ve listened to their needs and pain points. As a direct result of this consultative process, we’ve fine tuned our offering: Traxion Suite:
– Traxion Build – for infrastructure execution projects & organizations
– Traxion O&M – for managing Operation< maintenance, QC & surveillance projects
Both modular offerings offer the following major features:
– Traxion core
o Task engine
o Location engine
o Cloud SaaS instance management
o Real-time Algorithmic auto-compute of task completion & productivity
o Real-time Monitoring & Alerts
o User management
o Spatial & Map-based visualization
o MIS Dashboards
o Android Mobile user app
o In system communication
– Project Insights powered by AI
– IoT/Sensor integration
– Custom Reports
– Calendar & Milestone management
– DMS for project file repository
– Issue Management, Ticketing, Response-time metrics
There are several more features coming out later in 2021. I’ll be talking about what we’re currently working on as well as some of the nerdy tech stuff in my subsequent posts. If you find Traxion interesting and would like to know more about how Traxion can transform your project, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.!
Next up: Monitoring – Closing the loop
Project Operations Management Software
Field Operation Management
Capital Project Execution Management
Field Project Management
Capital Project Operations Management
Infrastructure Execution Management
Infrastructure O&M Management
Digital Operations Management for Construction & Infrastructure