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Pergamon International Journal of Project Management Vol. 16, No. 4, pp.

249-265, 1998
© 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd and IPMA. All rights reserved
Printed in Great Britain
0263-7863/98 $19.00 + 0.00

PII: S0263-7863(97)00037-9

Towards a smart project


management information system*

Ali Jaafarit and Kitsana Manivong


Department of Civil Engineering, the University of Sydney, Sydney, N S W 2006, Australia

The focus in this work is on the creation of a new generation project management information
system, which the authors have dubbed: Smart Project Management Information System
(SPMIS). As the projects and their environments get more complex, subject to uncertainty, time
and money pressures, the need for a really helpful and smart system to support the decision
making and manage project information systematically, is accentuated. S P M I S will need to be
flexible in accepting information sets, be instantaneous in terms of response, be comprehensive in
terms of the range of functions which it can support and be intelligent in terms of analysis and
overview of information sets held throughout the project life cycle. A review of the current sys-
tems shows that none has the range or capabilities sought. The S P M I S has been defined in a
practical and objective manner. A review of the possibilities that the current systems' engineering
techniques could offer has been included followed by a discussion on the need for setting up a
project-specific information and integration model. Also, a 'centralised control' strategy has been
advocated covering the entire core information transactions over the project life cycle. The
S P M I S will be a future tool for proactive objective-focused management of the project. Its
underlying design philosophy is based on creating conditions for synergy and for management of
projects to achieve or exceed quite specific target values for stipulated objective functions such
as project net present value or profitability index. © 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd and IPMA. All
rights reserved
Keywords: project management, information systems, soft systems, hard systems, object-based programming, infor-
mation modelling

Introduction processes. A n idealised p r o j e c t m a n a g e m e n t infor-


m a t i o n system has been defined a n d used as a bench
This p a p e r focuses on definition a n d c o n c e p t u a l devel-
m a r k for c o m p a r i s o n a n d r a n k i n g o f the c u r r e n t gener-
o p m e n t o f a s m a r t project m a n a g e m e n t i n f o r m a t i o n
a t i o n P M I S systems. T h e e v a l u a t i o n o f the c u r r e n t
system ( S P M I S ) . T h e w o r d ' s m a r t ' has been used to P M I S systems vis-A-vis the b e n c h m a r k system shows
d i s t i n g u i s h these t y p e o f systems f r o m the c u r r e n t gen- t h a t n o n e o f the c u r r e n t systems has the capabilities
e r a t i o n project m a n a g e m e n t i n f o r m a t i o n systems defined for the S P M I S . A n overview o f the c o m p u t e r /
( P M I S ) . T h e S P M I S will need to be flexible to r e s p o n d I T technologies a v a i l a b l e has been carried o u t with the
to a m y r i a d o f d e m a n d s p l a c e d on it by p r o j e c t t e a m s specific a i m o f a d d r e s s i n g the need for execution o f
d u r i n g the life o f a project; possess a c a p a b i l i t y to project m a n a g e m e n t functions in an holistic m a n n e r .
c o m b i n e b o t h ' h a r d ' a n d ' s o f t ' systems analysis; a n d T h r o u g h this review it has been s h o w n t h a t all el-
p r o v i d e a basis for a u t o m a t i o n a n d i n t e g r a t i o n o f all e m e n t s o f t e c h n o l o g y for d e v e l o p i n g a S P M I S are cur-
p r o j e c t processes o v e r its life cycle i n c l u d i n g p l a n n i n g , rently available, provided a project-specific
design, p r o c u r e m e n t a n d c o n s t r u c t i o n m a n a g e m e n t i n f o r m a t i o n m o d e l l i n g system is a d o p t e d . It has been
s h o w n t h a t a ' p r o d u c t m o d e l ' o f a p r o j e c t can be
defined a n d used as the basis for i n f o r m a t i o n inte-
*Note: Any mention of products in this paper is done where necess-
ary for the sake of scientific studies, and for the purposes of advan- g r a t i o n a n d process a u t o m a t i o n over the project life
cing knowledge in the field, and should not be construed as either a cycle.
positive or negative commentary on any product or the vendors of
that product. Neither the inclusion of a product or vendor, nor the
omission of a product or the vendor in this document should be
interpreted as a position or opinion on that product or vendor on Project management information systems
the part of the authors or the publishers. The authors or their insti-
tution do not provide any product evaluation service and are in the T h e a u t h o r s define a project m a n a g e m e n t i n f o r m a t i o n
business of advancing knowledge through scientific research. system as a system which s u p p o r t s a n d facilitates the
tAuthor for correspondence. delivery o f a n y project, p a r t i c u l a r l y those which are

249
Towards a SPIMS: A Jaafari and K Manivong

complex, subject to uncertainty, and under market, The need for P M s y s t e m s


time and money pressures, or otherwise difficult to The authors subscribe fully to the view that project
manage. The main capability requirements of a PMIS management (PM) systems do not deliver projects,
should be: project teams do. However, PM systems are necessary
1. Systematic modelling, recording, storing, validating, to furnish information to project teams charged with
retrieval and general management of information the task of achieving project goals, also providing 'real
and data related to the life cycle management of a time' performance feedback of where the project is in
project, as well as direction, management and real relation to the target values set for objective functions,
time control of key information furnished to project and where it ought to be. One essential requirement
teams, using an integrated structure; for the PMIS is to furnish information in real time.
2. Integrating information across the entire project life That is to be able to provide more or less instan-
cycle, from feasibility study through to execution taneous response to any question or query entered,
and finalisation (excluding the operation phase), and to have multiple capabilities to cope with dis-
and supporting newer concepts of project delivery, jointed and seemingly unrelated pieces of information
such as concurrent construction ~. or queries. This is because of the dynamic nature of
3. Processing and reporting, or alerting capabilities, as today's projects, influenced by not only internal and
the case may be, in order to highlight the status of external uncertainties, but also the necessity to inte-
a given project at any point in its life, or measure grate information, teams and plans, and accelerate per-
the impact of a decision affecting the project as a formance. Laufer et al. 2 likened this to that of:
whole, or foreshadow adverse patterns which might "directing a three ring circus continuously switching
affect the achievement of project goals, and so on. acts based on the crowd's response". The three rings
Therefore both computational and evaluative capa- are symbolic of the dominant project characteristics in
bilities must be built into the system. the 1990s, viz.: 'complex, uncertain and quick'. The
4. Proactivity facilitation. In the context of concurrent authors would concur entirely with this metaphor.
construction proactivity has a specific meaning, as it To understand the dynamic nature of project man-
refers to the real time management of the project in agement it is interesting to look at what project man-
such a way that specific target values set for certain agers do, as the objective is to provide a PMIS, which
objective functions at the outset can be met or supports and facilitates their performance.
exceeded. Examples of such objective functions
include captial and operating costs, total life cycle The very effective project managers appear, superficially
cost per unit output, cost/worth ratio, internal rate to be working disjointedly, in paradoxically opposite
of return and profitibility index. The project man- directions. In reality they are integrating areas widely
agement must also respond to the less tangible tar- separated in space and time, in hierarchy and methods,
gets set, including aspects of operability, safety and in orientation and philosophy. The simultaneous man-
quality. While a more detailed coverage of this style agers integrate tasks and people but differentiate
of project management is outside the scope of this between them at the same time. They devise and use
paper, it must be noted that the main requirement formal as well as informal procedures. Goals and means
is to have a capability for continuous assessment in situations like these are not resolved sequentially but
and reassessment of the project decisions to see if rather simultaneously and interactively. 2
value addition is being achieved and if changes
To further illustrate this point the inside story about
made to the project can be objectively justified.
(Refer to Jaafari ~, for a more detailed discussion of the Sydney Opera House is worthy of note (see
below).
proactive life cycle project management).
5. Inter-operability and compatibility. In a typical Revealed: the trials of a world wonder
multidiscipline project the PMIS must be fully inter-
faced with other systems used on the project, e.g. to (Geraldine O'Brien, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 March, 1997)
link with, and import data from, the C A D model
It could have become a casino, a children's playground or even, as
of the project. Because of the need to exercise cen- one commentator suggested, been left as a romantic ruin. When
tralised control over the management of the entire Joern Utzon left the Sydney Opera House project in 1966,
project information sets, the PMIS must act as the everybody had an opinion about what should be done with his
governing system, making information selectively part-finished masterpiece. But as revealed in State Government
records, released this week, no-one knew how to do whatever it
available to other systems or teams. was that ought to be done. According to Ms. Dawn Troy, a
As can be seen, the above statement broadly defines consultant for the State Archives, there were neither heroes nor
villians in the saga: 'The building was so complex that nobody had
a smart PMIS. It will have the potential to act as a real grasp of it. Utzon was the only one with an overview, but
unifying system throughout the life of a project, even he was going by trial and error'. When left, in a welter of
'remembering' the project information from the pre- accusation and counter-accusation over rising costs and endless
ceding stages, including target values and criteria set delays, those chosen to complete the task were dogged by the same
problems that had beset him. The Publics Works Department
for objective functions, logic and other important project officer, Phil Taylor, wrote in a confidential minute: "There
arguments used to make certain decisions, limitations is a lack of central command and intelligence as to: The situation:
imposed by the environmental, social, safety, quality What has to be done; What is being done; Who is doing what;
and other considerations and so on. Also, it will be Pre-planning; and Who is responsible. There is unbelievable conflict
furnishing a capability to 'vet' any change or addition as to the true situation on nearly every issue that arises'. Mr. John
Cross, the State Archivist, says: ~ People say Australia loves big
by any party against all the target values, rules and or projects, we love the Harbour Bridge, we're excited about the
criteria already established for the project and held Olympics. But people built bridges and staged the Olympics before.
within the system. Nobody has ever built anything like the Opera House. It was

250
Towards a SPIMS." A Jaafari and K Manivong

operating on the very edges of technological knowledge. I don't These P M f u n c t i o n s are c o m m o n l y used to m a n a g e
think that country had ever done anything like it before and we most sizeable projects.
may never do anything like it again'.
The u n d e r l y i n g thesis is that all these functions can
From the beginning it was unique. Utzon's sketches were the be a c c o m m o d a t e d within a unified P M I S system. This
only ones among the 233 entries which did not conform to the a s s u m p t i o n will be challenged later in this paper, b u t
design specifications. The first cost estimate was $7 million. It for the m o m e n t assume that it can be done. It must be
eventually cost $100 million. Utzon was instructed to design the
main auditorium as a multi-purpose hall but, after his departure, n o t e d that in a t t e m p t i n g to define a n idealised P M I S ,
the ABC wielded its concert-going numbers to ensure it was the a u t h o r s w a n t to: (1) define a bench m a r k system
completed as a concert hall. The removal of the stage machinery for the study a n d r a n k i n g o f a sample of c u r r e n t
already installed cost $2.7 million. The internal reorganisation, P M I S systems; a n d (2) develop generic capability
eight years into construction, involved a complete redesign of the r e q u i r e m e n t s a n d specifications so that work can pro-
electrical, air-conditioning and plumbing systems. The glass walls,
planned by Utzon to drop in sheer falls from the shells, with ceed on the d e v e l o p m e n t of the s m a r t P M I S .
plywood mullions, was another source of concern. Ove Arup and
Partners, the consulting structural engineers, were converned
about the plywood's durability and demanded a testing program.
The Public Works Minister, Davis Hughes, concerned about the Review of current P M systems
delays, refused to allow Utzon to test prototypes. Besides, Ralph
Symonds, the only company which could produce the plywood, The review of c u r r e n t systems a n d other studies (see
was in the hands of receivers. The Monty Pythonesque aspects for example, C h u r c h e r et al.4), confirm that essentially
of the drama are impossible to miss in a 1968 opinion from the there are two types o f systems in use currently in
Public Works Department's legal officer, who wrote that not only
was Symonds insolvent but the timber had to come from industry:
Borneo, where some local wars and guerilla activities were in 1. Those systems which have been developed in-house
progress. As Ove Arup reported in 1969, the scheme would 'use
glass in a way never before attempted and our initial contacts as p r o p r i e t a r y systems, a n d are n o t generally avail-
with the glass industry have not always been met by an able to outsiders; a n d
enthusiastic response. Some manufacturers.., will have no part in 2. Those which are either commercially developed a n d
it'. The recriminations go on, in some quarters, to this day. But m a r k e t e d or developed as part of research projects
at Bennelong point a masterpiece was finally completed. Flawed
at universities a n d research institutions.
it might be, but as Ove Arup said in 1965: "the thing we wanted
built was Utzon's Opera House'. Arup was referring to the As might be expected, the systems sampled for the
unanticipated cost blow-out, but he could well have included all p u r p o s e o f this study are o f the latter type.
the tensions, heartache, disappointments and triumphs which are
part of that wondrous floating sculpture. Such a work, Arup Altogether 24 systems have been sampled, of which
said, "costs that amount.., and would from the beginning, only 12 are commercially available a n d the rest (which
nobody knew it then'. Had it been known, " the Opera House the a u t h o r s call p r o t o t y p e systems), are still in the
would probably never have been built. The fact that it wasn't d e v e l o p m e n t a l stage (Table 2). There is no signifi-
known, and that clients and public were completely misled by
the first so-called estimate, was one of the unusual circumstances cance s u r r o u n d i n g the n u m b e r o f systems selected,
that made this miracle possible'. except to ensure that there are f u n c t i o n a l variations
between the systems. The review is based on p u b -
lished i n f o r m a t i o n , i.e. j o u r n a l papers a n d infor-
T h e i m p o r t a n c e o f h a v i n g a n efficient P M I S to sup- m a t i o n sourced from the W o r l d Wide W e b (see
port the m a n a g e m e n t of a project has also been high- Table 2). The sample is neither exhaustive n o r repre-
lighted by H a r r i s o n 3, viz.: sentative. It is perceived that the sample represents
the best available P M I S systems in accordance with
All project managers must be backed up by effective
the a u t h o r s ' definition o f a PMIS. However, it is
systems, as it is impossible to manage a complex entity,
acknowledged that there m a y be some proprietary
such as a project, without planning, budgeting, analysis,
(in-house) systems used by large P M or o w n e r or
and control systems to assist the manager in his func-
c o n t r a c t o r o r g a n i s a t i o n s which m a y be based on a
tion. If he does not have this back up, his planning and
different technology or have a different format a n d
budgeting will be too slow, and they will not be used to
processing architecture. Since no i n f o r m a t i o n is avail-
help him organize and control his work. Without a
able publicly, the a u t h o r s could n o t consider them
good information system, he cannot really control his
in the review.
project, as he will not know until too late what is really
F u r t h e r , it m u s t be noted that the term ' P M I S ' m a y
happening, must spend a lot of his most valuable and
be too a l l - e n c o m p a s s i n g to be used o n some o f the
scarcest resources, his time, on simple supervision and
selected systems, since the originators o f these systems
the collection of information, and any information he
did n o t i n t e n d that they be used to furnish s u p p o r t
does get will be inevitably out of date.
across such a comprehensive range of functions. The
a u t h o r s have used their o w n discretion to select those
systems to fall partially or totally, u n d e r the definition
Idealised P M I S of a P M I S . The p u r p o s e of the review of this sample is
A s s u m i n g there w o u l d be n o technological limitation, primarily to see whether or n o t there is need for devel-
what w o u l d be the shape a n d functions of a n ideal oping a new P M I S system (SPMIS) or whether a n y of
P M I S ? The a u t h o r s believe that the best way to define the available systems can be further developed to
a n idealised P M I S is to outline what such a system is r e s p o n d to the needs already identified in this paper.
supposed to do. Table 1 displays a series of P M func- The a u t h o r s have exercised c a u t i o n in the review and
tions which could be effectively s u p p o r t e d by provision analysis of i n f o r m a t i o n on the p u b l i c l y - k n o w n systems,
of a n ideal system. U p to 25 typical P M f u n c t i o n s i.e. to ensure that the bias in the selection of the
(Table 1), are presented a n d explained detailing their sampled systems is t a k e n into a c c o u n t when generalis-
typical deliverables a n d the way they are applied. ing the findings.

251
Towards a SPIMS: A Jaafari and K Manivong

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252
Towards a SPIMS: A Jaafari and K Manivong

Characteristics of current P M systems


~0 ~ o.o
Hardware
Table 2 shows that microcomputers are the preferred
hardware for PM software. The trend is moving away
from mainframes, and towards the advancing micro-
computers, in particular PC's. However, it must be
recognised that m a n y in-house systems are based on
work stations and more powerful computers due to the
limitation of microcomputers. Many such systems are
0 ~ _ ~o~ o ~ ~ 0.~.~
perceived to be rather limited in terms of capabilities
vis-a-vis requirements on large projects 5. Thus, the
prevalence of microcomputers cannot be taken as an
evidence that the hardware requirements should always
p-,~.~ ~ ~ o ~" m c~,--~'-~ O be microcomputers. However, capabilities of current
generation microcomputers are still on the rise, and
the authors postulate that a network, based on several
linked microcomputers, may well provide all the hard-
.--~'~ o.~ ~ 0 ~-- ~ ~ ~ ,- ~- ware needs of the future generation PM systems.
,'_.~.~ ~.,- o ~ = = - ~ .- :~ ~ o ~
~ ~ ~I ~ ~ ~ ~ 0 ~ ~" ~.-- ~'~
Systems interfacing
O.~. ~ ~ .~ ~ ~ .o.~- ° . "
Most of the commercial systems offer interfacing capa-
bilities of one form or another. Some explicitly create
file formats sending them to c o m m o n application soft-
~-~ -- ~ e~ 6 = ~ o.-'.=.-"o o o','- ware programs such as spreadsheets and word pro-
cessors. Some are capable of interfacing with other
PM software. For example, PlanView can interface
.~ ~ ~.=_ o o ~,.~.~ o o ~ ~ o'- with Microsoft Project, Artemis, Project Manager
Workbench and m a n y more. PlanView can also create
files in different formats, including ASCII, XLS, WKS,
CSV, MPX, and DIF. The prototype systems, on the
_~ o ~ o o_~ ~ ~ . = , . = = ~ ,. o . ~ other hand, appear to rely more on their implemen-
tation environments, which may or may not interface
with other programs. Normally these systems get
around the problem of interfacing by developing a
.,.~ ~ ¢'~ ..~ E program to communicate with other pertinent soft-
ware. In the main, however, there is no structural com-
monality in the data models used to facilitate
handshake, transmission, validation, verification and
automatic updating to take place in inter-software
communication of the above systems.
~.-~ ~ .-
As far as interoperability and compatibility aspects
are concerned the above interfacing capabilities are
less relevant, as the aim is to institute full electronic
and real time transactions between the systems used
~ ~,..~ o on a given project, including PMIS, CAD, construc-
tion planning system, H V A C design system (if any),
and others. This is the key to improvement of the
underlying processes on capital projects.

User-friendliness
Most of the commercial systems studied were found to
be relatively user-friendly. This is due in part, to their
simplicity in using microcomputers, and because they
are normally Windows-based. The prototype systems,
however, are perhaps less user-friendly than the com-
mercial systems. Some do not use Windows environ-
ment, and this detracts from the ease with which the
user can interact with the system.

Project management functions covered


The study shows that most commercial systems cover
resource leveling, scheduling, project control and time

253
Towards a SP1MS." A Jaafari and K Manivong

Table 2 Description of the PM systems sampled


System number System's name System's status Source (author) Minimum systems User friendliness I--low
requirements 2--medium 3--high
1 Viewpoint Commercial Archibald 6 PC, 512 K b R A M , 3
DOS 2.0
2 A M S Time Machine Commercial Apte 7 PC, 256 K b R A M 3
Artemis Commercial Weaver 8 Hewlett Packard 1000 2
3 mainframe
PertMaster Commercial Henry 9 PC, 128 K b R A M , 3
4 DOS 2.0
Qwiknet Commercial Davis et al.l° PC, 380 K b R A M , 3
5 DOS 2.0
Primavera Project Commercial Taleghani et al.ll PC, 512 K b R A M , 3
6 Planner DOS 2.0
COBRA Commercial http://www.wst.com/ 3
7 products/cobra.html~2
PlanView Commercial http:// 3
www.planview.com(
8 product/pvds.html-
PROCON Prototype Diekmann and A1- 2
9 Tabtabai ~4
CASPAR Prototype T h o m p s o m et al. 15 PC, 512 K b R A M , 2
l0 DOS 2.0
PMIS Prototype Jaafari 16 PC, 6 Mb R A M , 2
11 Windows 3.1
12 Expert-Risk Prototype Kangari and Boyer ~7 Microcomputer 2
PROMIS Prototype Heck Ig PC/AT/XT, 512 Kb 3
13 R A M , DOS 2.0
'Prototype' Commercial Abudayyeh and 2
14 Rosdorf 19
15 GHOST Prototype Navinchandra et al. 2° Lisp machine 2
CONSTRUCTION Prototype Hendrickson et al. 21 TI explorer, 2
PLANEX Knowledgecraft
16 environment
17 KNOW-PLAN Prototype Morad and Beliveau 22
18 CALLISTO Prototype Sathi et al. 23
19 PACES Prototype Scott and Yang 24
20 ELSIE Commercial Brandon 25 PC
21 OPIS Prototype Froese and Paulson 26 NeXT computer
COSTAZ Prototype Romblon and
22 Rosario, 27
23 Superproject Plus Commercial Frank 2s PC, 256 Kb R A M 3
24 CLIENT Commercial Hemmett 29 PC, D O S / U N I X 3

management (Table 3). N o t all commercial systems Point comparison


have equal capabilities. Also, the basic data modelling In order to do a systematic evaluation of the sampled
used on many is that suited to critical path analysis of systems the authors decided to use a point comparison
projects. This is not surprising as most current gener- approach. In this evaluation no attempt was made to
ation PM systems were originally developed to do carry out a comparative analysis of the systems within
scheduling, and many of these are still used predomi- the sample. Instead, they will be compared against the
nantly for this purpose. The evaluation of the sample idealised or smart PMIS, whose range of capabilities
systems shows that none really fits the description and functions were already presented in Table 1.
given for a smart or ideal PMIS. In short, many of the Below are the points scale the authors have used to
24 systems sampled were found to be excellent systems evaluate each system against the idealised PMIS:
in performing certain PM functions, for which they • a score of 1 shows poor comparison with the ideal-
have been designed. However, many lack the range or ised PMIS
capabilities sought by today's project planner/man- • a score of 2 shows moderate comparison with the
agers facing m a n y challenges on complex and uncer- idealised PMIS
tain projects. Also, and as stated, many of these • a score of 3 shows high comparison with the ideal-
systems have not been designed to facilitate proactive ised PMIS
project management approaches, or even provide inte- • a score of 4 has ideal capability.
grated evaluation of traditional areas such as cost, In assigning a perfect score of 4 to each PM func-
time and risks or handle information management, a tion in Table 1, the idealised PMIS's total score will be
function which the authors view as an essential integral 100, which is the ideal case. Note that the assumption
part of project management. is that SPMIS is technologically feasible to design and

254
Towards a SPIMS." A Jaq[ari and K Manivong

e-,
o
e-~
r~

o ..,z H

~ [,,,,,,, ~

ee5

.-- 0
&
•~ . ~ - ~ , , . ~ _ <~.~ ~ ~ ~.~"
o
~ ~ ~o ~ "~= ~
m ~ ',-- ,...

e*3

O e"
r, E.

255
Towards a SPIMS." A Jaafari and K Manivong

Table 4 Ranking of the PM systems has many inefficiencies and drawbacks. Firstly, there
System name Total score Rank
will be multiple data entries; each using their own data
modelling and structure. Second, there will be difficul-
CLIENT 39 1 ties in co-ordination of information across these soft-
PlanView 30 2
ware packages. In fact, the probability of a blunder in
COBRA 23 3
PACES 23 3 data entries increases with an increase in the number
Primavera 22 4 of systems used. Third, there will be no integrated
PROMIS 21 5 (compounded effect) analysis; this is not a desirable
Viewpoint 19 6 situation when judged against the fact on most projects
ELSIE 19 6
AMS 18 7
one disturbance will have a compound (chain reaction)
SuperProject plus 18 7 effect on many aspects of the project.
CALLISTO 18 7 There are two ways to respond to the existing dis-
Qwiknet 18 7 parity between the current PM systems and idealised
Artemis 17 8
PMIS, either to take one of the existing systems and
OP1S 16 9
PertMaster 16 9 try to build it up to the required capabilities, or to
"Prototype' 14 10 start afresh. The authors have decided on the latter,
PMIS 13 11 because many of the current systems are not necess-
COSTAZ 12 12 arily based on the latest technological advances in
Expert-Risk 9 13
CASPAR 8 14 computing and IT. Any system developed today must
PROCON 7 15 be flexible to accommodate inclusion of a range of
KNOW-PLAN 6 16 emergent IT technologies, as far as possible. A correct
P L A N EX 5 17 system architecture will also be necessary to take ad-
GHOST 4 18 vantage of the advances made in the science and art of
computing.
build; a point which will be considered in the second
part of this paper.
Note that there was no assignment of different Can a S P M I S be built?
weights to PM functions to differentiate those which In order to explore the feasibility of designing and
may be perceived to be more critical than others. The building a SPMIS the authors have reviewed the status
reason for this decision is the fact that an ideal system of IT technologies. The question of responsibility for
(SPMIS) should have a universal capability in respect total project information management has been con-
of any PM function. It is acknowledged that on a sidered and a model put forward, which is in accord
specific project one PM function may assume more im- with the centralised control strategy. The authors have
portance than others, due to circumstances surround- discussed the suitability of using object-based technol-
ing that project. However, this is not a valid argument ogies and have come up with quite specific approach
for introducing a bias in the SPMIS system design and to set up a project model suitable for automation of
capability ranges. project life cycle processes and integration of infor-
mation. As will be seen from the following discussion,
the suggested methodology is a pragmatic way of over-
coming some of the technological barriers which stand
Ranking of P M systems in the way of attaining a SPMIS.
Table 4 shows the ranking of the systems in accord-
ance with the total points each system scored. Figure 1
shows the top five systems in the sample. Note the IT outlook
equal ranks for PACES and COBRA. As seen from IT is the application of electronic processing, manipu-
the total scores' column, the best systems available do lation and transmission of information in all its forms,
not even possess one-half total capability required, text, data, graphics and still pictures, voice, moving
meaning that there is a long way to go to produce sys- images and a combination of these. The rapid develop-
tems which can respond to the pressing requirements ment of IT will have profound ramifications for pro-
of users in the project industry. Of all the systems ject management, particularly in changing the way
looked at, C L I E N T scored the highest. It has been projects are planned and managed in the near future.
claimed to be an integrated multidisciplinary on-line As mentioned earlier, capital projects tend to be com-
and real time management system 3°. It has the follow- plex, with hundreds or thousands of activities and tens
ing features: information, documentation, financial, or hundreds of resources. Effective implementation of
quality, time, claims and process management; elec- IT within projects, as well as the entire industry,
tronic mail; audit trails; and security. Relevant parties would improve the communication processes by an
from remote sites/terminals are brought together as order of magnitude, and would thus benefit the deliv-
interactive contributors through a central database. ery of all phases and functions on projects. More
The information is distributed in real time to uniquely importantly however, it will facilitate automation and
identified recipients, setting in motion contractual pro- integration of all activities over the project's life cycle.
cesses, obligations and responses with transactions In addition, it will allow for a larger number of
audited through the system facilities (information sup- options, products and solutions to be considered,
plied by Hemmett29'3°). appraised and included at minimum time. It will also
It is not surprising to see that typically, numerous allow project teams to function more efficiently, par-
software packages are used on a given project to aid ticularly under a concurrent construction arrangement.
with the delivery of the PM functions. This practice The net result should be significant savings in both

256
Towards a SPIMS: A Jaafari and K Manivong

Total score

PR0 MIS [//////d/d///////////

Primavera ~ Y//////////////////////////////A
[ ] Totalscore
PACES~Y////////////////////////////////////A

COBRA~ v/////////////////////////iJ
PlanView ~" / / ~ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / J

~/////////////////////////////////////////////j
I I I I I I
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40
Figure 1 The top five PM systems in the sample
project time and cost as well as improved realisation Project management and information flows
of project value and goals. As with all other technol- The predominant practice is still based on individual
ogies these benefits will not accrue automatically unless discipline-based designs which are coordianted in a
the industry sets in motion processes and means to tap piecemeal fashion, lump sum contracting and multiple
these effectively on projects. sub-contracting. Each party tends to work within its
The advent of multimedia communication technol- contractual framework and in isolation of the others.
ogies may well mean a greater variety of input infor- The project manager will thus be preoccupied with the
mation and interfaces, such as text, data, moving administration of the contractual provisions.
images, and sound or other forms. As an illustration, Professionals under contract to clients define what is
it is feasible to generate 3D images for the whole or needed to be done to fulfill the client's requirements.
There is constant data transfer a m o n g the various par-
parts of a project, which will allow construction plan-
ties and often complexities in data sharing and infor-
ners to have a better appreciation of the scope of that
mation flows occur.
part, and to come up with an improved construction
It is not u n c o m m o n to observe communication
plan for the same. In turn, the construction planner's breakdowns on projects, as well as misinterpretation of
output may well contain a simulated and video-ani- client goals or wrong interpretation of design docu-
mated explanation of the construction process and ments, use of outdated specification on vendors' sup-
plan. The people in the field may re-run this video to plied equipment and systems, errors in project
get a better appreciation of how the works were execution plans, transmission of inconsistent infor-
intended to be constructed. In addition, through the mation, conflicting data formats and the absence of
linking of computers it is possible to share multimedia defined protocols and so on. Project managers more
information across a wide geographical area. often than not concern themselves with resolution of
Looking over the medium to long horizon, it m a y conflicts. The end facility may or may not turn out to
become feasible to convey electronically the construc- be what the owner or client ordered, depending on the
interpretations of the different professionals working
tion plan to the on-board computers of the relevant
under different sets of contracts and contractual
construction equipment, and have these p r o g r a m m e d
arrangements on projects. This style of project ex-
accordingly. Certainly research and development will ecution is under fire but is so entrenched within the
become more focused on man-less computer-driven industry and the public and private institutions around
equipment in the near future, as it will be possible to the world that it will be a long time before one can
transfer hazardous and other less desirable work to contemplate its replacement.
man-less machines. Under concurrent construction the role of the pro-
The authors believe that, given the current state-of- ject manager is transformed from that of an adminis-
the-art, only text, data and graphics should be used as trator/coordinator/arbiter of conflicts to the active
means of capturing and analysing the core information manager and driver of the project activities to maxi-
on projects; other forms of information, such as voice mise project's net value or satisfy other objective func-
and moving images, should be seen as offering expla- tions 31"32. The project manager will have to be more
technically and technologically oriented than seen
nation and training facilitation, and providing auxili-
today. He should understand the core business of the
ary functions such as clarification of information.
client as it relates to the project, and should drive the
Adoption of this strategy is necessary otherwise there project forward to maximise the stipulated objective
will be technological difficulties in the short to medium functions. This approach requires freeing the project
term, in achieving a practical solution to the develop- from excessive administration burdens imposed on the
ment of a SPMIS. This is because multi-media conver- project by multi-phase project development and im-
sion technologies, such as voice recognition and data plementation and due to multiple contracting. The
capture from video images, are still in their infancy. legal framework under which projects are executed

257
Towards a S P I M S : A Jaafari and K Manivong

must change to ensure that the objectives of the pro- building/construction industry. AEC software vendors
ject participants are fully aligned with the objectives of will base their software products on the open object
the project, potential for conflicts removed and compo- technology. That is, these new object-oriented software
site teams are formed to work together in a multi-dis- technologies will supply the incorporation of building
cipline and integrated team environment to plan and industry information into interoperable objects for the
execute project activities. (See Jaafari 1 for more details building industry that will dramatically increase the
of concurrent construction). To support such a proac- sharing of information in the planning, design, con-
rive and goal-driven project management, information struction, and management of buildings. 33
flows must be brought under control, not only to
reduce incidences of breakdowns and errors, but also
to increase focus on objective functions and create Responsibility for project information
synergy among teams.
Broadly, information sets on a capital project consists
of the following types: design information; product
Information standardisation and process information; and management infor-
mation. These information types comprise the core of
In recent years, several moves have been underway to
communication content among the various pro-
bring the various disciplines involved in the design and
fessionals involved in a given project.
implementation of capital projects closer to sharing in-
The authors found that the project manager should
formation between software applications. Initiatives
be the appropriate party to assume responsibility for
such as the development and implementation of a pro-
the total information management on projects. A criti-
posed international standard (ISO 10303-225) for in-
cal function of the SPMIS should be to act as the mas-
formation specifications and interchange, known as
ter system (or control panel), managing information
'STEP', are intended to provide c o m m o n descriptions
transactions on the project as a whole, and providing
of product information for a variety of industries.
real time connections to the discipline-based systems
Also recently an alliance, known the Industry Alliance
or field construction information systems. The analogy
for Interoperability (IAI), has been formed to facilitate
used by Laufer e t al. 2 for management of communi-
and speed up moves to establishing data exchange
cation on projects is relevant to the author's adoption
links between the various systems used in the design
on this matter, viz.:
and execution phase of projects. IAI's chief focus is
the definition of Industry Foundation Classes (IFC), The flow of communication in the successful project re-
to provide a method for information sharing in the sembles traffic in a metropolitan city, heavy with noisy
construction industry. movement of all types of conveyances: bicycles, motor-
bikes, cars, cabs, trucks, buses, streetcars and trains,
IFC's will supply a common language for defining a
going in all directions at a breakneck speed without
building project. Using object-oriented and component
stopping. It is as though we watch the traffic at the
software technologies, IFC's will provide customizable
Place Charles de Gaulle (Etoile) in Paris at rush hour at
industry-based object definitions that will encapsulate
three times the normal speed, seemingly chaotic, but in
information about building elements as well as design,
fact flowing without a hitch, with resolute purposeful-
construction, and management concepts. 33
ness and direction. The effective manager does not act
1FC's will conform to STEP Standards. The goal of the in this tangle as a good traffic officer but more like the
IAI is to bring the benefits of interoperable software top person in the traffic control center of the city re-
and intelligent building objects to all players in the sponsible for the design, planning, adjustment and
Architect

Landscape Architect Structural Engineer


ElectricalEngineer
Suppliers " ~

Mechanical
Contractor
"Engineer

Hydraulic Engineer

Figure 2 A centralised approach to management of project information


258
Towards a SPIMS: A Jaafari and K Manivong

maintenance of the flow in lanes, highways and byways, will tend to interpret project objectives differently, and
and monitoring the city's heartbeat operating in con- conflict resolution can be quite demanding 34.
cert. A third approach reported in the literature 35'36 is to
have an in-built expert or intelligent system as part of
The authors believe that without a control structure,
each of the discipline-specific systems, which can act as
it will be impossible to systematically direct and con-
the information 'gate keeper', to the system to which it
trol the flow of information transactions on projects.
is attached. The expert system will use rules to evalu-
Figure 2 shows the strategy for centralising control
ate and validate any information set directed to, or
over information management on projects; under this
requested from its host system, and only after a proper
strategy both the flow and contents of core infor-
diagnosis will it allow the transaction to take place.
mation are proactively managed. Also, core infor-
The expert systems are referred to as intelligent agents
mation is made available to the various project team
and the whole approach is called the agent collabora-
members and stakeholders in a manner so as to create
tive environment 35"36.
synergy and provide conditions to maximise team con-
With multi-point information entry and 'free-for-all'
tributions to project objectives. This strategy is not
communication approach on projects there is potential
meant to be stifling the work of the designers or con-
for chaos in information management and creeping in
tractors and others. On the contrary, it is meant to
of errors, as well as conflicts among project team
streamline the communication process ensuring that
members. There are also many points in time and
the right piece of information will be furnished to the
space on projects where faulty lines of communication
team or party under consideration at the right time
can occur. Therefore, there is a need to have a disci-
and in a correct format to provide conditions to facili-
plined approach to the management of information on
tate optimal design and or production results.
projects. There are two sets of information, viz: (1)
those which are unique to each discipline, such as esti-
mates of cooling or heating loads used by the heating,
ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) engineer to
Creating a project model design the H V A C system; and (2) those which are
One way to create a structure for communication and c o m m o n to the project as a whole, such as the event-
integration of the project activities is to establish an in- ual size, location, type and specifications for the
formation model unique to each project. In setting up H V A C elements.
a model for the project it may be possible or even Linking of the various seemingly unrelated and dis-
desirable to select some or all of the elements from a cipline-specific systems through the so-called intelligent
universally recognisable library of elements. The main agents can be very complex, slow, and unnecessarily
distinguishing feature is however that the chosen infor- cumbersome. This explains why the authors have
mation model must be able to act as a basis or provide elected to utilise a specific 'product' and or configur-
a protocol that is necessary to characterise the project ation model of the project as the basis of the system
and provide conditions for its successful and proactive design and inter-discipline communication, co-ordina-
life cycle management. tion and integration. Also in the case of deliverables
Some authors have explored an approach in which which are not physical objects in nature, such as de-
the project model is gradually evolved through linking, sign drawings for a particular part of the project, the
- - either manually or using machine intelligence, the product can be defined as the end deliverable, e.g. the
various computer-based systems used by project par- completed drawing set. It will be linked to the physical
ticipants 34. The machine recognition approach assumes product it relates to.
that individual discipline-based systems will be able to It is not advisable to allow the project information
'talk' to one another in real time, verify information model to evolve arbitrarily over time from the assem-
sets received or transmitted between them, using a bly of disparate sets of information coming from var-
c o m m o n protocol to read and decode the information ious points or systems, without a direct relation to the
received or requested on an element by elment basis or selected objective functions and other goals. To allow
do the same via a translation software. The input may this to happen is to forego the advantages of running
come at any point, from a project team member, or it the project proactively in a focused goal seeking man-
m a y be received from a system within the network of ner.
linked systems.
This is where IFCs and STEP will enter the scene.
Thus, theoretically, each discipline could carry out its Communication through product models
design using a collection of 'intelligent objects' drawn The authors' research shows that the most effective
from a library of universally recognised standard way of managing information is for responsibility for
objects. Although each discipline would still use disci- management of the discipline-specific information to
pline-specific objects, these would be understood and reside within the respective parties; while the project
automatically related to other objects. The upshot of manager presides over the core information. To
this approach will be a gradual accumulation of pro- achieve the required degree of proactive management
ject elements designed and specified by different pro- of the whole project activities the project manager
fessionals over a period of time, and without a true must adopt a 'control centre' strategy for management
integrated team approach. While the use of intelligent of core information transactions, i.e. to have all the
objects will no doubt facilitate rapid formation of a core information collected, validated, stored and
project specific model which will be recognisable by all brought under a centralised control with appropriate
the project participants, it will not necessarily lead to degree of discipline, authority and security. The
optimum project configuration, as different disciplines authors define the core information on a project as

259
Towards a SPIMS: A Jaafari and K Manivong

those information sets which will determine the physi- lationship of the work of the teams. For example, a
cal nature of the end facility, its functions, elements, contractor responsible for the execution of a particular
its delivery timing and associated capital and operating line of products situated within the jurisdiction of sev-
cost limits, as well as information related to the man- eral teams on a given project may well want to plan
agement of the external affairs (stakeholders, media, and rationalise the use of major resources within the
the statutory bodies and so on). Safeguards and man- entire scope of his/her contract.
agement structure considerations must also be built
into the system from the outset. This is a key function
of the proposed SPMIS. It will be programmed in Summary of the approach adopted for SPMIS
such a way that it will automatically establish a
specific product model of the project interactively at
an early stage. Though this may change over time all 1. Define the level of project breakdown into major
parts or constitutent systems, followed by division
the changes thereafter will be effected in order to add
value to the project or meet specified requirements. of each part or system into constitutent products.
As a guide, one can use the quality management
Changes are only possible if negotiated with and sanc-
tioned by the project manager. scheme foreshadowed for the project to define its
The other reason why a specific product model of a constituent systems, parts, products or deliverables.
project is essential stems from the need to integrate in- The point of division is decided considering the
acceptance scheme under which works or products
formation across the project life cycle. As stated
already, the proposed SPMIS will have to support are to be delivered;
proactive management of the project, particularly in 2. All project participants must be required to use the
respect of the objective functions such as T L C C / u n i t authorised product model and develop their plan-
output, cost/worth ratio and profitibility index. These ning, design or development work around it. Their
functions must not only be monitored for the whole output will no doubt generate further products,
project by also for the constitutent systems or major some of which will be discipline-specific. Only the
project manager will have the authority to accept or
parts, to ensure that the decisions made on the design,
specification and management of these are also opti- substitute products. Note that each new product,
mum. For example, on a thermal power station, the through declared properties assigned to it at the
cooling system is to be considered as a constituent sys- time of creation, will identify itself with one or
tem and the design and construction of this system more products within the model. For example, a
must be optimised in order to achieve a certain target pump designed to be installed on specific floor of a
T L C C per unit cooling load. machine room will recognise its association with the
floor (a new product identifying with an existing
In addition to the aforementioned quantitative
objective functions the SPMIS must respond to the product).
holisitc management of the soft functions over the life 3. Although product association is the basis for inte-
of the project, such as management of OH & S, en- gration and management of information, the disci-
pline-based designs will be carried out for the
vironmental protection and media and public relations.
project as a whole, as is customary now. This is
The SPMIS must be programmed to locate and report
violations, particularly those affecting safety, operabil- nececessary to allow application of a proactive
value-driven approach to the project development
ity, quality and the engineering integrity of the project
and implementation;
concept. With the advent of innovative project delivery
4. The SPMIS will direct and regulate the electronic
methods, such as concurrent construction, it will be
conceivable that the entire implementation program flow of information between itself (PM) and other
systems using the product model as the denomi-
will be integrated into one phase to save time and
nator. Thus request and dispatch of information
maximise the project's net value rather than just
achieve time and cost completion targets 1'31"32. So it is and other communications will be programmed to
imperative to develop and maintain a specific product operate automatically using the products or objects
model of the project at the outset, and use the same as representing the same as the foundation. However
the vehicle for proactive management and life cycle in- under this system, a particular project participant
need not communicate electronically, so long as he/
tegration of the entire project activities as the project
she can return to the PM the products that will
progresses.
relate to his/her scope of work in the prescribed
Research shows that the product model will be an
format for inclusion into the project's catalogue of
effective and powerful structure for integration of the
products;
activities of the entire teams, as well as management of
core information on projects 37 39. The authors also 5. All analysis and evaluation of the information sets
(of whatever type) held within the SPMIS will be
believe that there is no need to have a process model
carried out for the whole project or the parts
also described to parallel the product model, since the
specifically queried (where no inter-dependency
focus of the entire project management should be on
exists). In doing the evaluation the SPMIS will
the end deliverables. Each team responsible for a
automatically check any dependent effect(s) of a
major part or a system on the project may thus define
particular change. It will be programmed to carry
the relevant process which will fall under its responsi-
out a holistic analysis even though the user may
bility. An integrated team will include members drawn
only be asking the system for a function-specific
from the appropriate disciplines, as well as the con-
evaluation.
tractor, the facility user and representation from the
relevant statutory authorities and governments. Also, Because this approach creates a structure of product
it is imperative to define the process considering the re- it lends itself particularly well to object-oriented pro-

260
Towards a SPIMS: A Jaafari and K Manivong

gramming. The SPMIS can be p r o g r a m m e d to set up methods supported by the class of objects a primary
a product model of the project using object-oriented way in which objects communicate with each other. An
programming, and through imported information (e.g. object (sender) communicates with another object (re-
from C A D files), and or interaction with the PM using ceiver) by sending a message. The receiver object
project definition information as the basis. Thus, a returns a response after a message is received. Messages
group of objects representing a major part of the pro- are generally accompanied by arguments.
ject m a y be linked together. This enables establishing
Thus, each object has a unique identification code,
information association between a major part of the
and contains within it information and p r o g r a m codes
project and its respective products. This provides a
which will enable it to interact with other objects
technique for linking the relevant information through-
through exchanging messages. An object can have
out project life cycle phases, from concept design
defined properties, and through these defined or
through to preliminary and detailed design, construc-
declared properties it is possible to construct a com-
tion and start up.
plex assembly of objects in order to analyse any func-
A valid question is how the product model can
tion. The structures created through assembly of
relate to the work package model of the project. We
objects may or may not be permanent, and are
all know that construction contractors and fabricators
intended to link objects in order to respond to a cer-
prefer to use work packaging as the basis o f their in-
tain c o m m a n d (e.g. to estimate project costs or to look
formation models, since it represents the consumption
into compliance with certain environmental con-
of resources; i.e. materials and consumables, plant-
straints). Objects can be said to be 'intelligent' when
hours and man-hours. The key to the linkage is the
the information or codes contained within them enable
quantity o f permanent work contained within a given
them to associate with one another according to a par-
work package, and the product(s) it relates to, e.g. a
ticular command. For example, through intelligent
part of a reinforced concrete sub-structure could be
objects it is possible to have all H V A C parts of a pro-
declared as a product in this instance, and the work
ject recognised and related to one another automati-
package could relate only to the construction of that
cally. The association is created through information
part. It will be possible to declare a contractor-specific
and program codes encoded into each object and
object for each work package, and further decompose
through object-oriented programming, which will
it into constituent tasks and resources, and or link it
make objects 'talk' to one another.
to a sub-contract object. The important point is that
this decomposition o f work package into tasks and
resources is carried out by the contractor to suit his/
her operation; it is referenced back to the project's
product model, through the product linkage. Each Execution of PM functions using systems'
time a query is raised by the SPMIS to the contrac- approach
tor's system regarding consumption of resources to Both hard systems' and soft systems' approach are rel-
construct a given product, the latter system will simply evant to the execution of the PM functions. What is a
aggregate the relevant information, note the com- system's approach, and how it differs from other
pletion status (i.e. the quantity of work done or per- forms of analysis? Dias et aL 41 define a system's
centage points completed), and report back this approach in terms of its core concept, viz.:
information to the SPMIS.
Interconnectedness of hierarchically arranged concepts.
A member of the hierarchy is seen as both a whole and
a part, i.e. a holon; this means that each whole is
Object-oriented systems greater in significance than the sum of its parts. In
The following description given by Abdalla and other words, holons display emergent properties.
Y o o n 4°, will amply convey the underlying concept for Process loops with interaction and feedback, and the
object-oriented systems: participation of the change agent in the process, leading
In an object-oriented system, all entries (physical or to learning.
conceptual) are represented by objects. Each object is They add:
an instance of a class. A class describes a set of physical
or conceptual objects that have similar properties, con- One practical manifestation of a systems-based formali-
straints, and operations. Each class defines attributes, sation is diagramming. Two graphical images are often
or a set of data, that define the state of the object, and used in systems--a pyramid (signifying hierarchy) and a
a set of methods (or procedures) that describes the loop (signifying interaction).
object's behaviour. Each object has specific values Object-based programming together with systems
assigned to the attributes defined for its class. Objects approach provide a powerful method to create a smart
that belong to the same class have the same methods, P M I S system. This is because objects can be declared
and they behave similarly. Each object encapsulates as descendants of others or as an aggregate of a group
(hides) its data attributes from other objects, and only of objects already declared. The declaration will
shows its behaviour. A class may have several derived remain an attribute of the object and in combination
classes that may inherit some of its attributes and be- can lead to formation of a hierarchical structure
haviour (inheritance). A class may have one base class a m o n g declared objects. By having several attributes
(single inheritance) or several base classes (multiple declared for a particular object it is possible to support
inheritance). Inheritance, in addition to being a way of both aggregation and or decomposition hierarchical
organising objects, enables efficient and natural reusabil- structures or specialisation structures to suit the situ-
ity of codes. Messages are the means of invoking the ation.

261
Towards a SPIMS: A JaaJari and K Manivong

The object-oriented programming can support both method of scheduling is not used, as the CPM and
hard systems, as well as soft systems analysis of project precedence networks create confusion regarding esti-
information. For execution of each PM function it will mation of project duration, or estimation of the var-
be necessary to define information routing, in terms of iance of the same. Fortunately, a new compatible and
a process loop and interconnectedness, so as a clear real time (non-network) scheduling method, named:
and function-specific linkage pattern can be created Time And Priority Scheduling (TAPAS) m e t h o d 32'44,
between the relevant interacting objects in order to can be employed in place of CPM, as it has been
execute the same. It is possible to write generic pro- designed to respond to the required dynamic and real
grams activated by the relevant c o m m a n d keys, each time scheduling needs on projects. Thus, there should
representing a specific PM function, for creation of be no major technical barriers to the simultaneous
these so-called virtual structures of objects. Once acti- execution of inter-related hard PM functions using a
vated the SPMIS will be able to scan all objects, and unified bank of information.
isolate the target objects, establish function specific
routing and interconnectedness, and perform the
required holistic analysis. A systems' approach implies Simultaneous execution of soft functions
that there should be function to function links,
so as the SPMIS will be able to evaluate the impact A review of the literature on soft systems and evalua-
that a change has throughout the project in a holistic tive techniques show that it is also possible and desir-
manner. This is possible using object-based program- able to link the execution of the relevant soft functions
ming. together, and undertake a simultaneous evaluation of
the introduced change, where relevant. The authors see
the foundation science behind the evaluation of soft
Accommodation of all functions in a single system functions principally to be the employment of 'reflec-
Can a single project management information system tive practice'. There are a number of ways that compu-
be developed to support all PM functions? The answer ters are used to aid reflective practice; viz.: knowledge-
to this question is yes, provided that all project infor- base systems, case-base reasoning and neural networks.
mation sets, regardless of whether these are soft or In expert systems, knowledge is captured using rules
hard, are contained (and updated) within objects. In a which are then used to evaluate new sets of infor-
sense, when a function is activated, it will create a real mation. In case-base reasoning, case histories are used
time and unique systems' model of objects, and a par- to train the machine. The case information could even
ticular form of computation or evaluation unique to be generated during the formative stage of a project
that function will be executed. when m a n y items of information are inputted into the
In the case of soft evaluations obviously a soft sys- machine. Using developed techniques it is possible to
tems analysis 4z, or an expert system type evaluation get the computer to compare the 'status' against the
will take place. It is of course possible to have multiple pattern discernible from 'stored cases' to identify any
PM functions each with its own generic program, deviation. Artificial neural networks are probably the
nestled within the SPMIS, including pre-determined most effective approach to the establishment of case-
sequential flow on links between them. So long as their base reasoning. Dynamic analysis of the information
coding can recognise the specific objects within the sets is also possible ~7.
project-specific model, and relate to the information
and codes contained within each there is no reason
why the SPMIS cannot be the ' m o t h e r b o a r d ' for all Proposed S P M I S architecture
the PM functions. Objects which represent either pro-
ducts or deliverables or both, although specific to each
Figure 3 shows the conceptual model of the proposed
SPMIS. This diagram does not show all PM functions
project, must carry both hard and soft information.
(only showing typical PM functions). It is intended to
Hard information will refer to quantities, variances,
convey the following broadly stated functional capa-
dimensions and any other data needed to execute the
bilities:
PM functions at a later date. Soft functions will refer
to the attributes and conditions, as well as socio-econ- • The system will be programmed to automatically set
omic factors, such as environmental, safety rules and up a project-specific product model for each project.
SO o n . Interactive communications Windows will allow
entry of information sets and rules, relevant to each
object, including establishment of the association of
Combination of hard functions objects with one another. Because of the in-built
Under this heading the authors have explored the intelligence the SPMIS will assess validity of all in-
possibility of combining and analysing a number of formation entries at any stage to ensure against
functions in an integrated manner. For example, there blunders or inconsistent information sets. No sophis-
is benefit in having data related to project duration, ticated skills will be required other than what is
project cost estimation, and risk analysis all combined common in the use of Windows-based software.
and analysed. This is because time, and cost are inter- • There will be 'satellites' of both hard and soft PM
related variables, and risk analysis concerns estimation function program modules, each of which will, either
of the variances of the same variables. singly or in combination, create real time temporary
Research 43"44 has highlighted that it is indeed feas- structures of objects, execute certain systems' analy-
ible to execute m a n y hard PM functions in combi- sis and evaluation and report back to the status of
nation, using a unified bank of information extracted project as far as the function(s) under consideration
from the project's objects, provided the critical path is concerned.

262
Towards a SPIMS." A Jaafari and K Manivong

Typical Soft Integrated Project Typical Hard Future directions


Functions Information Model Functions
A detailed case study of a fairly large project
($A84 million construction project, forming part of a
M•aganag
Team
emen,~ & Management $A300 million news printing facility) has been com-
pleted. The case study is not intended to shed light on
Conceptual the technological achievability of the computing side
Quality Budgeting & of the SPMIS. Rather it is intended to verify the appli-
cability of the SPMIS concept as a whole, and seek
Planning, conceptual improvement before the development phase
Design and commences. The development work on the SPMIS has
Documentation rot. iS( commenced and it is hoped that a prototype system
Plan
will be available by the end of the current year.
OH&S
Management The focus of the research is on the development of
Implementation an integrated facility engineering (IFE) system of
Detailed design, Scope Mgmt. which the SPMIS is a part. The objective is to develop
Procurement)
the proposed IFE system to aid in the automation and
Management integration of the entire life cycle project processes,
including definition, design, procurement, construction
Value Engr./ management and commissioning of facilities.
Value Mgmt.
Communicatior
Management On-going
Management Conclusions
Construction and isk & Liabilit
Commissioning) Management

1. A case was made for the need for a smart project


Construction management information system. The main feature
Management of such systems will be their capabilities to assist a
goal-driven and focused approach to the develop-
ment and management of the project, capitalising
on opportunities and steering clear of constraints.
2. The SPMIS embraces a holistic view of the project.
The main thrust of this system is to encourage a
shift from the current adminitration-based and
Figure 3 Broad concept architecture of the SPMIS multi-phase project management to a goal-driven
proactive practice in which the project manager will
preside over the development and implmentation of
the project in a single integrated phase;
3. The feasibility of building the SPMIS was explored
• Through linkages of functions to the life cycle at some length with the conclusion that the IT and
phases, it will be possible to get a comprehensive computing technologies were indeed at a stage to
overview of the status of a project at any time in its support the underlying concept of the SPMIS. The
life, and verify the impact of any change(s). This authors' preferred approach is based on a unique
objective-based approach will open the door for project-specific product modelling, using object-
newer forms of project delivery, based on integration oriented programming techniques.
4. The application of systems' approach in solving the
of design and construction for project value maximi-
project information in order to execute a particular
sation, as opposed to the familiar forms of fixed function, or a combination of inter-related func-
contracting. tions, was also discussed.
• The SPMIS will have no specialised hardware
requirements beyond that which will be needed to
support the shell on which the SPMIS will run. It is References
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29. Hemmett, J., CLIENT: CSSP PTY LTD, 326 328 The Parade, Professor in the University of
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364 1908. Engineering. He holds" a PhD from
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Australia, April 1996, pp. 209 212. had more than 16 years of industry
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IPMA World Congress on Project Management, Paris, 24-26 ing the Project Management
June 1996, Vol. 2, pp. 737 746. Division of Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC),
32. Jaafari, A., Twinning time and cost in incentive-based con- an international firm of engineers and project managers. Dr
tracts. ASCE Journal of Management in Engineering, 1996, Jaafari's recent research has focused on the development of auto-
12(4), 62 72. mated and dynamie project management systems, as part of inte-
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Proceedings of International Construction Information industry in Australia and overseas.

264
Towards a S P I M S : A Jaafari and K Manivong

Kitsana Manivong is an Honours"


graduate in Civil Engineering from
the University o f Sydney. He was
awarded a PhD Scholarship through
the University of Sydney "s
Department o f Civil Engineering
and is currently engaged on research
and development of smart project
management information systems.
As part o f this research he has com-
pleted a large case study o f a major
capital project recently completed in
Australia.

265