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How can we manage projects in the face of global uncertainty?

When the clock struck midnight on January 1 2020, few would have predicted the level of disruption that nations, businesses and individuals were about to face in the proceeding years. For the construction industry, it has been a challenging few years, and while it seems the worst of the pandemic is behind us, supply chain shocks, labour market shortages and rising inflation mean an end to global and local uncertainty is far from imminent. This is bad news for an industry in which many businesses are already on the brink.

While many of these problems appear novel, disruption and uncertainty are really the only certainties in the construction industry. In good years and bad, projects run over time and over budget nine times out of ten on average. Project managers can point the finger at external stressors, but the reality is that there will always be external stressors out of the managers control that add uncertainty to project delivery. Whether it is global price shocks or a string of unseasonal rain days – any number of factors can push out timeframes and blow budgets.

So how can project managers better manage uncertainty and find those projects in the portfolio that are at significant risk?

Accept the things you cannot change

The first lesson from the current climate is that organisations and individuals on every side of project delivery need to be flexible in their approach and accept factors out of their control. COVID taught us that external factors can transform our daily lives, and radically alter business practices almost overnight.

Technology to change what you can

While project professionals should not feel responsible for things out of their control, it’s incumbent on them to get on top of internal factors that they can manage. Something needs to change in an industry where incorrect forecasts are the norm, and cost overrun is a regular occurrence across project portfolios. There are technologies in operation now that can help managers avoid surprises and intervene sooner – delivering less uncertainty across portfolios.

Octant AI’s technology is helping our clients identify problem projects sooner, meaning they can take remedial actions and avoid big blowouts. By learning from thousands of points of project data, our technology reduces uncertainty and helps guide better decision making. In times where margins are squeezed tighter and tighter, as external factors drive up prices and delay delivery, seeing risks sooner can mean the difference between a profitable portfolio and a major loss.

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