Matt Walsh is the Operations Technology Manager for Power Construction out of Chicago Illinois. He started with Power as a Project Engineer and worked his way up to being a Project Manager before taking on his current role managing Power’s operational software and technology. His expert knowledge of construction technology paired with his experience on the jobsite allows Walsh to not only identify software solutions that can drive operational efficiency, but also understand the direct impact technology can have on projects.
Power has experienced tremendous growth in recent years having nearly doubled in size. This growth, paired with the challenges brought on by COVID-19, has led to their leadership asking a simple question. How do they manage all of their staff effectively? Having used a series of spreadsheets and PDF reports for nearly two decades, the team recently signed with Bridgit to leverage our resource management solution, Bridgit Bench. Power is now leveraging project phases to create a proactive resource strategy, and permissions to involve their larger team.
Bridgit’s CRO, Sean Erjavec, sat down with Matt for an exclusive Q&A. Below you’ll find our behind-the-scenes look at the interview. See the full Q&A here.
What are some of the recent goals and challenges Power has had as an organization?
Power has doubled in size in about a two and a half year period, so being able to manage that effectively and timely is super critical. We were doing everything in Excel and PDF to this point with managing staff on our core staffing team for the company, but it’s just not as efficient as we needed it to be. If we’re going to be managing growth, we need to know where the problem areas are because we needed to move from a state that was reactionary to precautionary. Having all of that readily accessible is very important.
The other piece that’s also very important is how we communicate this to the company. Coming up through the ranks on the construction side of this company, I never knew what job I was going to next. Sometimes I would find out I was moving from one project to another the day of. So those kinds of things are difficult and it was hard on the staff.
Now we have the ability to use great reporting tools in a way that makes sense. We need to speak the same language. In construction, we’re all using Gantt charts and scheduling tools. It’s what we live and die by and Gantt charts with projects and staffing just makes sense. That way, we’re not trying to teach people to look and understand the crazy custom Excel and PDF combination. So those were the two biggest pieces we needed to nail down. And then through that bred our efficiency and our ability to actually stay on top of things.
Power is tracking projects through various different phases, from pursuits to closeout. What does that look like in terms of managing projects using phases?
Resource planning touches so many hands. There’s the pursuit stage, which we now track in Bridgit Bench as well. We do over 200 projects in one city, how is that even possible? Well, we have about seven subdivisions within the company. So there’s a workplace group, LRG, VIP housing. We have all these sub groups that almost operate independently, but we all report back and share the same project managers and superintendents between our projects.
Project scale also varies wildly in size. We need to be able to track at the most granular level for two week jobs while we also need to track four year projects. So Bridgit Bench gave us the flexibility to do it all at once. A critical component is when you go from a pursuit, you have a pre-construction effort involved in that project. So that was the piece that we’ve never tracked together between operations and pre-construction. They’ve always had their own living staffing plans. Now we have that integrated together. When we started with Bridgit Bench over a year ago, that was the tipping point for us.
So we went all-in this past January with Bridgit Bench. We’d been using it on a smaller scale before that, but now from our executive team’s perspective, it’s at the point where we can run the company and take advantage of project phases. Pre-con wants to be able to track daily efforts with multiple pursuits or multiple jobs that they’re working on from a pre-construction standpoint. Where that same exact minute an executive is tracking their projects and they’re looking at the scale in a month, six months to a year. So those different scales needed to be present. That’s integrated now.
Bridgit Bench has flexibility that allows us to get down to the granular level, without having to sacrifice our holistic views. That’s a big piece. Pre-construction operates a lot more detailed than an actual construction job. So that’s where Bridgit Bench shines now, being able to take it to the level where you can use it in a pre-construction environment, which is a lot more intense. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve noticed such a huge impact internally. Our preconstruction and BD team, we’re all speaking the same language. There’s no more questions about who’s working on what.
From that point, you move into the construction job, which is the bread and butter. Bridgit Bench works perfectly for managing staff across multiple projects. The other piece that’s important is phasing. Phasing was the last piece that, in our opinion, needed to be in place for us to start using Bridgit Bench exclusively. Phasing basically means you could have a construction job that is broken down into multiple phases.
For us, estimating starts a project. That project has a design development phase or, before that, schematic design, conceptual design, we go to DD, and then we go to the actual GMP drawing set. Those are all phases that we can track and you can assign staff to each phase. When we need to shift dates, which happens constantly, it’s not a manual, horrible chore to update. When you move a phase, the staff moves with it. When you move a project, you can choose who follows around. It just makes sense. It’s intuitive. And those have been some of the biggest components for us.
Let’s talk fragmented or siloed data. Power is using custom permission groups in Bridgit Bench to control accessibility for the larger team, is that correct?
Yes! That’s such an important topic because when staffing plans are being put into place, whatever your size, moving a PM from one job to the next can be a matter of them moving state. There’s a lot of implications that need to be considered from the people side of it. What should people see and what should they not? We don’t want to cause a panic. The permissions come into play big time there. You have the ability to hide specific datasets you have associated with projects.
We have an executive staffing team that has full access to do whatever they want in Bridgit Bench. Then we have our senior team below them that is actually running all those projects. The senior project manager may have five or six jobs they oversee. The senior PMs are the ones choosing, negotiating, and sharing staff. The executives are then signing off on it and providing their input.
The view only permission is excellent for sharing data with that senior team, they can go in and see everything, but they can’t change anything because you don’t want too many chefs in the kitchen. That’s a balance that you will have to figure out internally, which is why it’s important to keep the scale of that controlled, and view only does a great job of that.
The reporting tool is excellent because you can create and send a custom report that mimics your view in Bridgit Bench. That’s what we use when we’re sharing with project teams. We push out from the reporting tool to those that don’t have access to Bridgit Bench.
What does your existing tech stack look like today? How is Bridgit Bench running within that tech stack and how did you ramp up automations?
You’re touching on a really important point here and that’s to not bite off more than you can chew to start. When you’re moving a core functionality in a company such as staffing and managing construction projects, it’s a big undertaking.
In the beginning, it was a lot of me having to show them how to use Bridgit Bench and convince them it’s a good thing. The best applications, in my opinion, eventually separate themselves by selling themselves internally in an organization. There’s not very many that do that.
I don’t have to do that with Bridgit Bench anymore. The advocates for it are the people using it. It’s had exponentially quick growth within the company. Accounting saw it and they wanted in. L&D saw it, they wanted in. HR is also asking to be integrated. That’s only happened with one other application within the company in the last two and a half years that I’ve been doing this. After you’ve got your foundation laid, you can build from there.
Integrations become important when you start thinking about the next steps. The first integration that we are tackling is integrating into our HR platform, Ceridian. That’s where we manage all of our sensitive information and HR benefit packages. It all runs through there. So we have a developer in house on a team that we utilize for this. As you grow, a developer on staff almost becomes mandatory. We’re building an integration through Bridgit’s open API. We are going to build a bridge from Ceridian through the integration that’s being built, and we’ll push all of our staffing information into Bridgit. So it’s eliminating double entry, which is a big win because it’s been double entry forever. Or even triple entry in some cases. We’re doing the same thing with our accounting department.
Those are some key integrations that take a couple of weeks to build, but when you spend money building the integration, you have to look down the road at how much time you save. Once again, everyone is using the same application, it’s only being updated in one place. That’s super important. In construction, there’s applications that come and go, this is something you shouldn’t pass up.