Web-based document management, project management and collaboration tools are gaining traction within the African construction sector. So says Tim White, CEO of Profica, a construction and property solutions company that provides expert development, project and construction management services to high-profile clients across the African continent.
Profica joined forces with Project Portfolio Office in 2007 to formulate an instance of online project portfolio management (PPM) and collaboration application, PPO, specifically for the construction industry – and the tool has seen a massive uptake in acceptance over the past few years.
“Profica initially trialled PPO seven years ago, after conducting exhaustive research into the project and portfolio management (PPM) tool market. We successfully used the tool for the construction of the Gugulethu Square shopping centre in Cape Town, as well as for the Nampak Wiegand Glass cullet project in Johannesburg, and decided that PPO was a project management application that the built environment at large could benefit from.”
“Based on this, we worked closely with Project Portfolio Office to create this tailor-made construction instance of PPO, which has been rolled out to Profica’s project partners such as architects and engineering firms, as well as to clients.”
“PPO’s customisability scored top marks, as it allowed us to incorporate lessons learnt and specific processes put together for the built environment and combine it with its PPM expertise and local knowledge,” he continues. “PPO’s holistic view and central repository, which allows access to all related documentation and information, makes for improved, easier management and allows all parties to check each step of the process – proactively managing risk.”
And while the Gugulethu-based shopping centre was a great starting point, Profica has seen a considerable uptake in PPO acceptance with its partners over the past two years specifically. White attributes this to a growing understanding of technology in general across the global and local construction sector, particularly when it comes to web-based document management and collaboration solutions.
“Today, Profica generates more than 60 percent of its business outside of South African borders. This has led to an even greater need for collaboration within our organisation, as we are now working with many different parties across the globe, from African consulting businesses for instance, to architects based in Europe. Architects and engineers, for example, need to share designs and information, while clients need access to a quick health indicator of the project – all of which can be done via PPO. The configuration ability of PPO has been of particular importance here, as the tool can even be changed to meet the needs of a specific region or country if necessary.”
There are currently around 300 users including clients such as Old Mutual, Actis, Group Five Properties and ABSA utilising the Profica configuration of PPO, currently in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Mauritius, South Africa, France, Portugal, Lebanon, China, the USA and the UK, across many sectors from commercial property through to healthcare. .
“PPO has been of particular benefit for the construction of mixed use precincts, where a complex array of developers and shareholders can manage various stages on the system but all involved can collaborate”, White explains.
Says Guy Jelley, CEO of Project Portfolio Office: “Profica was one of Project Portfolio Office’s first clients within the construction industry, and over the past seven years it has been gratifying to see how the project environment within this space has matured over these years; using PPO for the day-to-day management of construction projects, such as requests for information, variation orders, approval, reporting and the issuing of documentation.
“PPO’s flexible pricing model is well suited to the built space as its scales with ease – important from the project lifecycle, as they start, intensify and then ramp down. The ability to access PPO from any device, anywhere, and the fact that it is simple to use with minimal training, are ideal advantages for this sector. We are particularly pleased to be making greater inroads within Africa with this instance.”