It is vital to collect and maintain your A/E/C firms project experience. As marketers and business developers, we use this information in qualifications, proposals, and presentations as well as our website and social media efforts. However, managing project information is a project itself.
Similar to the different ways (explained here and here) that we can develop our resume update process, the same is true for managing project information. This article shares some ideas on how you can set up a system that works for your firm. Then I share a case study of how one firm is maintaining their project information and provide some ideas to automate the project update process.
Project Information Management Methods
There are a few different methods or times when you want to manage project information. Many of them depend on the way you may end up using the information.
- Annual updates – This is when you update your project information once per year. You can decide to update all your projects once per year or divide them up by market, office, project manager, etc. to update on a rolling basis.
- Project milestones – This would be a system when you collect project information at different stages of the projects. For example, you can collection information at the project award, kick-off, 30%, 50%, and 100% completion of the project.
- Pursuit driven – You can collect specific project info based on the pursuit you are working on. Ideally this is done during the capture planning (or preproposal/RFP) stage of a pursuit. Oftentimes, I find that we collect project information as we need it to complete proposals while we are on a deadline. I wouldn’t recommend this a preferred method, but collecting project information before the RFP, can be useful. You may need specific previous project experience tailored specific to the new pursuit you are chasing.
- Award submittals – If you have decided to submit for project awards. You can use the project award criteria as the method and outline to collect your project information.
- Initiative driven updates – Does you firm have certain initiatives coming up this year? They may involve updating your project experience information. These initiatives can include a new website, a rebrand, a merger or acquisition or just because your CEO or boss wants the projects to be updated!
Start with the End in Mind
Knowing in what ways you will be using the project information; will help you determine when and what to collect. For example, if you know this project will most likely be submitted for a DBIA award, you may want to capture both design- and construction-related information. In fact, you should probably get the previous year’s award questions and use that as the outline of the information to collect during the project.
Case Study: Managing Project Information with Site Visits
A construction firm in Florida has established a site visit program to get the project information that they need. I spoke to Michelle H., their marketing manager, who walked me through their process.
- The marketing representation sends a PIP (Project Information Profile) before the meeting to the job site. They usually have a project engineer fill in all the data. This includes project facts like costs, square footage, client, etc.
- The meeting is then scheduled. The project manager(s), safety manager, superintendent, and quality control manager meet with the marketing representative to talk about the project. She told me she usually brings them breakfast or lunch. Food typically works best.
- Then they walk the marketing rep around the job site and point out some of the items they discussed during their meeting. Michelle told me that this gives her a visual picture of what they were talking about which helps when she is back at the office trying to write up the information.
- The marketing rep then goes back to the office to draft the project story or description.
- The project information is then sent back to the project team for review and final approval.
Some other items to note about their site visit program:
- Once the job is awarded, a marketing representative is assigned to that project through its duration. That rep is responsible for the preliminary info at the kick-off meeting along with some type of rendering. That rep also collects all the documents used for the pursuit and store them in the database for the project.
- The marketing rep is responsible for conducting the site visit meeting at least the kick-off meeting, 50% completion and closeout. They do many design-build projects, so they try to get to some of the design reviews as well.
- At the 50% site visit they try to gather info such as lessons learned so far, especially around the design lessons.
- They use the award submission questionnaires to form the questions they ask at their site visit meetings
- When they schedule their photoshoots for the projects, a marketing rep is alongside the photographer.
Automating Your Project Update Process
I am constantly trying to work smarter and not harder. This includes trying to find ways to automate routine or repeatable tasks. I think managing project information falls into this category. When trying to automate this task, think about when and what you automate. Then think of all of the other components/tasks or other people working on the projects. What are they doing already that can provide you with the marketing information you need? How can you piggyback onto these already existing systems, procedures, activities, etc.? Who do you have to buddy-up with to get the information you need?
Using a CRM System
If you have a CRM system, you set up workflow alerts with built-in questions at various milestones. These milestones can be with a new project record is opened, XX% amount of project billed, or when a project is closed or marked inactive.
Another strategy using a CRM system is to put roadblocks in place if certain information is missing. One example could be to not allow users to mark a project record as inactive or dormant if the completion date, final contract amount, or description fields are empty.
If you use Deltek Vision, I presented a webinar on how to set up similar workflows step by step. You can view that webinar here.
Without a CRM System
You might have to be a little more creative if you don’t have a CRM System.
When I worked at a firm without a CRM system, I made friends with the project accountants. Each time a new project was opened, they got a project set up form that contained all sorts of valuable project information I could use. I asked my project accountant buddies, to give me those forms when they were done with them. I had an inbox on my desk, and they would simply drop the hard copy of the form in there. When I had a bunch in my box, I would create new project information cut sheets and follow up with the project manager for any other information I needed.
Another strategy could be creating a master project data spreadsheet. This would contain columns for each project statistic you need to collect. You are making your own project database. You can then use Excel’s sorting and grouping features to find the projects you need or sort by blanks to find those you need to update.
Either way, when you learn about a new project and get some initial completion dates, you can set reminders on your Outlook calendar to just before the estimated project completion dates. This will prompt you to collect that project information then. This helps because you won’t have to try and remember, you can use Outlook to be your reminder.
How do you currently maintain project information? I would love to hear other best practices. Share yours in the comments below.
Also, if you have any questions about this approach, please comment below as well. I will answer them or find the answers for you.
Thanks for reading down to the bottom. I hope this gives you a few ideas to help you keep your project descriptions up to date more easily. I also wanted to shift gears a bit.
I’ve been asked for years to develop a training program for new A/E/C marketing coordinators. I have finally considered developing an Intro to A/E/C Proposals Program. I am thinking that it would be part training and part mentoring–all virtual. If you would like to see me put together a virtual, small-group coaching program, then email me (use this link) or insert a comment below.