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Five minutes with: Peter Cheney, CCS

Peter Cheney, managing director of Construction Computer Software (CCS), speaks to Construction Week about the importance of maintaining control over project finances

Peter Cheney, managing director, Construction Computer Software (CCS).
Peter Cheney, managing director, Construction Computer Software (CCS).

Tell me a little about Construction Computer Software (CCS)
Over the past 30-plus years, CCS has developed a process that tracks the initial asset investment throughout the planning, feasibility, and project stage. Pre-tender, pre-bid, post-bid, all the way through the entire process and thereafter; in other words, final account.

It does this in such a way that end users have a clear view of what the intent was with respect the allocation of a project’s resources, how to monitor and manage those resources throughout the project lifecycle, and of course, how to manage change with respect financial input.

One aspect that has become more prevalent over the years is the ability to forecast ‘cost to complete’ – a very important process. And that forecast, ‘cost to complete’, has got to happen throughout the lifecycle of a project. Really, the allocation of resources, the tracking of costs, and their management with respect the original allowable budget, is what we do. CCS has all of the processes and procedures required to do exactly that; that’s our business.

Has the ability to forecast grown out of the ability to monitor?
Not necessarily. That was the point right from the beginning. It’s all very well knowing where you should be going, but it’s really about identifying where you’re actually going that has the most benefit within the cycle. Because if you’re going wrong, you want to know ahead of time so that you can take corrective action.

It’s no good trying to exercise downstream control. Downstream control gives you the results once they’ve happened. What you actually want is upstream control. You want to forecast the result before it happens.

So certainly, in terms of the allocation of money, that would be top of our agenda, and the whole system has grown from that premise. You need to know now so that you can forecast what’s going to happen in the future. If you don’t know now, it’s almost impossible to forecast what’s going to happen. You end up having to take ‘educated guesses’; sometimes they work out for you, but many times, they don’t.

How is this type of software being used in the Middle East?
The Middle East is pretty sophisticated when it comes to the use of these tools, so we find that the software is used much like it is elsewhere in the world. We certainly have a pool of expertise in the Middle East that is able to use these tools efficiently. Added to this is the fact that CCS brings along well-defined procedures and processes, which can be put in place to support the software’s integration within an organisation.

Essentially, we get everybody doing the work that they would normally have done, but in a slightly different way. This means that all of the elements – whatever the finance people, the commercial team, or the guys on the ground are doing – follow the same procedure. Following this procedure from inception all the way through to contract completion means that everybody does their job, but they do it in a way that integrates the data from start to finish. It’s like a chain.

Who are the end users of this type of technology?
Generally, we’re talking about developers and ‘mud-on-the-boots’ people: contractors, subcontractors, and specialist subcontractors. With innovations such as building information modelling (BIM) and similar technologies, the GCC construction environment is becoming more and more integrated. Information that is made available by the professional team moves through the contractor all the way through the as-built and lifecycle cost of the project in question. All of this is coming together now. It’s very exciting.

Are these tools best suited to large construction outfits?
Not at all. Smaller contractors can and do make use of these tools. Again, it has very little to do with the size of your organisation and everything to do with the organisation within your organisation. Because let’s face it, all contractors should do exactly the same thing when it comes to the information they require. When you deliver a project, you only get one stab at delivery. You can’t go back and try again. Whether large or small, the procedures and processes that contractors should have in place are all the same.

In fact, in many instances, we’ve enjoyed significant success with smaller contractors. This is because there’s generally one or two people in charge; they don’t have silos of expertise so there is no need to integrate our technology within well-developed silos. The managing directors and financial directors have the power to say: “This is how it’s going to be, and this is what we’re going to do.”

These tools work really well with small organisations, although of course, we work with really large organisations as well.

Do these technologies help to reduce contract disputes?
Here’s what we say at CCS. Post-tender project control – in other words, the construction phase – starts on day one, and continues every day all the way through the project lifecycle. It’s about constantly monitoring changes. You don’t necessarily worry about what is already on paper; you worry about changes to that paper.

I was speaking to a client yesterday about this very thing. He said that his company’s biggest challenge is to manage change. Well, the way you manage change is by staying on top of the original paperwork, and by monitoring costs throughout the project lifecycle.

In other words, our processes and procedures make give end users the tools necessary to ensure that as changes happen, they are recorded. This is very important. Changes must be managed at source, as and when they happen, so that they can be used to forecast future change. If you don’t identify and record them early, you have no idea what the final cost is likely to be.

And projects change all the time. Let’s face it, they never follow the original plan that you had in mind. CCS has systems that ensure those changes are recorded, managed, and used to forecast ‘cost to complete’. If you don’t follow this procedure, you could end up in trouble.

At first, these systems might seem a little bit rigid, but in our opinion, you either have control or you haven’t. You can’t have a little bit of control; that’s ridiculous. It’s like driving a motorcar with one finger; you might think you’re in control but you’re not.

Peter Cheney is managing director of Construction Computer Software (CCS).

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