Nadhi: Enabling Technology for Project Control

Kalyan Vaidyanathan and Ravi Mundoli
Kalyan Vaidyanathan, Co-Founder and CEO & Ravi Mundoli, Co-founder and CTO at Nadhi Information Technologies, discuss with Maria R the scope and challenges in driving business process changes and creating value as a technology enabler for digital transformation of project controls.

What is the importance of Project Management (PM) in the infrastructure Construction industry and how do you view the business scenario of PM in India?
Project management is a very crucial function to deliver projects on time and under budget. In every capital project you have various teams wherein each team will have different job roles and requirements at different stages of the project. These teams are from different organizations and even within each organization they work in different functions. To successfully deliver a project on time and within the budget means that all the teams have to collaborate, coordinate and communicate with a common view of the project.

However, in a majority of the Infrastructure Construction projects, it is still the norm to use multiple tools (manually) for the coordination and communication, which makes project management quite tedious and challenging.

We believe that with ubiquitous availability of internet, cloud infrastructure, and mobility, all of this collaboration and coordination can be made seamless if there is a platform for integrated project controls – that interconnects all the existing functions and bi-directionally integrates with existing legacy systems. These tools are starting to become available and the industry is starting to adopt them gradually. We believe adoption of these tools will make the crucial project management function be more data driven, analytical, and proactive.

The business scenario for such solutions is quite optimistic and we are bullish about the scenario in India, which is in the growth phase with both public and private sectors investing heavily in large capital projects. Successful delivery of these projects with limited resources will be crucial for the economy and the country.

What are the challenges in Project Management?
We believe that the importance of PM in the country has been fully realized and understood. Crucial and large infrastructure project teams will look for experienced people to manage them. But we also believe that with the volume of infrastructure projects being planned and launched in the industry, we will have a huge talent shortage to deliver projects successfully. This is one of the challenges in the industry.

What also needs to be realized is that with rising complexities of infrastructure projects, business practices have to become more collaborative and technology solutions have to evolve to support these evolving practices. This will transform PM from its current reactive mode to a more data driven projective mode. But for such a successful transformation, both business processes and technology solutions have to go hand-in-hand. And that’s the second challenge in the industry.

Most businesses pick best of breed solutions to automate individual functions and end up falling short on the realization of value out of automation. This is because they are still missing having integrated project controls and solutions that connect all the processes and people (within and across organizations) in a common digital thread. People, processes, and technology have to mature, and businesses have to invest in this transition.

Nadhi Information Technologies

Do you think a comprehensive policy or directive on project management standards is important for infrastructure projects?
The lack of a clear policy/methodology has undermined development effectiveness and service delivery. There is a need, therefore, for a comprehensive project management policy to address the factors affecting project implementation and management.

There is no structured approach to manage projects; no good practices that should be applied throughout the project lifecycle. This impacts portfolio performances, which may result in denial of funding opportunities. Even non-certified project management professionals have mastered the game. In order to mitigate this challenge, it is recommended that project management guidelines and or a methodology be developed and distributed, and project managers should be qualified and certified.

The successful delivery of projects is critical in supporting strategic government infra development plans and service delivery to citizens. Project management has traditionally relied upon the individual strengths of project managers to plan and execute a variety of simultaneous investment projects. While this has served governments relatively well in the past, we have reached a critical point. The number of capital projects — coupled with the necessity to share resources across multiple projects — has created the need for a more formal and structured approach to managing projects to ensure that they are delivered on time, within budget and to the desired quality.

Developers have developed comprehen- sive guidelines and procedures in the areas of procurement management, financial management, quality management, safety management etc. However, not enough effort has been invested in developing the same for project management. Today’s projects require a comprehensive collaborative project management framework that takes into account the way the industry is organized and the need to deliver complex infrastructure projects in this industry with limited resources and under tight timelines.

What are the technology solutions being offered by Nadhi Information Technologies for infra projects? Please share a case study of one of your challenging Infrastructure projects.
Nadhi Information Technologies
Construction projects involve intra and inter-organization collaboration and coordination among several stakeholders through the design, procure, and construct phases of the project. Faster and reliable project completion could only be possible if information flow across them can be streamlined and latency between the site and decision makers can be reduced and all stakeholders have a common single end-to-end view of the project.

nPulseTM has a proven record of delivering quantifiable benefits to clients across different projects and functions. With an active install base of more than 250 projects spread across 9 time zones and 2 continents across India, Middle East, Africa, and South East Asia, nPulse is now becoming a solution of choice to a number of owners and EPC contractors looking to deliver projects reliably and within controls. We like to say that our sun rises on the faraway island of Borneo, where a project in the Malaysian state of Sarawak is monitored using nPulse. It sets many hours later, after crossing Asia and Africa, on a Moroccan peninsula jutting into the Atlantic.

In one project where the productivity gains from the system were measured, using nPulseTM resulted in doubling of the rate at which project issues were getting closed and an 80% reduction in the average time taken to close the issues. One of Nadhi’s clients who heads project controls for the organization had this to say about the nPulse solution: “We have had the nPulse solution to run our entire business for nearly three years now and can now safely say that our ability to deliver projects reliably and within time has gone up significantly. Across all our business units and strategic initiatives we run more than 100 projects at any point. All our metrics have been modified to be lead indicators rather than lag indicators. Now, on the back of the reliable platform, we are diving deeper to explore ways to deliver projects faster.”

All these translate into time savings on the overall project timeline and therefore cost savings as well. This pattern is starting to repeat across multiple enterprise customers. We are becoming digitization partners to a lot of the capital project owners, real estate developers, and EPC contractors across the country.

Does your software complement the ERP and BIM already being used by most contractors or does it work as a separate platform? Please elaborate.
Nadhi Information Technologies
Of course! Our design principles of nPulse assumes that stakeholders in construction already have technology solutions like ERP, Scheduling systems, and now BIM authoring solutions, and that the nPulse solution will bi-directionally inter-operate with all of them to ensure that these systems stay updated and in-sync as information flows through various stakeholders during the course of a construction project.

nPulseTM comes with out-of-the-box capabilities to integrate with various ERP systems like SAP, Oracle, Infor etc. and scheduling systems such as Oracle Primavera, Microsoft Project, and Trimble TILOS etc. It synchronizes itself with distributed tools into one holistic platform, which you can bi-directionally integrate with ERP and scheduling systems so that more value can be extracted from investment in those technologies and the digital footprint of the organization is increased. It can also integrate with BIM technology so that site progress data and analytics can flow into the BIM model at the click of a button for visualization in near real time. So, our app makes project execution much easier.

What is the scope of disruptive technologies like IoT, Big data, AI etc. in India?
India is on its way to becoming a digitally advanced country. According to a McKinsey report, India is amongst the top two countries, globally, on many key dimensions and digital adoption. AI and Big Data have the potential to transform every area of the economy and our lives. These inflections will also have a profound impact on the construction industry. Data analytics will be key to delivering better project management services and that’s why we have incorporated it in our solution. It uses predictive analytics to make intelligent decisions.

Organized data-driven decisions will be the norm in project execution. Companies will implement a robust digital strategy by using drones used for site visibility, sensors to collect data from the site, AR/VR for a more immersive experience of visualizing design and plans at site as well as review progress by decision makers at head offices.

Nadhi has done some R&D in the area of sensor-based data collection for progress monitoring as well. In fact, Nadhi has been in the forefront of bringing disruptive business processes and technologies to the market. We are confident that some of the R&D we are engaged in are not only relevant for how construction project management and controls will be done in India, but also in the rest of the world.

Nadhi Information Technologies

How challenging is it to convince price-conscious clients in India to adopt new technologies in their companies?
What we are finding nowadays is that it is not too difficult to convince clients about the value proposition of technology like nPulseTM. There aren’t too many people out who will dispute the need for better technology and solutions in this industry. And with the maturity of the nPulse solution, clients are quick to recognize its value proposition and ease of deployment strengths. That being said, the real challenge is perhaps in convincing them that their organizations can absorb and use the technology meaningfully.

We recognize that change management is absolutely critical in ensuring adoption and realizing returns on tech investments. Our role is not merely confined to providing the clients access to the technology and training; in fact, we remain fully engaged with them and we make sure that we also put in place a robust process to ensure stickiness and adoption. In this regard, we leverage the experience of our team in various industries and organizations such as i2 Technologies, SAP, TCS etc.

India is a price conscious market and getting customers to pay for the technology and process change and understanding the difficulty in the transformation is sometimes challenging for us. That’s where working with change agents in the large consulting firms helps. In some of our newer engagements, we are working as partners with some large consulting firms. They drive the business process change and we provide the technology enabler and together we are taking customers on a digital transformation journey. Creating enabling technology for better project controls should be treated as a value creation exercise rather than a cost incurring expense. In this frame of mind, deploying solutions, driving adoption, and deriving ROI becomes feasible.

NBM&CW February 2020

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