Sharing Experiences: PM Link’s Digital Journey Towards a Collaborative, Efficient, and Future-Ready
Every professional in the built environment ecosystem is crucial in pursuing a collaborative, efficient, and future-ready construction industry. PM Link takes the initiative to share its insights and experiences gained from its digital transformation journey, focusing on minimising disruptions to business and operations. PM Link hopes to encourage others within the industry to embrace progress and drive positive change through this sharing.
In the last 22 years, PM Link has established a strong track record of delivering successful projects in Singapore’s built environment. Recognising the rapid pace of industry advancements, PM Link is undergoing business transformation to meet the evolving needs of its clients.
“Within the framework of our ‘Reimagine 2.0’ strategy, PM Link is sustaining our growth momentum by leveraging technology to enhance operational efficiency and effectiveness and to boost service and support to clients,” says Mr Tan Cheng Chuah, Managing Director of PM Link.
Under ‘Reimagine 2.0’, PM Link actively invests in technology, knowledge sharing, and continuous learning and development (L&D) initiatives to drive sustainable practices, improve quality and boost digital innovation. These investments have been mapped out based on a structured and well-planned approach in the form of the PM Link Operation & Technology Roadmap (OTR), developed by PM Link’s management and staff in partnership with the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees’ Union (BATU). The OTR serves to guide PM Link on a smooth and fruitful transformation.
Ground-Up Approach: Establish the PM Link Technology Workgroup
As part of the OTR, staff-led workgroups drive engagement, ideation processes, solution evaluation and implementation. One of the workgroups is the PM Link Technology Workgroup, whose project managers focus on collaborations with internal and external stakeholders. This includes understanding internal stakeholders’ critical needs and challenges in daily work and exploring the latest and most appropriate technological solutions from external stakeholders.
This Workgroup also initiates learning about emerging technologies and sharing their knowledge within the company to encourage assessments or practical applications of such technologies for specific project issues or needs.
“Technology covers a wide spectrum,” says Ngo Wei Quan, Director and Technology Workgroup leader at PM Link. “We have technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) in the construction industry today, but we need to look ahead and consider other technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), 5G, big data, IoT, metaverse and many more. Having a core team to make sense of all these technologies enables PM Link to expedite the process from technology discovery to implementation and user feedback.”
The PM Link Technology Workgroup discusses the milestones of technology deployment and shares their experience with stakeholder engagement and technological discovery. The motivation behind sharing these experiences stems from PM Link’s understanding of the hesitation many firms in the built environment (BE) industry have towards digital transformation.
“Before this transformation journey, our staff had also been hesitant towards digitalisation with concerns such as potential disruptions to work due to sudden changes,” explains Wei Quan. “Taking their concerns into account, we have successfully developed a collaborative process and workflow that fosters engagement, makes the journey more inclusive, and minimises disruptions for everyone. We are happy to share our insights and key learnings.”
Milestones of PM Link's Technology Deployment
Since 2019, when PM Link’s management and staff started their ‘Reimagine 2.0’ business transformation journey, they worked closely with BATU to ensure that the roadmap was aligned with the industry’s needs. Within that roadmap was the company’s move from a paper-based to a technology-based workflow. As such, the Technology Workgroup began engaging with staff to chart the workflow, explore ways to simplify the process and discuss suitable solutions to meet the update requirements with vendors.
In 2020, the Technology Workgroup accelerated the implementation of a new company-wide digital workflow and documentation process. This solution enabled project leaders and managers to achieve efficiency and productivity in operational matters, including reviewing and approving vital documents.
“During the early days of the pandemic, we faced new challenges caused by safe management measures. These included limited access to construction sites, remote working, and dual-team systems. We had to fast track toward technology-based solutions to overcome these challenges and maintain the high quality of service our clients are accustomed to, from PM Link,” explains Wei Quan.
Following that implementation, the Technology Workgroup engaged with internal stakeholders on their needs for a virtual reality (VR) solution at construction sites. A new 360-degree VR solution was implemented and used in selected projects within months.
This solution enabled the project managers and their stakeholders to view and interact with a virtual construction project model in a fully immersive 360-degree environment. Especially useful for project coordination and planning, project managers use this technology solution remotely to monitor the on-site progress, identify potential conflicts or issues, and maintain the project schedule.
The clients’ feedback from using this technology was positive, providing the Technology Workgroup with a boost of confidence. It motivated PM Link to explore and try more emerging technologies on this digital transformation journey.
The next step was to modernise PM Link’s workplace. As such, the Technology Workgroup worked closely with a committee overseeing the new offices of PM Link and other subsidiaries of CPG Corporation to evaluate technologies for the modern workplace.
In July 2022, PM Link implemented a new advanced system in its office for staff to engage in hybrid meetings and easily share project plans, diagrams, and charts on-screen while facilitating natural, face-to-face-like interactions.
By embracing these technological advancements and transitioning to a modern firm, PM Link demonstrates its commitment to efficiency, innovation, and improved collaboration in the BE industry.
Insights – From Stakeholder Engagement to Technology Deployment
The Technology Workgroup upholds the same principles throughout the technological transformation journey by developing a structured engagement plan to address internal stakeholders’ feedback and concerns. The Workgroup has a clear five-point process to guide PM Link’s management and staff through each technology solution delivery process.
“As users of technology in our work as project managers, the Workgroup focuses on the needs of the users, spending much effort to understand each project manager’s concerns,” says Wei Quan. “We also prioritise their needs and explore the available solutions in the marketplace.”
Over time, the Technology Workgroup has developed checklists – one listing the critical requirements, such as security and compliance, and another secondary listing of requirements for future consideration. Throughout the five-point process, the Workgroup constantly collaborates and maintains a strong communication loop with the users.
“By taking a project-based approach with a transparent process, we have been able to execute new technology deployments with strong support from our management and staff,” says Wei Quan. “Together, we can move swiftly on our transformation journey to be a digitally savvy organisation.”
Moving Forward: Digital Dexterity and Agility for a Rapidly Evolving Industry
“We recognise that change is a constant,” says Cheng Chuah. “PM Link must continue to push forward with digital dexterity and stay agile to capitalise on new trends or solutions for ourselves, our clients, and our communities.”
Cheng Chuah also adds that as PM Link strives for a more collaborative industry, it also looks forward to learning from other partners and stakeholders in the BE industry.
He points out that digitalisation will enable more companies to streamline processes, automate tasks, improve overall efficiency, and boost productivity and cost savings.
Additionally, there are gains from enhanced collaboration and communication. Digital platforms enable various stakeholders to collaborate seamlessly and share information in real time, leading to better decision-making, reduced errors, and improved project outcomes.
He further points out that digital solutions can enhance safety standards in the construction industry as technologies like VR and Building Information Modeling (BIM) can simulate construction processes, identify potential hazards, and apply safety measures before implementation. This proactive approach to safety reduces the risk of accidents, improves site security, and promotes a safer working environment.
“When more companies in the BE industry embrace digital transformation, the industry will benefit collectively from a more efficient, collaborative, and safer future,” he explains.
Moving ahead, PM Link will continue its transformation path under ‘Reimagine 2.0’ to meet the demands of the rapidly evolving industry while being relevant and participatory as it serves its project management clients better in the years ahead.
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This blog post is the second part of a three-part series which gives insights into how PM Link is embarking on its business transformation programme ‘Reimagine 2.0’. To learn about our quality transformation journey, visit here.
Background Information: About Singapore’s Refreshed Built Environment Industry Transformation Map¹
Announced in 2022, the nation’s refreshed BE Industry Transformation Map (ITM) spanning key stages of a building’s life cycle - from planning and design, construction, to operations and maintenance – will enable stakeholders to collaborate more effectively across the value chain in the following ways:
The government formulated this refreshed BE ITM following engagement with more than 2,500 partners from the industry firms, trade associations and chambers (TACs), Government agencies, unions, institutes of higher learning (IHLs) and students.
¹Reference: Building and Construction Authority of Singapore (BCA)