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WHATSAPP IS NOT A PROJECT MANAGEMENT TOOL FOR YOUR HOME RENOVATION!


 

1.    “Ok let’s start a WhatsApp Group Chat to manage the project!”

Raise your hands, if the last designer or renovator who did up your home or the one currently doing your home, suggested to you that they will create a group chat and manage your home renovation project with that app. Chances are, you may have been added into one of those groups that claims to be the answer to how your home renovation project is going to be managed. However, I’ve always wondered, “How can a communication tool perform complex project management stuffs?” To me, it is akin to being in an email loop and just because everything and everyone is inside the loop, does not make that a project management tool.

 


2.    More than just communication

Almost all of us have in one way or another used WhatsApp at some point in our lives to communicate with our friends, family, and even colleagues. What makes WhatsApp so popular is how easy it is to exchange messages and photos with your connections. A user can be either the admin or the participant to a number of WhatsApp groups and communicate differently depending on the members and the scope of each group. It is really easy to use and effective, with no geographical constraints.


But what about using WhatsApp in renovation projects? Could that work?


The short answer is no. Good as it is, WhatsApp isn’t enough for running complex projects, at best we can say it is a good communication tool, but not enough to manage a project. There are many shortcomings and I will share why.

 


3.    Renovation is complex

Tools like WhatsApp and Excel might be great for other uses like communications and data spreadsheets, but they can’t offer you overall site understanding and control, that all homeowners experiencing the anxiety of renovation, are after. 


Since renovation is complex and its daily affairs require frequent and factual updates, people have turned to the most universal and accessible app to achieve this. Whatsapp became a natural choice for both client and renovator. The success of this, is assuming the project team updates frequently and honestly. 

In reality, the homeowner will have no real-time insight into the renovation project and there will be no clarity on who’s accountable for what, which ultimately leads to slow and dysfunctional decision making. 


There are many drawbacks as well and below is just a small list of what we noticed:


  • Chronologically, all data is stored in the WA group and you can have access to it, provided you were inside the group since day 1. Any new member joining the group will not have knowledge nor access to the information before he/she joined. This means new members serving in the project team will still be in the dark about many things.
  • Some people like to delete things on the app and phone so that they can free up storage on their device. This happens all the time especially when people are using older and or lower spec devices. The result to this is a loss of information and data.
  • Searching is difficult because while the groups exist, there is no way to compartmentalize the information so that we can retrieve the needed information easily and quickly. Users will have to rely on keywords to search, provided everyone remember the keywords.
  • It can be quite intrusive. Let’s face it, we all need our personal space. Whether you are a homeowner or project person or a designer, when messages start coming in like site pictures or comments on site matters in the middle of a movie or a dinner date after work, it can be quite nerve wrecking and disruptive to whatever activity you are doing. The sender is anxiously waiting for the ‘double blue ticks” and the recipient is deciding whether to open the app to read the message.        


4.    The truth will set us free!

So, assuming your project guy or designer is zealous about the reports, updates regularly with photos of your site, it does not guarantee that your project is not headed for a disaster.


As everyone has a smart phone these days, some designers or project managers have been known to rely on the contractors carrying out the work to update their progress or completion of the work by sending pictures to the designers. In turn, the designers will take these pictures and resend into the group chat that the homeowners have with the designer, giving the false impression that the designer had visited the site and has seen the progress and is updating with site pictures. 


The harm that this action does, is that the designer may not be there to see potential issues like workmanship, care for other parts of the home (ie. Painters painting the ceiling and leaving paint marks all over the new parquet flooring, because the relevant contractor only captured images of their area of work and not other areas). 

 

Gantt Chart on a tablet and smart phone

On the other end of the spectrum, we have also seen how very detailed designers and project managers use softwares like Microsoft Project or Gantt Chart apps to post schedules on when certain jobs or components of a project will be executed. It can be quite useful to see the planning and scheduling but in the eyes of a homeowner or an outsider, this is rocket science to them. What’s more, having a plan does not equate to execution, but it does seem to minimally provide some form of expectations to dates and deliverables. 


I remember being on a site with a few contractors once and we were all looking at the 35 item gantt chart on a smart phone and it was just impossible to shift left and right to see the scope of works.

 

5.    There must be a better way to do this.

In truth, many of the designers rely either on a project team to manage the site or they manage themselves. However, most firm may not have a dedicated project team and so the job of sales, drafting, preparing quotations, meetings with contractors on and off site for multiple projects all happening at the same time becomes too much to bear.

But, what if we can make it simpler, easier to use, more effective and have a way to plan, store and communicate faster. I’ve thought about this for quite some time and we at SIXiDES came up with a Project tool called, “ALMANAC”.

 


The whole idea about scheduling and planning something is to create predictability. And all homeowners will agree with me and that renovation, is anything but predictable. Our Almanac has functions that tells the stages of the project and we used activity rings to indicate the progress.

 

Screen capture of almanac beta


But beyond that we figured that we needed more and so we added features into it to beef it up. Here are some of the things we added to the design of this tool:


  • Easy to read activity rings. Anytime a part of the work gets completed, the rings will close and another ring will begin. These rings are easy to read, whether it’s on your phone, your tablet or your desktop!
  • As the rings start getting closed. The system will trigger the designer to upload invoices to advance the project with progressive claims.
  • Uploading of all plans, 3D renders and site photos so that there is an archive of everything. If the homeowner or designer is on site or off site or even overseas, he/she can just whip out the smart phone or tablet and access the information all at their fingertips.
  • Weekly review – homeowners can grade the project execution every week. If the project continues to receive negative reviews, it will trigger red flags to the design firm’s owner/s for immediate action and remedy.
  • Without being intrusive, both parties can leave notes or chats and even to do lists to each other so that messages or instructions can be acted upon expeditiously.


These are, but some of the initial features of our Almanac Beta version. What we are seeking to do is to disrupt and change the way people project manage their home renovation. The idea is to make it understandable, predictable, and reliable. Since there is no precedent, the only way we see it, is to use our experience and to make a product that meets the needs of the consumers and service providers today.


6.    Last but not least…

So now that we know Whatsapp is not a project management tool and we now know Almanac exist, why not give it a go? We can only get better with the product development when we have enough users trying it out and letting us learn from their user experience. 



What are you waiting for? Use eQuote now, select a designer, and begin managing your renovation projects with Almanac.






Astley Ng

The Designerd

Sixides Editorial Team



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