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Feb 08, 2019

Solar Farm Project Management: Three Perspectives

By Achmad Chadran, Portfolio Manager

We recently met with three solar farm project managers to understand better the worlds they live in. Atonix Digital Product Owners conduct these meetings regularly, as part of an ongoing process to see the world through our customers’ eyes.

The project leaders we met include Elyssa H., a Project Controls Analyst; Mark A., an Engineering Manager; and Robert T., an Engineering Site Technician. The similarities and contrasts we noted in their perspectives offer a fascinating glimpse into the challenges all project leaders face when managing infrastructure construction, expansion, or modernization.

While each plays a vital role, each nevertheless views the project through a very different lens.

 

The Comprehensive View

Elyssa maintains the highest-level view of the endeavor. Elyssa also manages vendors, internal schedules, task completion, budgets, and milestones. Elyssa tracks inputs that change daily: total assets installed, costs, payments, and schedules. She enters this data into spreadsheets to process and run daily summaries.

Once a week, Elyssa prints a large map view of the project’s status to display on a wall. She also creates a set of smaller maps for distribution among foremen and supervisors. She runs numerous meetings to monitor both the big-picture status and all the minutiae. A historical pattern of high turnover among crews makes clear communication vital for Elyssa.

 

The Process View

Process definition and process improvement make up the lion’s share of Mark’s responsibilities. He relies heavily on feedback from his reports and protégés. Fittingly, Mark serves the project as a coach and a resource broker, helping project engineers find specialists as the need arises.

Mark works in very short work sprints – sometimes just a few days – so he frequently faces the challenge of completing his documents quickly to keep his crews busy. Some documents serve regulatory and permitting processes; others feed advanced guidance systems on specialized machinery used to dig trenches, grade lots, and perform other technical tasks.

 

The Site View

Robert owns responsibility for site design, so his work revolves around creating and maintaining schematics for civil site work. This requires specialized expertise, including site plan layout – designating parking areas, trailers, and work spaces during construction – and features like grading, drainage, underground utilities, erosion control, fencing, and roads.

Like Mark, Robert frequently manages site-related tasks such as grading, roads, and rights of way. Robert’s job even includes marking trees for removal which might otherwise obstruct light and reduce solar array output. Robert’s design work progresses in stages, typically starting with high-level concepts, but then adding levels of detail to support internal review, client review, and onsite construction processes.

 

Coding Infrastructure Project Management Insights

We owe customers like Elyssa, Mark, and Robert our sincere gratitude. Their experiences, aspirations, and challenges fuel insights for Atonix Digital developers. We learned years ago that the ability to organize, calculate, and generate reports with the robustness of leading spreadsheet packages is mere table-stakes. We’ve learned the vital importance for stakeholders at every level to see only the data, workspaces, and features that relate to their specific roles. We’ve captured customer insights on the file types they need access on demand, including CAD renderings, GIS data, photographs, process documents, and lease documents. And equally critical, project leaders need integrated communications capabilities, both within the application and beyond.

These features and capabilities make up just some of the capabilities Atonix Digital developers have engineered into our infrastructure project management SaaS product, Program Management. Other features seek to further streamline control and collaboration. These include a unique timeline slider and possibly the most powerful asset-level capabilities enabled to date in a project management product.

Yet in many respects, our work has just begun. Moreover, the journey promises to pose new, unseen challenges. Change is the new stable; innovation is transforming infrastructure development and project management at a breakneck pace. Given this reality, we look forward to our continued collaboration with large infrastructure project leaders. Our vision is to ensure that Program Management never stops meeting your needs for streamlined, data-driven, project management.

For more information, visit our Program Management product page.