Construction Progress Monitoring and Reporting 101

Progress monitoring and reporting are essential to construction project management.

They involve tracking aspects of the project that affect time and cost: labor, tasks, materials, equipment, RFIs, change orders, submittals, and more.

Tracking progress can be challenging, given the number of moving parts and how interconnected they are.

And progress tracking grows even more difficult when it is done with manual, paper-based methods, relies on spreadsheets, or is siloed across several platforms.

But making the effort to keep tabs on construction project progress and sharing timely updates pays off with greater efficiency, fewer delays and mistakes, faster resolution of disputes, and a positive owner relationship.

Putting in place tools that provide up-to-the-moment project visibility and enable seamless communication – real-time, cloud-based software and connected field apps – can help you harness these benefits.

Plus, when progress is documented visually with photos, video, or drone imagery – and when this progress data is visualized on a map – those benefits become even richer.

What Are Progress Monitoring and Reporting?

Progress monitoring and reporting come down to having visibility into your project and open communication with stakeholders. 

The “monitoring” entails reviewing daily project headway and comparing it to the planned schedule and budget to determine if your project is on track – on time and within budget. 

The “reporting” is the documentation and sharing of this project progress.

A construction worker files a construction progress report on a tablet.

Reporting goes hand in hand with monitoring in a couple of ways.

First, there’s no monitoring in the trailer or office without reporting from the field. Daily reporting from boots on the ground gives up-to-date information on what is – or isn’t – happening on a job site. It gives insight into the status of the project.

Second, progress reporting refers to the communication with a project owner – keeping them informed on how construction is shaping up.

Regular, thorough progress tracking enables you to provide the owner with clear, comprehensive updates about their project with minimal fuss at any given time.

Why Do Effective Progress Monitoring and Reporting Matter?

When all stakeholders have visibility into the project and communicate in real time, you can track factors that affect schedule and budget.

You can then make well-informed decisions to manage your project and address any issues or changes that inevitably arise in the course of construction.

A busy construction site where progress monitoring and reporting are critical.

With the right tools in place, all stakeholders will be able to see and share the most up-to-date project information at any time. This translates to:

Early identification of potential delays and mistakes

Spot issues and address them before they lead to rework or become big problems that derail the project timeline or budget.

Improved resource allocation

Knowing crews’ schedules and how they are progressing with assigned tasks as well as the status of materials and equipment leads to more efficient coordination.

Dispute resolution or avoidance

Regular reporting results in dated and time-stamped records that document damage or defects, how changes were handled, and proof of work – crucial information that can avert a costly dispute or resolve one more quickly.

A contractor and owner shake hands at a progress monitoring and reporting meeting.

Stronger owner relationships

Communicating clear progress to owners on a regular basis establishes trust that they are being kept in the loop and won’t be subject to any surprise adjustments to schedule or budget.

Without the right tools, on the other hand, it can prove difficult to harness the benefits of construction progress monitoring and reporting. 

3 Reasons Construction Progress Tracking Is Challenging

Construction progress tracking is a huge effort.

And traditional project monitoring methods that rely on paper documentation, manual processes, and in-person site visits certainly make this tough job even harder.

Even when some parts of the process are digitized, monitoring and reporting efforts can fall short. Here are three major reasons why:

Construction workers, equipment, and materials are assembled for a roadway project.

1. The number and complexity of moving parts

Construction projects typically involve multiple teams in different places – various offices and a job site or even sites if it’s a large horizontal construction job. Tasks are interconnected and time sensitive – a change in one area can disrupt dependent work.

Teams on the job site need materials and equipment to be in the right place at the right time in order to carry out their work, which requires attentive coordination. Throw in the inevitable design or specification changes and unpredictable supply chain delays or weather conditions, and it’s easy to see how difficult tracking efforts can be.

2. Lack of transparency

To state the obvious, you can’t track what you can’t see.

When data is siloed – recorded on paper, saved in spreadsheets and folder structures in unconnected systems, or shared among only a few people via email or text – it isn’t visible to everyone who needs to see it.

Without access to up-to-date project information, stakeholders can’t get a clear picture of where things stand with a project, and it becomes difficult for them to make decisions that will keep things on course.

3. Lack of real-time communication

A delay in sharing progress means updates aren’t updates – they’re old news.

A construction worker on a job site documents construction progress on a clipboard.

If details from a site visit are noted on a clipboard, those notes then need to be manually transferred into a spreadsheet or a report. The information could be a couple of days old before it is communicated to the larger team. When your progress data is running two days behind reality, you don’t have an accurate view of progress status.

Tips and Tools for Better Progress Monitoring

Thankfully, there are tools and practices that can make progress monitoring easier and more effective. 

Connect stakeholders in a single digital space

The most critical step for monitoring construction progress is to implement cloud-based software and mobile apps that enable real-time information sharing from anywhere team members are – in the office or the field.

Stakeholders use construction tracking software on a tablet.

A single collaborative space where stakeholders share project updates means improved visibility and communication – and an increased ability to monitor the status of important facets of the project, including:

  • tasks and who is assigned to them
  • workflows like RFIs, submittals, change orders, and punch lists
  • materials and equipment
  • running costs

What's the status of hot work permits? That RFI? That delivery of crucial materials? The answers will be right at your fingertips with one cloud-based digital workspace containing this kind of project information.

Creating a collaborative, cloud-based data environment takes some doing – apps in construction don’t generally have a reputation for being user-friendly. But putting in the work to find intuitive apps that connect with all your software is worth the effort.

Collapse siloes with integrated software and field apps

The flow of communication between the office and the field is vital to any construction project, and is especially important in the context of progress tracking, which requires up-to-the-moment data.

Workers on construction sites are increasingly using mobile apps to document field work and file daily construction progress reports.

Construction workers share project data with connected construction progress tracking software.

A 2021 report on construction technology notes that 90.9% of respondents from a survey of contractors and construction workers use their smartphones every day, mainly for reporting and documentation purposes.

This sounds like great news as far as the potential for real-time communication and data-sharing from the field. However, the same report reveals that lack of integrations for apps result in more than half of respondents transferring data manually – which can slow down information sharing and introduce errors.

Selecting easy-to-use field apps that integrate with your other platforms will ensure that data reported from the field can be uploaded and shared quickly and seamlessly with all team members.

Capture progress visually

Up to now, we’ve examined how visibility into a project enables efficient progress monitoring. But this visibility is figurative – “seeing” what’s going on by assessing information communicated through documents.

But visibility when it comes to project progress can – and should – be literal as well.

Photos, drone imagery, and even satellite imagery give stakeholders a real look at how a construction project is taking shape. When this kind of media is well organized and captured regularly, it creates a visual record of project progress.

Let’s take these one at a time:

Photos

Photos record more information more accurately and more quickly than text can. They are also faster to review. These qualities help to cut down on miscommunication and can speed up workflows like RFIs or change orders that require assessment and feedback.

Timestamps and geolocation show when and where a photo was taken, which can prove essential in the event of a dispute.

A subcontractor uses his smartphone to take construction progress photos.

Perhaps most importantly, workers can easily snap construction progress photos with a smartphone to capture work or conditions in the moment, then upload them to the cloud to keep all stakeholders – particularly those who are remote – in the loop.

Regular, thorough documentation with photos can even eliminate the need for site visits intended to view progress.

Drone imagery

Drones provide a simple and inexpensive way to visually record progress on a regular basis. They can quickly deliver comprehensive views of a construction site – particularly helpful for projects that cover a lot of ground.

Drones can send information to connected software during flyovers, so teams can see progress images as they are captured.

Drones can also provide information beyond the visual: for example, in the case of earthwork, sensors of a drone can measure changes in elevation that, when reviewed and compared over time, show exactly how much material has been moved – an indicator of work progress.

Keep in mind that drones can be pricey if you’re purchasing one. They also require a pilot, whether someone from your project team or an outside service.

A drone flies over a construction site to capture construction progress photos.

Satellite imagery

While it doesn’t have as fast a turnaround as photos taken on a job site or drone footage, satellite imagery is another way to visually document project progress.

Collecting satellite imagery entails enlisting a service that will capture and send you images based on the area you want photographed, the frequency of photo capture, the date range, and the desired resolution. 

Just as with photos and drone imagery, satellite images taken over time can be compared to evaluate progress and determine if work is aligning with schedule.

Beyond showing construction progress, satellite imagery can provide accurate real-world context when project data gets placed on a digital map.

Increase progress visualization with digital maps

Location is an essential attribute of construction, both the finished asset and the building process. It’s critical to build the project in the right place, and keeping track of where work involving people, materials, and equipment happens makes for a more efficient construction process.

With location as integral as it is, it just makes sense to visualize project progress on a digital map.

Progress tracking on a digital map using mobile GIS

Drawings can be staked to a map of the project’s real-world location. Documents like permits or RFIs can be attached and represented by icons that change color as the workflow’s status changes. All those photos taken to record work progress can be geolocated on the map, and drone and satellite imagery can be incorporated as well.

Digital maps can also filter what data is displayed – so you can compare documentation from one week to another. You can toggle on/off plans from different stages of the project for a context-rich view of how work progressed.

Displaying progress data on a map not only enables at-a-glance monitoring – it provides next-level visibility into the relationships among different project elements, allowing for more efficient coordination of crews, materials, and equipment.

Construction Progress Reporting: The Past, Present, and Future

As noted above, construction progress monitoring works in conjunction with progress reporting – the documentation of progress and sharing of that information with stakeholders.

It is possible to create reports for any specific aspect of a construction project – work in progress reports to track financials can be generated with accounting software, for instance – but we will concentrate here on daily field reporting and reporting to owners.

Daily field reporting

The bulk of reporting that happens during a construction project is the daily reporting from the field. At the most basic level, this reporting involves job site workers recording what happened on the site that day and relaying that data to the rest of the team.

Thorough daily reports typically include:

  • Project identifying information and date
  • Weather – and how it may have affected work
  • Who was on site and how many hours they worked
  • Work performed and status of assigned tasks
  • Material and equipment information
  • Safety incidents, issues, or concerns
  • Visual documentation
  • Notes or comments
Construction materials and equipment on a job site.

These elements influence the time and cost of a project, and daily insight into them helps you gauge the overall status of progress.

While reporting is first and foremost a means of communicating where things stand with a project, the generation of daily reports also builds a comprehensive record of how construction took place – a record that can inform operations and maintenance work over the life of the asset and can be critical in the event of disputes or litigation.

Communicating progress from the field: then and now

In the past, daily reports were created with pen and paper, often at the end of a busy day on the job site. As a result, these daily reports suffered the usual problems of paper-based documentation – missing or inaccurate information, more time spent on generating and processing the reports, and lack of wide, quick distribution to stakeholders.

However, today’s mobile apps have changed the game for creating and filing daily reports, enabling real-time progress reporting. In fact, daily reporting is a leading driver of mobile app usage in the field.

Crews on site can quickly, easily, and accurately record site conditions and activities every day, then upload that information directly from the field to provide stakeholders with a real-time view of work progress.

A subcontractor submits a construction progress report on a tablet for real-time progress reporting.

Digital reporting forms can be customized to capture all the appropriate information for a particular project. Standardized forms also mean collection of consistent data, making it easier to spot trends.

Including photos or even videos into digital daily reports provides context as well as confirmation of work progress that is easy to understand and quick to review. In the same vein, attaching daily reports to a digital map provides another dimension to project visibility – displaying all the information you need to know about site work where it is actually happening.

This level of visualization and visibility gives field and office teams a clear, actionable picture of progress, but it’s also invaluable for keeping owners updated in real time.

A changing landscape for owner communication

Before cloud-based software, mobile apps, and common data environments where construction project teams can work off the same data set, owners would have had to rely on site visits for real-time progress updates. Formal reports might be received on a monthly basis.

An owner visits a construction site for an in-person construction progress report.

Clearly, the construction process wasn’t particularly transparent to owners.

Today, connected software means project managers or general contractors can easily compile the data from the day’s field reports into a comprehensive update to share with an owner. And that’s if the owner and the rest of the project team don’t share a cloud-based, collaborative digital space.

But if owners’ desires for improved communication and transparency are any indication – and they are – they will increasingly have seamless access to the same digital “room” where daily reports are uploaded. They will see updates in real-time, direct from the job site.

And shouldn’t those updates be fast and easy to review? 

An owner looks at his smartphone for real-time progress reporting updates.

Report progress to owners in their language: GIS

A recent study showed that 40% of contractors employed GIS in more than half of their projects to collect data on site – and to provide digital project information at turnover.

And it makes sense. For an owner, location-based organization and visualization of project data is more intuitive and faster to use for ongoing operations and maintenance than searching through spreadsheets and folder structures.

The same holds true for progress updates.

Geolocated documents, photos, and reports displayed on a digital map help owners rapidly get a sense of overall project progress. If they want to take a deeper dive into details, they can easily do so by filtering data or perusing attached forms. 

Digital maps bring everything together in one easy-to-understand picture.

Improve Tracking for the Entire Team with Digital Maps

Real talk: construction progress monitoring and reporting is tough.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Organizing project data by location and visualizing it in its real-world context on a digital map boosts stakeholders’ visibility and ability to share information – the keys to effective progress monitoring and reporting.

With a digital map that’s continually updated in real-time and easily accessible from the field, office, and everywhere in between, teams always have the information they need to make the good decisions that keep their project on track. 

Take advantage of enhanced project visibility and communication with Unearth’s Capital Construction solution.

Pin drawings to their real-world locations, geo-locate thousands of photos, and view the real-time status of field work – inspections or permitting, for instance – at a glance. For even more context, geo-reference your 360 photos, drone imagery, and satellite imagery.

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