London-based HDR | Andrew Reid is a multi-disciplined building services consultancy specialising in the commissioning of engineering services systems. The business, a recognised leader in providing practical solutions to complex building services engineering issues, dates back to 1970, but following an acquisition agreed in 2019 the company is now part of US consultancy group HDR Inc.
Even before the acquisition, Andrew Reid was growing internationally at an impressive rate. The 100-strong firm manages projects across Europe, Singapore and Asia and in 2020 won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for International Trade. To support this growth, to maintain high standards and keep processes consistent on a global basis, the time had come to implement a more formal project management system.
“This was the logical next stage for us,” says Mike O’Mahony, Managing Director of HDR | Andrew Reid. “Back in the day we managed everything in Excel, before gradually moving project management online – first using Microsoft Access, then a combination of SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics. This had served us to a point, but MS Dynamics is an out-of-the-box solution that isn’t terribly intuitive and was not designed for the work we do.’
“We wanted something that users would embrace with enthusiasm – so that recording facts, measuring progress and simplified reporting would support their engineering work,” Mike explains. “We also felt it was time to make our project management and client reporting a point of differentiation. We wanted to be unique.”
We hit it off straight away, which was important as we wanted to build a long term relationship with people we felt we could trust.
Deciding to start with a blank canvas, and bring in a new development partner, HDR | Andrew Reid invited DCSL Software in to pitch for the work. “My colleague lives near the company, and had heard good things. We hit it off straight away, which was important as we wanted to build a long term relationship with people we felt we could trust.”
The brief for the new system was that it must be easy and intuitive to use, without a manual; support offline use on mobile devices; and enable users to see different views of project information – from a high-level overview down to more granular detail, as needed. “Whether the user was a client or part of our team, we wanted them to be able to interact with the data easily and in a meaningful way, and cross-reference related information,” Mike says.
But probably the most strategically important requirement was the ability to perform project forecasting. “In addition to a snapshot of where work is today, we also wanted to be able to project 2-3 months ahead,” Mike notes. “This would enable us to pre-empt and head off any issues, with early corrective action.”
DCSL built the new project management system using the latest Microsoft technologies and interface design. The company’s collaborative, sprint-based approach to development meant that HDR | Andrew Reid was closely involved at all stages of the bespoke project. “I told DCSL at the outset to challenge my ideas; and they did – suggesting successful improvements, and being very responsive throughout,” Mike says. “We met every other week and in between I could access the system remotely to see how it was developing, and give feedback. It was a pleasure: I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process.”
The new system manages all of the processes linked to HDR | Andrew Reid projects anywhere in the world, capturing details of all of the engineering equipment required, and ensuring every aspect of the work passes required certification before being signed off as complete. The system includes a facility for preparing dynamic safety risk assessments.
The database can be used across multiple projects with easy navigation. It builds a case history against each piece of equipment piece and provides an at-a-glance overview of all activity. Smart Excel importing has made it easy to pull in historic data as part of the transition to the new system, which enables user-friendly data validation. An intuitive project calendar screen allows multiple events to be created and invitations to be distributed to particular members of the project.
The all-important forecasting facility examines data on current certifications awarded, to calculate the forward impact on project timelines. This information is updated continuously. “Crucially, these forecasts are based on facts rather than judgement, which makes a material difference,” Mike says. “We can view the data per project and drill down as needed, with visibility six months ahead, and adjust contractor resource as needed – keeping us on the front foot with every account.”
The system’s user interface is optimised for most mobile devices including iPads, and can record images taken from a device. The ability to test and report on equipment offline – in areas without internet access – meanwhile, ensures there are no interruptions to data entry.
Monthly reports and project completion reports are easy to generate, while any user – including clients – can log onto the web-based system at any time for an update. “Transparency has become very important in the construction industry, and we actively support that,” Mike notes.
With HDR | Andrew Reid’s growth ambitions expanding all the time, the new system has proved very timely. “It was designed for Andrew Reid specifically, but our colleagues in the US are already very excited by it so there is scope for the system to have much wider potential,” Mike notes.
Part of the original brief was to ensure that the system could be extended in the future, whether for data exchange with other systems (such as BIM) or incorporating project aspects beyond commissioning. Across the wider group, HDR’s services also span architecture and environmental sciences.
“In a growing business, you need the right infrastructure to support growth, and that is as much about having a solid system people can rely on to do the job, wherever they are in the world, as it is about having Quality managers in place,” Mike concludes. “The DCSL system provides precisely that.”
In a growing business, you need the right infrastructure to support growth, and that is as much about having a solid system people can rely on to do the job, wherever they are in the world, as it is about having Quality managers in place. The DCSL system provides precisely that.