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COVID-19’s Impact on Projects and Factors of Successful Recovery

Hexagon conducted a survey in partnership with PMI’s to identify high-performing organizational behaviors that can help improve project outcomes. After just one week, the survey gleaned over 800 responses primarily from project professionals working in the Construction, Architecture, Engineering, or IT industry.

While sifting through the responses, we measured the performance of the organizations represented by the effectiveness of their projects. By measuring their project effectiveness, we were able to siphon the organizations into two categories:

  1. High-performance organizations – achieved their expected business outcomes for more than 80% of their projects  
  2. And low-performance organizations – achieved their expected business outcomes for 30% or less of projects  

After further analysis, it was easy to see that the two groups behaved differently from one another. Their behaviors had a direct correlation to the overall performance of their projects. During this blog series, we’ll explore the 4 key findings captured from our analysis of these operational differences. This way, you’ll be able to apply these proven practices to your processes and maximize project success.  

Key Finding #1: Recovery from COVID-19 will be difficult, but not impossible. 

Like any economic downturn, the pandemic affected businesses everywhere. It exposed operational weak spots, forcing professionals everywhere to reassess their processes. While all companies faced struggles, some faced more than others. But, why did some companies navigate more smoothly through the pandemic than others? What did those seemingly more prepared companies do differently from other companies?  

To find the answer, we included a few questions regarding COVID-19 in the survey to see how the pandemic had impacted our audience. In this blog entry, we’ll discuss the different feedback between high-performing and low-performing organizations. This way you can begin to mirror the behaviors of a high-performing organization rather than a low-performing one.

Check out these other key findings from the report: 

Key Finding #2 – Top 4 Practices of Successful Project-Based Businesses

Key Finding #3 – Building a Foundation of Trust – Achieving Project Success with Reliable Data

Check out the feedback from the questions below:  

  • What percentage of your large-scale projects were subjected to significant change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?  
    • More than half of the surveyors said that over 40% of their projects were impacted significantly. As expected, the pandemic had affected projects to the extent that changes had to be made to ensure their completion. Whether it was the allocation of time, budget, or resources, project professionals had to make quick accommodations to prevent loss.  
  • How easy was it to adjust to the changes needed to those projects by the impact of COVID-19?  
    • As expected, respondents from high-performing organizations reported having an easier time than their low-performing counterparts. High-performing organizations were found to have had mature project planning systems in place. This provided visibility they needed to quickly adapt to the new normal. Due to this, high-performing companies had a smoother experience identifying which initiatives to either discontinue or redirect.  
  • What percentage of your projects will still be able to achieve their budget and schedule goals as part of your recovery from the crisis?  
    • Almost 60% of respondents from high-performing organizations felt as though more than 70% of their activities would deliver the projected business outcomes. 61% of surveyors from low-performing organizations reported at most 30% of their initiatives would be considered a success. This is where the effects of either having or lacking defined processes and synchronous project planning tools began to show.  
  • What will pose the biggest challenge to any post-COVID-19 recovery work you undertake?  
    • We provided survey-takers with a list of options. Of this list, 44.2% chose the option external environmental factors. This answer might be a result of the timing of the survey. The survey was completed in January 2021 when many regions were experiencing a spike in COVID cases and authorities were enforcing lockdowns. 22.8% of respondents chose either inefficient resource allocation or ineffective planning as their biggest challenge.  

As we continued exploring the survey data, it was clear what had caused such a polarizing experience between high-performing and low-performing organizations. The following are defining factors of project success during Covid-19 recovery. 

Defining Factor #1 – Tools:   

Companies that had an easier time adapting to the pandemic had better project management tools.  

Whether they were utilizing in-house developed solutions or commercial enterprise solutions, companies with these tools met a higher rate of projected business outcomes than those without.  

Defining Factor #2 – Standardization:  

High-performing businesses were also more likely to insist that all projects use the same tool compared to low performers. 

If these high performers had not already begun investing in their digital transformation before the pandemic, they had begun to do so when their deficiencies were exposed. By investing in the right tools and processes, the high performers were far more likely to trust their data than the low performers. This supported more effective and efficient management of projects. As a result, high-performing organizations had a better COVID recovery experience than low-performing organizations.  

So, it’s true that continued recovery from COVID-19 will be difficult, but not impossible. However, the level of difficulty is contingent on a company’s willingness to invest in its digital transformation. It’s imperative that companies focus on their internal growth to ensure they’re prepared for the next downturn and that they can recover from the one they just experienced.