Monthly Archives :
November 2016
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Happy Thanksgiving!

A Few Thanksgiving Thoughts

It’s 3PM on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. This has to be one of my favorite moments of the year, as I wrap up the last few tasks for the week before 4 long days of family, food, and football.  The mood in the office is fun and upbeat, as I’m sure my coworkers are feeling the same way. Several already left a few hours ago – good for them!!! I don’t envy the one driving to Palmdale right now, but I’m sure she’s excited nonetheless as she sits motionless on the 405.

As I have gotten older, I have grown to appreciate Thanksgiving more and more. When I was a kid it was definitely fun to get together with my cousins, play basketball and card games, and drink 3 gallons of soda, but I also kind of looked at it as one more obstacle on the road to the REAL holiday holy grail … Christmas. After all we “only” got 2 days off from school (but now they get the whole week – what’s up with that?), and nobody was giving us any presents. And in particular I never looked forward to the inevitable moment where my dad would start the “Thanksgiving Spellout”, where we would go around the dinner table spelling out the word “Thanksgiving” (Or “Happy Thanksgiving” if it was an especially large crowd) and each person in turn would have to announce something that they were thankful for which started with the correct letter in the spellout.  You always hoped you would get “G” cause then you could say “Granny” and get MAJOR brownie points.

Now Thanksgiving ranks right up there with 4th of July and baseball’s Opening Day for my favorite Holiday. For starters I love that it always falls on a Thursday, creating the perfect 4-day weekend respite from work.  Most other holidays just fall on whatever day they happen to fall, and therefore can be harder to really enjoy (like Halloween on a Monday). Secondly, Thanksgiving to me marks the official start of winter weather, and therefore ski season.  Did I mention it was snowing in Mammoth today? Third and most important, I am appreciating more and more the actual traditional meaning of Thanksgiving – to be filled with gratitude and THANKS for all of the blessings in my life.  I have a wonderful wife, 2 great kids, a growing business filled with amazing people, and the health and energy to approach each day with optimism. I probably don’t appreciate all that I have been given nearly enough, and so Thanksgiving provides the perfect opportunity to slow down a bit and just enjoy how amazing life truly is.

If you are reading this, I with you a Happy Thanksgiving, and all the best in your life and the lives of your loved ones. And if you are looking for an activity for the family to enjoy around the dinner table tomorrow night – I wholeheartedly endorse the Thanksgiving Spellout.

PPM Thanksgiving Potluck Feast (11/17/16)

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5 Things You Gotta Nail Running a Multi Site As-Built Survey Program

How To Manage A Multi-Site As-Built Survey Program

Over the last few weeks, this blog has been all about high volume “Multi Site” surveys.  These are store survey programs involving hundreds or even thousands of locations across the country, where each As-Built survey needs to individually scheduled, tracked, completed and delivered to a uniform standard of deliverable AND on a specified timeline.  The sheer pace of such a program, sometimes requiring completion and delivery of as many as 50 locations per week, can easily cause things to run off track – a potentially spectacular fail with so much at stake for the client.

To successfully run a site survey program like this requires a whole other level of project management and coordination, which very few companies are able to do well.  At PPM, we think that Multi Site As-Built program management is one of our core competencies, thanks to our longtime focus on workflow processes, as well as experience completing over 12,000 surveys.  Here are the top 5 things we focus on when we are managing a Multi Site As-Built survey program:

  1. Client Communication
    • This is the top requirement that our clients have for us when we start a new program, so it is #1 for a reason. Our clients deserve to know the status of all locations, and should be alerted immediately if anything goes awry.
    • In the beginning of every program, we ask the client about their preferred method of receiving general updates and urgent alerts, along with frequency. We typically like to set up a weekly check-in call to address issues, get direct status updates, answer questions, discuss deliverable feedback, and just plain see how you’re doing!
  2. Scheduling
    • The scheduling logistics can make or break a program. The ideal scenario that leads to the best result is when we are able to obtain a list of ALL program locations prior to full rollout.  It’s even better if the client passes along a general order of priority – whether it’s regional, by franchisee, or any other parameter.  This allows us to strategize our approach in the most efficient way possible.
    • When we get a list of locations we map them all out, and within minutes can see where we have direct coverage, indirect coverage, or perhaps no coverage at all (such as North Dakota.) From there we begin pairing locations with qualified surveyors and determining our field, QA, and delivery timeline.

Map of live As-Built survey locations

  1. Tracking / Reporting
    • Our entire Program Management Team has direct program metrics and targets based on the Client/Program needs, that are monitored closely to ensure we’re always on the right track.
    • We use a combination of our internal program management software that houses all the data along with an external platform that transforms this data into easily digestible charts/graphs. These allow us to see, at a glance, how many and which locations are…
      1. Upcoming to be surveyed
      2. Coming in from surveyors
      3. In the drafting phase
      4. Due to the Client
      5. Past due or in Revisions, if any
      6. …and almost anything else we might need to track for a specific program.

Program Tracking Dashboard

  1. Teamwork
    • A large, nationwide As-Built survey program can have as many as 50+ people involved, so it truly does require exceptional teamwork and coordination to execute successfully. Here’s a few of the people directly involved on each individual survey:
      1. Program Manager – overall responsibility for success of the program, as defined by Client Satisfaction.
      2. Assistant Program Manager – responsible for scheduling, invoicing, surveyor coordination and status, file intake, and a million other catch-all items!
      3. Production Lead – responsible for coordinating our internal drafting and preparation of our final deliverable package. Also helps with initial training/onboarding of surveyors as well as our internal drafters.
      4. CAD Drafter – Performs Quality Assurance, CAD/Deliverable setup, and final packaging.
      5. Surveyor – Performs all field work on location.
  1. Flexibility
    • We love it when things go as planned, but are always prepared to make adjustments or contingency plans when the inevitable happens – client needs may change, weather implications, access issues, or (real situation!) you’re dealing with a paranoid franchisee with major trust issues. You name it, we’ve seen it, resolved it, and kept trucking along!

One of the “contingencies” we have had to make adjustments for!

There are lots of other things of course that go into national As-Built site survey program, but we feel like if we can get these 5 things right we will be pedaling downhill with everything else.

Well, after 4 weeks on this subject, that wraps up this series on Multi Site As-Builts. I hope you enjoyed the articles and as always, please share any comments or questions below and I WILL reply!

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How We Do a Multi-Site “Pilot” As-Built Survey

How To Run A Multi-Site Pilot As-Built Survey

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been talking about “Multi-Site” As-Built survey programs.  These are remodel programs which dozens or hundreds of locations which need to be surveyed – usually for large retail brands.  I wanted to discuss these types of projects because PPM has learned so much about them through our experiences the last several years, but also because there just isn’t much information about them on the internet.  There are very few companies that are capable of performing nationwide As-Built services for Multi Site programs, and ….

In the first article I talked about what a Multi Site program is: including clients, typical projects, scope of work, challenges, etc.  Then last week I wrote about the steps that we take to plan a new Multi Site survey program: including assessing objectives, gathering necessary information, creating a team, and more.  In this article, I wanted to cover a specific component of the Multi-Site program that is critical to the overall success – the pilot survey.

A pilot survey is when you complete an As-Built plan for the first location(s) on the client’s list.  The pilot survey takes place after you have finished the initial planning for a new program, but before you are ready to go live with a full launch.  The purpose of the pilot survey is twofold:

  1. For the survey company to see for themselves what the real conditions and challenges will be – both in the field and post-survey – for the program. This will help with the 2nd round of planning.
  2. To create, revise and confirm a Scope of Work with the client. This will be the actual Deliverable template that is followed for the remainder of the program.

Sometimes we do a single pilot survey, and other times we might do as many as 5 in order to complete these 2 goals.  The entire process usually takes about 2-3 weeks, and contains the following steps:

  1. Preparation. To get ready for the pilot survey(s) we do a full review of the Scope of Work and any additional client communication to determine exactly what plans we should draw, items to include, and other information to gather. We also consider any travel arrangements, scheduling requirements, or special equipment needed.
  2. Surveying.  There are a few additional things to consider when surveying for a pilot program:
    • Capture more information then you think you need.  This is good practice in general, but with a pilot particularly you really want to show the client more so that they can determine what is truly needed.
    • Consider any site conditions which may impact your ability to efficiently perform the surveys on a large scale, such as employees, customers, hours of operation, etc…
    • Compile a list of questions for the client as you survey.  The pilot survey is the chance to get these questions answered so that everything can be settle before the full program launch.
  3. Delivery to Client. Complete and deliver the survey(s) to the client, along with notes and questions.  Over the next few days there should be alot of back and forth with the client about any questions, revisions to make, information to include/omit.  We like to schedule a full “Scope Review” call with the client to hash out any remaining questions or requests.
  4. Final Scope Confirmation. This is where both parties agree that the As-Built survey Deliverable created in the pilot(s) is ready.  All future surveys for the remainder of the program will be based on that Deliverable.
  5. Update Program Documents. This is an internal step for the surveying company, to get all necessary training and workflow documents ready for the program rollout, including:
    • Survey Scope of Work and Itemized Checklist
    • Survey Operations manual
    • AutoCAD template / CAD standards
    • Other Training documents and/or videos
  6. Update Program Fulfillment Plan.  This was discussed in my last blog, and includes things like a program timeline, scheduling procedures, etc..

Once the pilot is complete you should be ready to get started on the full program rollout, surveying as many as 50 or more locations each week for the remainder of the program.  Next week’s blog will focus on some tips for running a live, high-volume, Multi Site As-Built survey program.

Thanks for reading!

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Planning a Multi Site As-Built Survey Program – Get It Right!

4 Critical Steps to Planning a Multi Site As-Built Survey Program

Last week I wrote an article about a specific type of As-Built services that PPM began offering in 2009 – “Multi Site” As-Built surveys.  A Multi Site survey program involves 2 or more locations (often hundreds) of the same type, and for the same client – most typically retail, restaurant and banking brands that are doing a regional or national remodeling program. These high-volume programs have grown to become the majority of our business, and we believe the primary source of future growth opportunities for PPM.

Let’s say a potential client contacts us with an upcoming store rebranding program.  They need to get 500 retail locations surveyed over the next 6 months.  That’s a lot of manpower and logistics to coordinate – what do we need to do in order to successfully execute this request?  Compared to a “Single Site” project, the stakes are much higher for both sides – any mistake that is made or shortcut that is taken in the beginning is magnified many times over, creating a domino effect down the line that can wreak havoc on the program timeline and results.  We have learned that it is absolutely critical to invest the time and energy needed in the beginning to communicate openly with the client, and plan all aspects of the survey program PRIOR to getting started with the site work.  We believe this so much that we’ve had to turn down projects when the necessary information just wasn’t forthcoming from the client, because we didn’t want to put ourselves or our clients in a situation where there’s any doubt at all as to the ultimate success of the program.

Here’s the 5 steps that we have identified for planning a successful Multi Site Survey program:

  1. Discuss Program Objectives
    • What is the purpose of the potential program, and what is our client’s role? With all the parties involved, it’s helpful to know where we are in the chain – no pun intended.
    • Is the client bidding or do they have the work secured? Our objective with this question is to get our services lined up as EARLY as possible within the client’s process.  This ensures alignment of budgets, products/services, and schedules/timelines which allows us to hit the ground running when the time comes for the full rollout.
    • What is the current workflow/process? This stems from the question above to get a sense of how the client is used to working on these programs and, also, to let them know how we typically run programs. Every program is unique and we love having these conversations early on to better know how to customize our services or processes during these early phases – with the goal of delivering a streamlined, design-ready package.
  2. Gather Program Information
    • Site information (size, layout, quantity, locations, corporate or franchised, etc..)
    • Scope of Work (As-Built Plans needed, item checklists, areas of focus)
    • Deliverables (CAD file, PDF, photos/videos, customized output)
    • Scheduling/Access (Who, how, hours of access, restrictions, contacts)
    • Timeline (Desired turnaround time, weekly delivery targets, overall program benchmarks and expectations)
    • Budgets and Pricing Expectations
  3. Assemble Program Team (tentative)
    • As-Built Surveyors (location, quantity, capabilities)
    • Project Management
    • Drafter and Quality Assurance support staff
    • Administrative and Customer Service support staff
  4. Create Program Proposal Package.  Not just a price, but a preliminary Program Fulfillment Plan which addresses:
    • Scope of Work/Deliverables clearly defined
    • Scheduling Practices/Assumptions
    • Timeline including Pilot Phase and full rollout ramp-up capabilities
    • Price (typically a flat per/location fee)


Cover Page of a PPM Proposal / Program Fulfillment Plan

This amount of planning, before we even have a signed contract, is a significant commitment.  But we believe it’s absolutely necessary to ensure the excellent results that PPM is known for, and that our clients deserve.  The work on the front-end will ultimately save you much more time and stress later down the road (in fact we have picked up several As-Built programs midway through completion – likely due to our competition NOT taking the time to complete these steps).  It’s all a part of our Purpose as a company to help create “Worry Free Renovations”!

Next week, I’ll delve into one of the first things we do after we have a contract for a Multi Site Survey program – “Pilot” surveys.