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Calgary’s Next Economy: Tracecost tightens construction project tracking

Prabh Paul Parmar said recent reports show that only two per cent of major infrastructure projects are tracked using project management software.

With billions spent annually on infrastructure worldwide, Parmar, an architect by trade, said imagine what could be saved in time and money with just a little bit more technology. They first recognized the application in South Asian construction projects.

“It’s a pay-in-cash and gold industry. It’s not as organized as the North American market,” he said.

“And so therefore, we do understand when you bring in technology, you’re talking about a lot of transparency, and which is not what larger organizations would want.”

That’s how Tracecost sprung to life.

“If I was laying the pipeline in Alberta, I would still be using Excel sheets and spreadsheets, and then maybe pen and paper to fill in the work that I’ve done,” said Parmar, one of the company’s co-founders along with Madhvi Walia and Sunny Vohra.

That work then gets physically transported back to the company HQ to see what kind of progress has been made.

“We wondered, ‘why was that’ and one of the reasons was that people who are working in this industry are technology-wise, handicapped,” he said.

“What you needed to do was give them a simplified solution.”

 The strengthening the weak link

Parmar pulled no punches in saying where they’ve seen the biggest problem in the transfer of raw data on construction sites.

“The problem is also not the site of work. It’s not the junior management in the team. The problem is the middle management,” he said.

“They are one of the most inefficient and the weakest link within the system.”

He said they must collate all the data. Sometimes pieces of it are unintentionally missed. Other times, it’s not so unintentional. Quite often the data is incomplete.

“So therefore, just imagine if you were the top boss for a construction firm. If I do not give you validated data, you’re not going to be able to make wise decisions,” Parmar said.

Their system allows project personnel to directly input data from the site. It could be materials and inventory, challenges on site, progress on different aspects of the project. Their system provides daily project reporting, predictive analysis on project budgets, document management and more.

“Transparency is what our platform brings, and bridges the gap,” he said.

Learning the hard way

Parmar said one of the biggest advantages of working with the Junction program through Platform Calgary is they’re learning how business is done in North America.

They now have a Calgary-based operation and they’re getting up to speed. They’ve already worked on several projects in other parts of the world.

“We do understand that things work differently, but you need somebody else to guide you, mentor you, and to make certain introductions to get you those valuable insights,” Parmar said.

They’ve learned much of that the hard way over the years. Now they’re getting the education in a very short span.

Today, they employ 22 people. Tracecost is delivering projects and they’re profitable. But they’re in no rush to expand.

“There’s an old saying that culture eats strategy for breakfast,” Parmar said.

“And what we understood, our attack was that we can have any strategy, but unless you understand the culture or the local companies, we’re not going to be successful.”