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Topics: Agile, Communications Management, Construction
Nonprofit Real Estate Developer in Detroit: Tools for Start Up?


I'm trained in traditional PM and Agile, but work in the nonprofit sector where formal practice is limited in small nonprofit organizations.

Recently, our organization has become a neighborhood nonprofit developer with 7 buildings to redevelop in Detroit and we are partnering with for-profit developers on specific projects. This is my first time entering real estate/construction management.

I have trained staff in the basics of Agile (using Trello) to manage certain aspects of our workflow including fund development, grants management, financials and marketing. We are successful using this tool for these operational and program areas.

However, our Economic Developer uses MS Project (online version) to manage the real estate planning/schedule managing that the rest of the staff has no exposure. In addition our for profi partners use SmartSheet, Toms Planner, etc. to manage schedules in which we are critical partners but do not have the funding or capacity to learn or use these tools.

We are a hybrid of Traditional PM and basic Agile.

Our biggest need that I see is how to manage construction project decision-making. Our currenet process is to text and email critical project details which get lost, forgotten or misconstrued as to who is responsible for what. We have a communications problem

My question:
As I explore how to improve our internal PM processes, I need to get a handle on which tools to adopt, train and use to improve schedule management, tracking communications and decision-making.

I'm evaluating options at this time, but welcome suggestions from the construction community what they have seen in small, scaled construction projects.

Thank You.
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Ms. M-
My first reaction to your question is that it would be better if you - I assume as the Owner- require everyone to be on the same page as far as reporting EVM's and Project status. I would suggest everybody use and report via MS Project. You can accomplish this in the same manner as every other owner by specifying this as a standard Contract Requirement.
In my world, we do not usually have a communication problem, but sometimes disagree with the messages being communicated.
We have Progress Meetings once per week. In your case these could be every 2? weeks. During this meeting- chaired by the owner with an Agenda of topics-we have a mutual discussion about Safety, Project status, Procurement issues, new challenges or problems, Invoice issues, manpower issues, etc. The meeting can be kept to 1 hour. The meeting must be "minuted" which means someone must keep the minutes in short summary for each topic, with an indication of who will take the action required to address the Agenda topic. The key stakeholders should be required to attend. This is the primary means of communication. We re-use the updated Agenda minutes at the next meeting.
Secondarily, Important topics require Official Correspondence (Letters officially acknowledged as received), E-mails, and Phone calls. Obviously Contract discussions must be communicated through Official Correspondence for legal reasons.

I hope these suggestions will help you. One thing you seem to be missing is a staffer with technical construction skills. I would suggest you recruit a retired Inspector or Contractor from your area to participate in reviewing your Contracts and participating in your Progress meetings.

Good Luck!


I suggest you use Slack (which links to Trello) to manage all your team communications; that way you'll have all your correspondence in one place so nothing is lost. I'm currently using a Slack/Trello combination to help a friend manage the set up of her non-profit charter school.

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