Burns & McDonnell leader on the value of a fully integrated project lifecycle approach

September 23, 2020 | 4 minute read
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In our latest Trailblazers interview, Patty Sullivan, project manager, strategic initiatives group at Burns & McDonnell, walks us through her career history, her thoughts on the state of innovation in the industry, and why she’s excited about predictive modeling.

Burcin Kaplanoglu, executive director, innovation officer, Oracle Global Business Units, leads the discussion.

BK: Tell us about your current role and how your career has evolved since you started in the industry.

PS: Currently, I'm a project manager in the strategic initiatives group at Burns & McDonnell. We're a six-person group that works together with our corporate services teams and our business units.

Our goal is to gain insight into how our organization operates and the challenges we all face. With these insights, we connect and facilitate change by bringing stakeholders from across the organization together to solve common, complex problems.

I've been in the construction industry for more than 30 years. Prior to coming to Burns & McDonnell, I started out in the industry in procurement, then became a field superintendent. After that, I worked my way into project management.

Eventually, I became vice president of operations for a large, international structural framing company. I oversaw both our field operations, as well as our large manufacturing facility located in Tecate, Mexico.

Burns & McDonnell

I was given an opportunity to work for Burns & McDonnell on a large transmission line project. When that project ended, I moved to the global headquarters office in Kansas City, Missouri. I started noticing common challenges faced by many of our project teams.

I believed an integrated technology strategy would help our teams execute their work more efficiently, allowing us to seamlessly share resources across business units, and help teams focus on our top priority: providing the best service for our clients.

BK: How do you see the state of innovation in the industry overall?

PS: Over the last several years, while working in this position, I’ve seen technology companies struggling to provide complete solutions. Whenever I talk to industry peers at conferences, or we’re conversing about common problems across the industry, we're all on the same path, facing the same challenges.

We all understand how technology could help our industry evolve, but we can't really get our hands on a complete solution. We’re cobbling together individual, disconnected point-solutions, and, in some cases, using API technology to move data between the systems. The strategic initiatives team at Burns & McDonnell is focused on building a fully integrated project lifecycle.


"We are trying to move away from point-solutions, which solve a single problem for a single group of people. Instead, we are working to find pillar platform technologies that allow us to solve multiple problems for many diverse groups."

-Patty Sullivan, Project Manager, Strategic Initiatives Group, Burns & McDonnell


Understanding processes within a lifecycle, the relationship of those processes to other processes, the various roles involved in those processes and what data would need to pass from one pillar to another, is critical in identifying the right long-term, sustainable technology for our organization.

Whether it is a pursuit team or a project team, how do we keep our employee-owners working in as few systems as possible to help them get their jobs done? And, how do we move key data to keep them from entering it into multiple systems? That’s our goal.

We’re working to understand the people, the processes, the commonality, and the differences across our diverse enterprise. In terms of innovation, we’re working with several partners on AI technology that you see coming into the industry.

As part of our 2020 initiatives, the strategic team is looking at how we can use robotics, AI, and predictive modeling to alert us to looming issues and eliminate things like data-entry for our teams.

BK: So, you’re focused on more predictive information rather than analytics and looking backwards?

PS: Exactly. When you see some of the predictive modeling being done, such as Oracle’s Construction Intelligence Cloud, you see an endless opportunity for us to be more proactively responsive as opposed to reactive.

Additionally, I think there is an opportunity to proactively manage or mitigate project risk with that technology. It is certainly something we will be looking at this year.

Read Part II of this interview, where Sullivan covers the biggest challenges at her organization, why she participated in Oracle’s Transforming the Industry Influencer Program (TIIP), and her views on how AI and machine learning will impact the industry.

See innovation in action at the Oracle Industries Innovation Lab.

Oracle Construction and Engineering, the global leader in construction management software and project portfolio management solutions, helps you connect your teams, processes, and data across the project and asset lifecycle. Drive efficiency and control in project delivery with proven solutions for project controls, construction scheduling, portfolio management, BIM/CDE, construction payment management, and more.

Read more Trailblazers articles here.


Corie Cheeseman

Corie Cheeseman is a senior content marketing manager for Oracle Construction and Engineering.

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