3 Ways to Bridge
Communication Gaps with
Capital Project Owners
April 04, 2023
Whether you’re about to ink the contract, are in the middle of a multi-year project, or are in the home stretch as you close in on handover, maintaining open lines of communication with the project owners is vital to achieving a successful project. They can provide direction or answers to questions about scope or project requirements, give approvals when changes must be made to scope, budget or schedule, and negotiate assignment of risk if an unexpected event or situation affects project completion.
And yet, they’ve often found themselves in the dark. The void in communication could stem from any number of reasons — contractors being overly protective of their project information or management, the perception that it takes too much time and explanation, a reliance on ineffective communication tools (think email, phone, fax) or the assumption, sometimes erroneous, that owners only want to be involved when the contractor is ready to “hand over the keys.”
Regardless, the chasm that has often existed between contractors and owners isn’t going to help the project and will only worsen if communication lines aren’t maintained. As technology advances in the industry, there’s no longer any reason or excuse not to have ongoing, productive dialogue with capital project owners. Here are three ways contractors can do this successfully.
#1 Make locating information less of a scavenger hunt
Scavenger hunts tend to lose their excitement when no one can find what they’re looking for.
That’s what it can feel like for stakeholders who aren’t able to track down information they need. Capital projects are complicated enough without adding mystery to the whereabouts of essential data or files. And yet, so much of this information has typically been decentralized — strewn about and hidden among numerous laptop files, email inboxes and siloed computer programs.
Once found though, confidence in the accuracy, currency or validity of that information may be conflicted at best, lacking at worst. Further, it can fuel the miscommunication and lack of dialogue that has long defined the relationship between contractors and project owners.
Setting up a single source of truth (SSOT) solves these challenges. Whether through cloud-based construction software or an integrated platform, the SSOT serves as a single repository for all project information, housing not just files and supporting documents but performance metrics that shed light on project status and progress. No search crews required.
It also acts as a centralized construction communication hub. So much depends on having the right information at the right time — evaluating proposed scope changes, reallocating budget resources, and discussing risk mitigation plans, for example. The SSOT enables contractors and project owners to access and interact with the same project information so they can communicate and collaborate on what matters to keep the project moving along and staying within its established budget and schedule.
#2 Don’t make assumptions about owner knowledge
There may be an element of bias or misunderstanding here. But it boils down to this: Never assume what owners know, don’t know or don’t want to know about the status and progress of their projects.
It’s true that owners have traditionally been out of the loop on the day-to-day specifics of their project, and we alluded to possible explanations above. But construction technology is changing this dynamic. As owners become more astute about what the technology can deliver — and as projects continue to come in over budget and behind schedule — they’re now expecting to be more informed and more involved to keep the project on track.
A proactive way for contractors to introduce the inclusivity owners want is through customizable daily reports and online dashboards that are available 24/7. This may seem rather simple as a construction communication strategy, but these two documentation tools provide much-needed transparency into what’s happening at the jobsite while showing compliance with project requirements. Just as importantly, it educates them on what it takes to make their project a reality.
While reports and dashboards can reduce the regular one-way pull for information from contractors, they also can provide a foundation on which to have productive conversations about budget decisions, unanticipated delays and project-impacting risks. Because when owners know what is happening, they get context around the why, and they gain more understanding about how the project is being managed.
#3 Use technology that doesn’t just tell, but shows
3D modeling technology like building information modeling (BIM) can bring owners “into” their project, giving rich context and deeper understanding of the design and progress of their project — as opposed to just 2D drawings or reports that require too much imagination.
In a way, BIM provides the ultimate collaborative experience between contractors and owners. By immersing owners into the virtual replica of their structure, contractors help them become part of the design and execution phases where they can see opportunities for exploration and modification. What does changing an element of the design do to the overall aesthetic or function of the structure? What does a material swap out look like? This opens dialogue around what’s possible with their project, and establishes a mutual understanding of how to move forward.
Conversely, as the structure’s build progresses, contractors can take owners on a “tour” to show why certain decisions or changes were or should be made, providing visual and experiential context to what otherwise could be easily misunderstood without the BIM frame of reference.
And perhaps most importantly, contractors can demonstrate to owners in 3D form how their project requirements are being met.
The construction technologies available that can simplify and streamline communication with project owners can only improve project outcomes. Curious how these tech options can help your construction firm? Let us know you’d like to chat, and we can help you determine how InEight can help.