Taking a Holistic Approach to Construction Project Collaboration
April 14, 2022
How ingrained is project collaboration at your construction company? How about within your projects? Finding the answers may require some reflection on what the term means in your company and how it plays out. You might start with some thought provoking questions to get the ball rolling:
- Does everyone understand what the project outcomes will be and what their respective roles are to support them?
- How, and how often, will you communicate with the teams on a project? How about teams with each other?
- Is everyone who can contribute valuable perspectives and insights invited to key discussions?
- What has typically hindered project collaboration: Information silos? Lack of transparency? Communication barriers?
- What have some of the consequences of poor or siloed collaboration been on the project: Schedules gone awry? Mounting costs beyond the estimate? Long punch lists and/or costly, time-consuming rework? Loss of confidence by the owner?
- What would you like to improve?
- What do you hope to achieve by taking a more holistic approach to project collaboration?
Once you’ve arrived at some honest answers, then the question becomes how do you get everyone to work better together? A caveat: working better together doesn’t mean everyone has to agree 100% on everything. It means the right people have a seat at the table and can share their perspective for a more well-rounded and well-informed consideration of strategies and solutions.
Put processes in place to facilitate holistic project collaboration
At its core, collaboration is a process. So why not take advantage of one of the proven processes already considered industry best practices to gain the benefits of collaboration while markedly improving project outcomes?
- Advanced work packaging (AWP) is unique in its consensus approach to project planning by involving engineering/design, procurement and construction right from the very beginning. Before ground is broken, everyone is actively collaborating at the planning stage on a final, agreed-upon construction-driven design and material choices, taking into account what each team needs from that planning process to most effectively do their jobs. So, with engineering having insight from construction on what is needed to effectively build the structure, those particulars can be integrated into the design, resulting in potentially fewer change orders, rework scenarios and delays. Similarly, with procurement knowing what it will take to realistically build the project thanks to construction’s input, they now have a more refined resource list that is less subject to material waste or shortages.
- Building information modeling (BIM) is a collaborative tool to improve workflow among all teams. With so much linked data contained in its common data environment (a CDE acting as a single source of truth), everyone can access the same current data on which to have discussions and make informed decisions collectively. Visibility into these project details at such a fine-tuned level equalizes participation from everyone on the project team. The rate of miscommunication that has long been a hallmark of the industry stands to go way down along with its associated risk of avoidable errors.
Use construction technology that can support comprehensive project collaboration
Collaboration can neither thrive nor survive on process alone — especially at the scale required for more sophisticated, long-term projects. It also requires technology. Construction technology serves as a main driver of when, where and how to collaborate. AWP and BIM depend on it. Of course, technology is merely a tool, not a replacement for productive communication and teamwork. However, it has capabilities that support a more holistic approach to collaboration, allowing you to:
- Establish a cloud-based single source of truth. True collaboration will be fruitless if everyone is basing their viewpoints and decisions on information from different siloed sources. With little trust in which version is the most accurate and current, there’s less likelihood for collaborative potential — creating siloed teams. What’s needed is a ground zero. Having one reliable, more universally accessible source for project data brings transparency to the process, which opens up opportunities for teams to collaborate within one hub, all working with the most up-to-date information.
- Integrate data across software functions to eliminate silos. Those silos run counter to the concept of holistic project collaboration, which is all about connected people interacting using connected data. Yet having all the data in the world, even in one place, won’t mean much if it doesn’t have a consistent structure that everyone can understand and act on. Automatically converting all that project data into a standard format in essence forms a digital language that different job functions use to efficiently and effectively communicate and collaborate with each other — from procurement to accounting to payroll, for example.
- Incorporate and learn from historical project data and experiences. Current projects build off of what you’ve learned from past projects; not just what the objective data reflects, but the wealth of subjective knowledge and expertise from veteran workers. All the data and lessons learned still have applicability to current and future projects, being used to inform estimates and risk mitigation contingency plans, for example. But where the project collaboration piece comes in is how they can serve as a foundation for discussion among project team members and stakeholders. They can revolve around questions such as: When evaluating the similarities and differences across projects, how likely a risk factor is to occur? Will replicating a successful process from another build work in a current project? How can you leverage the unique insights of the more seasoned workers that the data may not show or account for? After all, they bring the human intelligence factor, with their experiences giving context to the numbers and introducing a layer of lived realism.
- Provide dashboards for everyone to understand project status and issues at a glance. Want to have a view into your ongoing project’s status? Dashboards consolidate the vast amount of project data your capital projects produce every day into visually formatted key metrics, most commonly earned value management (EVM) metrics. EVM tracks real-time data indicating how things are going from a cost and schedule perspective. So how does EVM, in tandem with dashboards, support holistic project collaboration? As issues surface throughout the project its metric values will fluctuate, sending up an alert via the dashboard anytime something requires attention. With stakeholders having ready visibility and access to these dashboard stats, they’re able to confidently make timely decisions and collaborate on next steps from a data-informed place.
Holistic construction project collaboration represents opportunity — to strengthen relationships within the broader project team, to discuss decisions and solve problems based on consensus, and to design a better structure. With the processes and technology in place that are right for your construction company, you can start seeing the benefits of collaboration manifest in your project metrics and outcomes. The InEight integrated platform can facilitate improved teamwork and data management. See what it can do for you with a demo.