Can you imagine a construction project that doesn’t involve the collaboration of many, many stakeholders? Of course not! Nobody can first design and then build a school, a bridge, a stadium, a hospital, or anything else all by themselves. We need each other.
But collaboration today is about more than simply working together: it’s about recognizing that our industry exists as much online as it does in the field. Today, AECO companies are more likely to:
- Have hybrid or work-from-home models for their workers
- Use data-driven decision-making
- Invest in digital documentation to meet regulatory compliance
- Use digital twins
So how do you collaborate in digital spaces? Most companies use emails as a standard practice for communication, but these are annoying to sift through, get lost easily in archives, and are complicated to track over long chains. Spreadsheets are another go-to option to organize elements of a project, but these can get bloated very quickly, to say nothing of the confusion that arises with different versions of the same document.
With soaring project costs and less wiggle room for stakeholders, any flaw in your collaboration strategy can lead to untimely delays, extra expenses, and in some cases litigation. It’s no wonder, then, that over 80% of AECO professionals have looked to new digital tools to help bridge communication gaps and keep projects running smoothly.
Project Information Management (PIM) platforms are frontline digital tools for this new approach, and by adopting a comprehensive PIM plan, you can overcome the major challenges that bog down other teams in the industry.
With project information software like Newforma Konekt, your firm will be able to leverage PIM plans to streamline your workflows and communications, which means fewer headaches for you. But before we get into the tech, let’s look at the basics.
OUTLINING THE PLAN
Let’s be clear: the sooner you can set down responsibilities, agree on channels, and figure out ownership for all project deliverables, the faster you’ll be able to resolve challenges when they arise. If you don’t align on these, the workflows between different teams will suffer.
A PIM Plan should be worked out before beginning the design phase of the project, and ought to involve as many stakeholders as possible: the architects, engineers, and GCs, to answer and agree on the following major questions:
- What is the scope of the project?
- What will each phase of the project involve, and how many phases will there be?
- Who are the stakeholders responsible for each element of the project, and when will they be asked to lend their expertise?
- What cross-discipline considerations do you think will come up with a project of this size and scope?
Once these questions are brought to everyone’s attention, you can now decide how everyone will communicate and collaborate. And the easiest way to bring clarity to your project is to use a centralized PIM platform.
By using a centralized PIM platform, you can access emails, files, action items, and construction administration in one place (regardless of where the information resides), and workflows can happen smoothly without needing to jump between applications.
For instance, when a contractor seeks clarity from an architect, the traditional process involves document preparation, email correspondence, and waiting for a response; there are a lot of steps in that process, and often results in overlooked emails, misfiled documents, and unnecessary delays.
So, by implementing a platform to manage emails, you can overcome transparency issues, avoid cycles of confusion, unnecessary meetings, and needless delays. Removing communication bottlenecks related to email can lead to immediate results.
There are options available today to automate the transfer of information between systems. For example, if you use a PIM platform with a Microsoft Outlook add-in, it might let you auto-populate your submittals, RFIs, and action items directly from an email. This streamlines your work and saves you and your team from having to download attachments and reenter data into your system.
PUTTING PIM INTO PLAY
Now that everyone understands the scope, responsibilities, and has agreed to a centralized coordination platform, here’s what your coordination will look like in practice.
File email to the project: Get your project email out of siloed individual email inboxes, and make them searchable. When your team files the email to a central location for the project, everyone on the internal team can then access this information, regardless of who it was sent to.
Adopt a consistent approach to filing project information: If you standardize how the information will be filed across your firm, your teams will be able to respond quicker.
Empower stakeholders to continue using their software of choice: An architecture firm may use authoring software for design, while the engineering team uses clash detection software. These applications don’t speak to each other easily, which hinders collaboration. A centralized platform solves this problem.
If everyone is working off the same list, knows who’s responsible for what and when, and can see the most up-to-date status, then trust and accountability are much easier to build. By getting buy-in early, each specialty can provide insight on the project’s constructability, improving efficiency and collaboration from all parties. This also allows for early planning of the actual construction process, which all begins by setting expectations up front on how information will be used.
In construction, collaboration is a necessity that also provides a strategic advantage. But reluctance to embrace new collaboration tools is understandable, given the challenges posed by existing solutions. But a tool like Newforma Konekt stands out as fantastic opportunity, by using a holistic approach to collaboration that unifies people, processes, and technology.
About the Author:
Alessandro Masi is Marcom Content Creator at Newforma and spends his days interviewing industry experts who are passionate about fostering collaboration in the AECO sector. For more, visit www.newforma.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, January 2024
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