During a recent interview, Rob Humphreys, Viewpoint’s VP of Global Product Management shared thoughts on project collaboration and related issues facing the construction industry. We thought it would be interesting to share with our Viewpoint blog readers as well.

When it comes to better collaboration on major civil and commercial projects, what’s your opinion on the barriers facing the construction industry and holding contractors back?

There are several barriers that come to mind. First, lack of complete trust in the project team. That can be overcome by simply working together and realizing that success follows. Another practical way to address this trust barrier includes making agreements up front regarding the process, response times, audits, and so on. Plus, as simple as it may sound, construction companies can improve collaboration through better trust by having team members meet socially to get to know each other outside of the stresses of a project.

Another barrier to better collaboration that I see is fear of loss of control of the data, or a fear of sharing any more data than is required. Understanding that everyone wants to have the data in their possession, this challenge can be addressed by implementing confidentiality agreements and establishing a clear understanding of the security systems that are in place.

When team members have different goals that can be an obstacle to collaboration, which can be improved by agreeing up front what the expected gains are with collaboration and developing metrics that can measured so the team can be successful.

What do you believe are costs associated with project collaboration that’s less than optimal?

Costs add up with potential project delays as documents and drawings may take a longer time to be approved. For example, an unanswered RFI may delay a subcontractor and that can have a negative ripple effect on the schedule.

Quality can be impacted as well by subcontractors that for one reason or another, are not working form the moist current set of drawings.

Lower productivity impacts costs, too. When the collaborative process and tools are not used, the overall time spent managing the project may increase.

Without proper project collaboration, there is a higher risk and greater chance of post project claims and litigation. To address this, construction companies can rely on collaborative tools to keep accurate audits of who viewed documents and when, and when documents were modified and by whom. This audit trail lowers overall risks and protects all parties from potential litigation.

When it comes to increased costs and/or reduced margins, all of the above consequences can increase the overall cost or reduce the margin on the project.

Can you describe key characteristics of successful project collaboration?

It’s essential to share a common purpose. In order to work effectively, a collaborative team needs to take the time to explore and explicitly name where their interest overlaps and explore where self-interest may be in conflict. The single most important characteristic of success is a clearly defined, common, and compelling purpose. This purpose gives reason for people to commit to the process and the team. A common purpose not only pulls the team together but it holds them together during the unavoidable bumps that will be experienced during the project.

It’s also important to have clearly defined roles and ensure that everyone involved clearly understands others’ roles and authority. It’s also valuable to build solid relationships; although the team members don’t have to be friends to be successful, they must trust and respect each other if the team is to operate. On a related note, solid leadership is critical to successful collaboration. High-performance teams need competent leadership. When such leadership is lacking, groups can quickly lose their way.

For teams to work tighter, clear communication is vital. A team cannot move faster than it communicates. Fast, clear, timely, and accurate communication is a hallmark of high levels of team performance. High-performance teams have mastered the art of straight talk; there is little energy wasted through misunderstanding or confusion. The team understands that effective communication is essential, and as a result, they approach communication with a determined intentionality.

As well as a strong team, clearly defined processes must also be established to have successful collaboration. These processes will define the flow of work and also may be used to establish metrics by which to measure the team.

How can construction organizations implement better project collaboration?

Senior Management must drive the need for collaboration from the top down. The collaborative effort must be seen as a win-win by all sides and the benefits should be felt as evenly distributed. Companies should provide the right technology to the team to properly collaborate and metrics should be established and used as a way to measure success.

Posted by Emma Nollette

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