Willmott Dixon used Viewpoint on its National College for High Speed Rail in Doncaster

Explainers

Software can help collaboration, but it’s people who make it work

11 February 2018 | By Ben Wallbank

Ben Wallbank, BIM strategy manager at software provider Viewpoint, says many companies are embracing digital transformation, but there’s still room for improvement.

Historically the construction industry was poor at collaboration and the disconnected nature of project teams was a factor in the industry’s inefficiency.

For example:

  • Teams were usually only assembled for the duration of an individual project;
  • Only a small portion of the total team might ever meet or be co-located on site;
  • Technology constraints limited the ability to share information freely;
  • At the end of the project, teams were disbanded, often dispersing the collectively acquired knowledge.

Digitalisation has vastly improved the ability of project partners to share information. However, there is still much more that partners can learn to improve their performance as currently almost two-thirds of projects (59%) are not delivered on time and almost one third of projects come in over budget (32%).

With construction margins averaging 2.5% it is essential for all project delivery partners such as consultants, designers, contractors and subcontractors to collaborate more efficiently.

This has been enhanced by using effective IT and management information systems. With the ability to deliver real-time project information from across all project delivery partners, it is increasing the professional standing of the different disciplines in providing clients with accurate, timely and informative data.

Projects are only effective when all of the delivery partners come together and embrace the technology. As such, BIM must become an enabler to break down the silos of different trades and services within the supply chain.

At Viewpoint we’re big believers that successful collaboration is 80% people and processes and 20% technology as the glue binding the partners together. Delivering a successful project starts with the client’s procurement procedure. This should outline a common set of classifications and working practices it expects during the project.  

Clients’ Employer’s Information Requirements are becoming a key driver for collaborative working and break down supply chain silos project by project: clearly defined objectives outlined during procurement become the contractual requirements and working practices of all partners.  

Best practice dictates that there needs to be a common communication platform so all project partners agree ways of working, reporting and sharing information. Sharing a technology program drives consistent standards and provides greater transparency of data across the supply chain.

This also provides one central, secure repository which parties access to upload, share and extract information in real-time.

As all parties need to work together effectively throughout the project it is important to have a cross-party kick-off meeting to set out consistent ways of working, reporting and sharing information so that all parties understand the terms on how to engage with each other.

In addition, by establishing regular monthly/quarterly progress meetings all parties can collaboratively work together to create the best solution to issues through all project milestones.

Clients and consultants can also work together to create incentives to encourage all parties to collaborate and reward them all for meeting milestones ahead of schedule.

When a company adopts new technology it usually requires an element of change, adaptation and support. In reality, it is just like any other change management process where some firms will be taken out of their comfort zones, but with the right investment in people and new IT and information management systems, there will be a reduction in project errors, duplication, and rework so increasing productivity.

This reduction in rework was evidenced by our client Willmott Dixon. By using Viewpoint the contractor was able to hand over the new £21m National College for High Speed Rail in Doncaster (pictured top), totally snag free, two days ahead of schedule.

Of course, project information has a client benefit beyond the delivery phase. With an estimated 80% of an asset’s costs lying beyond the construction phase, being able to provide the client with a digital dashboard and historical overview of the project will also help to save time and lifetime maintenance costs.  

So, for example, information on a roadside light about the type of bulb it takes, how much it costs and the best method of replacement can be identified with a few clicks rather spending time searching out paper records.

In a world which is digitising in every way, the idea that built assets don’t have supporting digital information is unthinkable.

While successful teamworking is dependent on technology it is so important for businesses to create and embed a culture of cooperation and collaboration.

Clients’ Employer’s Information Requirements are becoming a key driver for collaborative working and break down supply chain silos project by project.– Ben Wallbank, Viewpoint