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Project Collaboration - Best Practices


Project Collaboration Best Practices

Project Collaboration Best Practices

Chapter 5:  Enhancing Collaboration through Technology

“To tap into the true power of this next generation of solutions,

companies need to collaborate across a broader business and IT ecosystems:

business units, alliance partners, the IT function, system and service integrators, vendors, outsourcers and more.”

The Journal of High–Performance Business: A New Era of Collaboration by Marty Cole


Technology in construction has led to the improvement of safety, quality control, and communication, to name a few keys areas.  This improvement has resulted in the elimination (or decrease) in fragmentation, duplication, and distrust.  Operating an efficient construction project can be greatly assisted by the evolving technologies.  However, there is an inherent interrelationship between technology and collaboration, as technology enables us to be more collaborative and, at the same time, requires us to be more collaborative in order to get the most value from technology.  Additionally, the tools used must operate efficiently and in conjunction with standard operating procedures that already exist.  Technology should add value to all parties involved without over complicating.

Technology Planning

A Technology Implementation Plan is a recommended approach to get all team members to understand the vision and objectives of the technology to be utilized on a project.  To create this plan, it is suggested to begin with the end in mind – what deliverables does the Owner expect from the project?  For example, does the Owner have expectations of monitoring energy efficiency based off of an as-built model for lifecycle maintenance?  Once the expectations from the Owner are identified, the team can work collaboratively towards creating an appropriate Technology Implementation Plan.  Having a comprehensive plan from the start of a project will be less expensive, and less frustrating, than trying to change on-the-fly during a project.  By planning ahead, an Owner can achieve a good return on their investment.

The Tools

Encountering new technologies in construction has become part of the business.  It seems as though new software programs, or processes, are entering the market all of the time.  However, new technologies do not guarantee improved productivity, especially if the new tools are not coupled with good management practices.  Each of the various tools has a different area of focus.  As such, each tool requires a learning process to ensure that the user(s) and team members that are affected by the tool have an education on its associated processes.  By allowing for the implementation of the learning process, the project team will improve their odds of gaining the maximum benefits from the implementation of each new technology.

Current advancements in construction technologies include:

  • Modeling – an enhanced electronic representation of a facility for the purpose of design, analysis, construction, operations, and facility management.  As a project proceeds through its lifecycle, team members will use the model for different purposes allowing each team member to enhance collaboration throughout.  During pre-construction and construction, the model can serve as a verifiable step to illustrate design intent.  Before delving into this technology, many organizations will refer to a BIM Execution Plan to ensure all parties are clearly aware of opportunities and responsibilities associated with the incorporation of BIM into a project workflow.  To see an example visit: Penn State BIM Project Execution Planning Guide.
  • Project Management Information System (PMIS) – web-based software that provides a single source of up-to-date project information, including the list of project participants, contact information, bidders lists, contracts, payment applications, and other administrative project documents.  In addition, it also allows for a collaborative, secure, online process for exchanging, reviewing, and archiving construction submittals, Requests For Information (RFIs), and other design and construction communications.  Being that the software resides online, the contents are available from anywhere, at any time, with the proper hardware and internet connection.
  • Construction Documentation – the electronic plan tables where documents are shared to help the construction team reach the most up-to-date drawings, details, specifications, and trade packages at any time.  At the end of the project, the Owner benefits from a more accurate documentation, as long as the team continues to collectively work together to keep the documents up-to-date and correct.
  • Web Conferencing Software – a combination of screen sharing and conferencing software that allows team members to meet, collaborate, and work together on aspects of a project in a virtual environment, without the need to leave their physical location.   
  • Miscellaneous – additional topics that should be considered as technologies to be utilized on a project for the benefit of the collaborative team. 
    • Mobile technology (tablets, smartphones, etc.)
    • Cloud vs. In-house servers
    • Internet speeds on-site
    • Wi-Fi on-site
    • Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS)
    • Laser Scanning
    • CNC Machining
    • Robotic Layout
    • GPS-Linked Progress Photographs
    • Online Bidding


Post Script:

For the technology section, names of products are not listed.  We omitted them on purpose, opting to focus on the topic for which the tool is utilized.  Since construction technology is advancing at an accelerated speed, with many tools currently in existence and many more in research and development, we felt that by naming products we would run the risk of leaving out some valuable tools.  It is the intention of the AIA-MBA Joint Committee, through its Owner Roundtable Series, to host an annual session on technology to provide live demonstrations of current tools in action.


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