I am amazed at the quick pace with which the AEC+O community is adopting and utilizing new technology these days. It’s all relative of course because some industries are moving even faster, but it wasn’t very long ago that paper sets were still being shipped back-and-forth and fax machines had a bunch of curled-up, oily print-outs to be handed out in the office. This is truly a unique moment in time when the people playing in the sandbox together span multiple generations, multiple levels of experience, and different perspectives on how technology can fit together with the tried and true methods of doing things.
With the open nature of the Internet, the introduction of many technologies has a very “Wild West” feel to it. Everybody is doing something different and there are very few recognized standards or best practices. This has led to a somewhat of a bumpy transition for many stakeholders because it is hard to figure out what processes and technologies best suit their needs.
A quick scan across the latest “buzz” terms in the industry may give you a clue. Whether it is Integrated Project Delivery, Lean Construction, Public-Private Partnerships, and certainly Building Information Modeling, there is one theme that goes across them all: Collaboration. Without collaboration, none of these initiatives will work or bring the benefits people want.
I think we’re nearing a tipping point where construction teams are actually collaborating, but we aren’t there just yet. Why do I say that? At StratusVue, the focus of our technology is on fostering collaboration, so we talk about this stuff and observe trends for a living. I hear all the time from teams that they collaborate, but when I ask them to explain how it usually sounds something like this:
If you look at these steps, they’re really just examples of communication. Communication is a good thing of course, but it uses multiple mediums and the result is that information gets scattered across all sorts of different locations.
As this definition shows, unless you’re a descendant of Benedict Arnold (ha!) you need to produce or create something to collaborate. The industry is making progress by communicating better, but there’s still work to be done before we can say teams are really collaborating.
In order to collaborate, the traditional “silos” of information need to be eliminated because they’re a barrier to efficient workflow. I will use a typical submittal process as an example to illustrate:
There are usually a minimum of 3 different submittal logs kept on a given project. This means that the same data is being entered multiple times, and needs to be continually checked and correlated between the various sources. Did it get entered right? Was it sent back on time? Were all the documents included? None of the parties can see whether they have the same information as the others, so discrepancies are inevitable and aren’t discovered until the weekly meeting or much later.
By using a unified collaborative environment with just one shared log and the same documents, these issues – and more importantly the mistakes and delays they cause – can be eliminated.
This is just one example of so many opportunities for improved process efficiency through collaboration. Consider others like:
As I mentioned, technology is changing the landscape of construction very rapidly now. The Internet and collaborative solutions can now effectively provide secure and reliable Contract Document Management for projects where the team is spread across the nation or the globe.
If you want to keep up with the modern fast-paced world of construction, you’d be wise to start collaborating rather than just communicating. If you don’t, your competitors will!
We’d love to hear your thoughts or comments. Or contact us to learn more about how StratusVue can improve collaboration for your team.
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