Five Types of Collaborators – Assess Yourself Now!

Global Construction Industry CollaborationCollaboration is essential to success, but are you doing it in a way that minimizes risk, drives your organization forward, and lets you scale? Developing a collaboration strategy and adopting a platform is only the tip of the iceberg – it’s a means to an end, but not the end itself.

This is why Aconex has established the Collaboration Maturity Model, a five-stage framework that allows each stakeholder to assess where they are and what they need to do to get to the next level. Having supported more than 16,000 projects, it’s been progressively developed over the years based on feedback from clients who are seeing real tangible benefits to the way their projects are run.

The ultimate goal: a fully digitized, deeply collaborative ecosystem that uses data to radically transform how construction and engineering projects are procured, managed, and delivered.

Global construction is projected to grow at roughly 4 percent annually over the next 15 years, outpacing GDP, according to Oxford Economics’ 2030 forecast. A key driver of that growth: Large multi-billion-dollar public infrastructure projects involving dozens of firms.

According to KPMG’s 2015 Global Construction Survey, 82 percent of project owners expect increased collaboration with partners, contractors, and public agencies. But as the number of stakeholders increase and projects grow more complex, it becomes even more difficult to deliver them on time and under budget.

Over the last three years, less than a third of mega projects surveyed by KPMG came within 10 percent of their cost projections, and only 25 percent came close to meeting their original deadlines. To minimize risk and exposure, improve delivery and ensure on budget execution, it’s imperative to take a strategic approach to collaboration and big data in order to transform projects.

Construction Industry Collaboration

What stage are you in? Read on to find out.

Stage 1: Manual – Non-automated and/or integrated procedures

In a world gone digital, you still have filing cabinets filled with paper drawings and reports. Your email inbox is brimming with RFIs, change orders and reviews, yet you have no way to track the status of each without opening each message. You scratch out financial models using a series of spreadsheets, and share those files via email as well, which makes revision tracking a nightmare. You have no visibility into your processes, no accountability, and must rely on a paper-based audit trail in order to keep projects on track.

Even if your organization is more sophisticated than this, odds are some of your vendors and subcontractors are not. In fact, you actually don’t know what happens downstream or how information is handled and managed. This drains your productivity as you’re constantly resending information or people are working off outdated revisions – leading to increased errors, needless rework, missed deliverables, and shrinking margins.

Stage 2: Siloed – Implementing automation within your organization

You’ve embraced the digital era, but you’re still operating as a bunch of loosely aligned departments, not as a team. You’ve got a document management system in place, but it’s only used internally, so none of your project partners can take advantage of it. You still communicate using an external email system and share documents via FTP sites, Dropbox or some other cloud-based storage service. That can lead to errors and discrepancies as external partners manually amend their own versions of documents.

Your visibility into processes and ability to audit stops at your organization’s door — there’s no way to see what your key partners are doing. You’re missing access to crucial project controls to quickly identify delays, changes or dependencies. You waste endless hours in meetings with them, going over what everyone should already know.

Stage 3: Formative – The beginnings of digital collaboration

At this stage you’ve implemented a cloud-based platform and invited key parties to collaborate with you. You have the ability to search for and share documents across organizations, as well as visibility that extends beyond your own processes. You may even have mobile access to the platform, making models, drawings, and reports instantly accessible to personnel on the construction site. By sharing best practices with partners, you’re able to streamline and rationalize critical processes to gain new efficiencies.

But because all your stakeholders don’t use the same platform, gaps in the audit trail remain and inefficiencies still occur. Ad hoc adoption can lead to needless duplication of effort and put an additional strain on IT, as it must support multiple systems.

In the latter half of Stage 3, as your focus shifts from collaborating on individual projects to bringing your entire network of partners and contractors onto the platform, these problems subside, and the amount of data available to guide your decision making grows tenfold.

Stage 4: Advanced – Project participants share common, unified platform

Once you’ve brought all participants and projects onto a single unified platform, real collaboration begins. Now all documents are in one place, BIM and model management is centralized and project communication is improved. Instead of focusing on a handful of critical processes, every process can now be tracked, measured, and optimized from bids and tenders all the way to handover of the built asset. The ability to standardize these processes across every organization allows you to slash costs, decrease turnaround times, and gain more time to mitigate potential bottlenecks.

With process standardization comes the ability to benchmark, define best practice and set-up a measurement framework to ensure that continuous process improvement is at the heart of project delivery and execution.

And as you drive this platform to all projects in your portfolio, you start to see the benefits of scale. You see turnaround times decreasing, boost the overall quality of your deliverables, and increase productivity. The times savings alone can be quite dramatic. Organizations that have deployed the Aconex solution across their entire network have reduced the time needed to process RFIs and approve design changes by 50 percent versus the industry average. They’ve shaved two days off the dispute management process and four days from the time needed to accommodate changes in project scope.

Stage 5: Transforming – Enterprise-wide adoption by all business units and partners 

You’ve now achieved enterprise-wide adoption across all your global business units and project partners. Your visibility extends from deep inside your supply chain out to your smallest subcontractor. With your processes standardized, you can focus on iterating and honing each one to a razor sharp edge.

Most important, you’ve transformed from a document-driven organization to a data-driven one. Using predictive analytics, you can now interpret trends, anticipate problems, and gain valuable insights across all your projects, as well as thousands of others aggregated by Aconex.

The true benefit of a collaboration platform like Aconex is in the scale, reach and experience. With millions of data points across a multitude of processes and global projects, benchmarking for best practice becomes easy. Having access to aggregated, anonymized benchmarking data enhances your ability to accurately price jobs and underbid competitors, while still maintaining a healthy margin.

In the 21st century construction firm, bits and bytes are as important as rivets and rebar. Gaining mastery over your data and using it to drive outcomes gives you a competitive advantage that’s hard to beat.

Ready to move up to the next stage?

Contact us for a demo of our broad range of capabilities and how we can help you take your collaboration to the next level.

Plus, keep an eye out for the next post in this series. We’ll be doing a deeper dive into Stage 4 of the maturity model, offering insights and how you can optimize your processes across your projects.

Karthik Venkatasubramanian

Karthik Venkatasubramanian

General Manager, Data Strategy and Operations at Aconex
Karthik Venkatasubramanian is the General Manager of Data Strategy and Operations at Aconex, the world’s leading collaborative construction and engineering management software.
Karthik Venkatasubramanian