What does collaborative planning mean for construction?
Construction projects are complex business. A huge number of stakeholders need to come together and work towards the same goal with full respect for both the short and long-term planning of the project.
All tasks, on-site activities, and material orders are inextricably linked to each other and the slightest mistake or misunderstanding can quickly block the development of the entire project resulting in serious budget overruns and time-consuming claims.
It doesn’t take much then to understand the importance of collaborative planning for construction. All teams, including the client and the subcontractors, need to communicate seamlessly with each other relying on the latest information from the site.
Unfortunately, that’s not always as simple as it may sound. Project Managers and their teams are often ending up lost in a sea of data that lacks context. Or in other words, data that isn’t connected to the 3-6 week planning and to the master schedule. And this is where things get challenging.
Project Managers might have to spend up to 40% of their day chasing updates, attending meetings that could have been avoided, and manually writing endless reports that might be outdated the moment they are completed. Nobody wants that and nobody joined construction for that reason.
This is where digitalisation comes into the picture as a way to reduce excessive admin work and get people to collaborate in real time. But there is one problem. In many cases, Project Managers and the other project participants rely on the wrong tools to achieve that.
WhatsApp notifications, emails, Excel spreadsheets, and phone calls can connect people in real time but they are not built for construction. Even if you achieve to submit your update in real time, delays or mistakes might not be avoided as it will not be linked to the latest live schedule. In a sentence, Project Managers will still have no way to know whether their programme reflects reality.
It goes without saying that this is something that goes against the concept of collaborative planning in construction and can put your projects in great danger.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Construction-specific tools, standardised digital processes, and undisrupted collaboration between the site and the office can really make a difference and keep your project on the right track.
The 3 steps to successful collaborative planning
Without further ado, you can find below the three main steps that will help you get your teams to collaborate seamlessly and deliver successful construction projects:
1. Reduce admin work
By now, it should be clear that admin work is one of the biggest threats for every construction project. The use of digital tools that are not fit for purpose forces many Project Managers and Project Directors to rely on manual processes in order to submit updates, record progress, and protect their projects from costly claims.
In the long run, this is not a viable strategy and it can have a heavy toll on the way people in your project collaborate and manage their tasks. A fragmented communication workflow can quickly lead to situations where every stakeholder has a different version of the programme generating serious problems and painful misunderstandings.
This is why an open and highly collaborative data ecosystem is required. This ecosystem should be updated in real time and all interested parties should be able to access it. More importantly, it should be inextricably linked to the project’s schedule. Like that, everyone will be on the same page and problems can be detected before they grow out of proportion.
2. Equip your team with the right tools
Wanting to reduce the excessive admin workload around your project is one thing. Making it happen is another. To achieve this mission you need to have the right tools. That being said, you need to invest in tools that have been specifically created for the construction industry.
In some cases, people in construction think that just because a tool allows them to submit an update in real time, it is automatically fit for purpose. Truth is that it takes much more than that.
Every single stakeholder in your project needs to be connected and have an accurate overview of where they stand. Otherwise, even if they receive feedback in real time they will still have to chase updates in ten different directions and go through endless spreadsheets or even hand-written whiteboards to verify that the information they received is correct.
No matter how good someone is at their job, this way of working will eventually lead them to poor decisions and will make them feel stressed out and overwhelmed.
It doesn’t take much then to realise how crucial the use of construction-specific tools can be for bringing collaborative planning to your projects and for making sure that all stakeholders stay connected and work together in harmony.
3. Invest in standardisation
Getting teams to follow standardised processes, systems, and work practices might look impossible for some people in construction. The reason is that they feel that everyone has their own working approach and it will never change.
But the reality is way different. Regardless of the size or purpose of your construction project, 80% of the process is always the same. Taking that into consideration, it easily becomes evident that by not standardising your systems and processes you are throwing out of the window a tremendous opportunity for replicability and increased productivity in your projects. In simple terms, practice makes perfect. When you repeat a process again and again you will, sooner or later, find its flaws and improve it.
Find out today: How to succeed in the digital transformation of your company
This consistent repetition of pre-designed and standardised processes combined with construction-specific digital solutions will unlock collaboration in your projects and make it easier both for you, as a Project Manager, and your teams to stay in control of the building process and communicate smoothly.
With regard to how quickly your team will be able to adopt a new digital way of working, you should no longer see this as a real problem. Sure, some people might need extra time in the beginning but if your teams are able to use a smartphone and mobile banking then there is no reason why they can’t use a construction app that can make their lives easier.
Improve collaboration and start delivering successful projects in time!
To succeed in your collaborative planning you need to combine three crucial elements: people, processes, and tools. By bringing these three together, you will be able to resolve critical issues up to seven times faster.
This is the reason why construction-specific tools and standardised processes can make such a big difference for your current and future projects.