Collaborative Delivery in Construction: Is Your Team Prepared?

collaborative delivery in construction

When you consider what makes projects successful, delivery methods are often one of the first things that come to mind. Yet empowering teams to succeed is just as important. As the construction industry adapts to a technology-first approach, the focus has shifted from silos to collaborative workflows and processes. 

As a result, more and more firms are turning to collaborative delivery models to meet schedules, generate cost savings, and build trust. A crucial part of generating the greatest results from these models is establishing a high-performing team. In this article, owners and construction managers will find ways to create a foundation of trust and communication for greater success. 

Collaborative Delivery: Its Advantages for Construction

The Water Design-Build Council defines collaborative delivery models as means to “procuring and delivering a capital project that involves close collaboration among the owner, the designer, and the contractor from design through completion.” These approaches encourage and incentivize teams to collaborate from the start of a project. 

Two common types of collaborative delivery approaches are integrated project delivery (IPD) and Design-Build. IPD focuses on partnerships and mutual understanding. It leverages a three-party agreement between the owner or project manager, builder, and designer to define the business objectives of each member. Doing so helps to establish understanding, determine expectations, and avoid silos. Some of the benefits of IPD include fewer errors and rework, improved productivity, cost savings, clearer communication, and more room to innovate and uncover more efficient ways to design and build.

In a design-build project, designers, builders, project managers, and owners collaborate to pinpoint any potential issues related to building, scheduling, design, and delivery during the design process. This is done to proactively identify and address issues, avoiding errors, rework, and late schedules. Design-build encourages a quick delivery on projects, greater efficiency, higher-quality standards, the reduction of waste, and fewer administrative tasks due to miscommunication. 

How to Set Up Your Teams for Collaborative Delivery Success

Build Trust

Construction is a relationship-based industry. From on-site employees to subcontractors, everyone needs to feel confident in each other’s abilities to get the job done. For collaborative teams, building trust from the beginning is essential. 

According to recent research on trust in construction, high-trust teams have lower turnover rates, fewer missed schedules, and more repeat business than their counterparts. They’re also more transparent, more willing to share information openly, and more consistent, all of which are essential to the success of collaborative delivery. 

So how do you build trust? First, you have to define what trust looks like for your team. There are two basic types of trust in business:

  1. Organizational trust: trust between individuals in an organization such as among colleagues or between employees and managers
  2. Project trust: trust between at least two firms which typically occurs during a construction project.  

With those definitions in mind, let’s take a look at the actionable steps for building trust. Take a baseline of how much your teams trust each other and the other firms you work with. You can take in this information on an annual basis through surveys. Employees can assign a rating to: 

  • Internal trust levels
  • Project trust levels with other firms
  • How often their expectations are met by others
  • How easily they can earn trust from others on the team

Next, minimize uncertainty. Uncertainty is one of the biggest obstacles to developing and maintaining trust. Teams that are uncertain about the project or the information they are using won’t be empowered to make strategic decisions. Organizations that prioritize transparency and sharing information are more likely to make smart decisions than those that hoard project information. 

Here are effective ways to minimize uncertainty on your team:

  • Ensure transparency of project data 
  • Define roles and associated expectations
  • Provide performance feedback thoughtfully and effectively
  • Communicate clearly, directly, and simply
  • Encourage participation and suggestion sharing
  • Be consistent in operations

Finally, remember to take responsibility for the top. When challenges occur, it’s often too easy to shift the blame. Teams that take accountability and look for ways to improve after an issue are more likely to maintain trust. 

Provide the Right Foundation for Collaboration and Communication

A common data environment  is a digital hub where information comes together in an accessible environment on a project. Beginning a project with a common data environment helps to establish collaboration and communication from the start of the project, including during the early design phases. This single source of truth not only helps to build efficiency but also reduces errors and rework. 

Once you have your common data environment, you need connected tools to support design through operations. Platforms like Autodesk Construction Cloud provide tools on a unified, connected platform so teams can collaborate on the same platform throughout the project life cycle. 

Prioritize Integrated Tools

Even the most enthusiastic and prepared team can be derailed by a data silo. So much of what we do is dependent on access to real-time information. If this information is difficult to access or is outdated, the team will begin to distrust the technology and the data itself. Just as stakeholders must collaborate together as a team, the technology needs to work together effectively. For reliable, actionable project data, your software should facilitate the sharing of information across all channels and allow for a single source of truth.

Connected data allows teams to access the information they need from the source and format that provides the most value. Each team can update the data as they acquire new information to move the project forward. There’s no need to version control, sort through inboxes, or hunt down the latest copy of something. People can go right to the source and access the needed data whether they’re in the office, working from home, on the jobsite, or traveling.  

Create Standards Up Front

Collaborative delivery methods need leadership buy-in and direction to succeed. Ultimately, you must weave it into your organization’s culture through collective mindsets, processes, workflows, standards, etc. 

To get started on this long-term objective, set project standards from the beginning. Project owners should be prepared to define project needs, requirements, and standards from the start. Then they can work with the teams involved to make sure those needs can be met. This way of working goes a long way to power collaboration by ensuring alignment and understanding across all stakeholders. 

The Payoff of High-Performing Teams 

Creating high-performing teams to generate the maximum ROI from collaborative delivery models does require an investment of time and resources. However, the benefits of doing so are significant and will differentiate your firm’s ability to deliver high-quality projects.

Grace Ellis

Editor in Chief, Digital Builder Blog, Autodesk

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