Preconstruction teams are the first line of defense in determining whether or not projects will ultimately succeed. Unfortunately, when that preconstruction team is buried in subcontractor follow-ups and painstaking manual data entry, errors can easily slip through the cracks, and projects begin on a faulty foundation.
Preconstruction has always been vital to positive project outcomes, but when the preconstruction phase is optimized for accuracy and efficiency, the team becomes a general contractor’s biggest asset and the foundation of their success. Plus, with higher productivity, they have the opportunity to bid for more projects, increasing chances of bringing in revenue with every additional project won.
Here are five qualities that the top general contractors foster in their preconstruction teams to ensure every project starts off on the right foot.
1. High-quality preconstruction teams go digital.
Today, construction remains the least digitized industry in the world. It’s why over the past 20 years, construction productivity has only grown 1% a year, lagging far behind manufacturing (3.6%) and the economic average (2.8%). It’s why from 2005-2015, fewer than 15% of E&C firms had double-digit growth or margins.
With such high stakes, it’s crucial that general contractors stop relying on whiteboards, binders, and Rolodexes to facilitate preconstruction planning. Simply put, going digital means moving traditionally paper-based processes online to make work easier for everyone — and understanding that the “way we’ve always done it” doesn’t necessarily mean the best way to get things done.
2. Effective preconstruction teams embrace automation.
If digitization is how the preconstruction phase becomes more predictable, automation is how preconstruction teams start working smarter and faster. While some construction professionals hear the word “automation” and worry about technology eliminating the need for workers, highly effective preconstruction teams know that automation doesn’t replace human beings. They understand that automation is simply a tool that helps increase efficiency and minimize mistakes. Even better — automating tedious, manual tasks allows teams to both take on more work and spend more time thinking strategically, not being bogged down in data entry.
3. Efficient preconstruction teams centralize their data.
Preconstruction teams have long been notorious for storing data in a million different places, from file cabinets to endless Excel spreadsheets. However, with the right tool, it’s possible to have all of your data live in one single, continually updated source of truth that the whole organization can access. Storing all project information in one place ensures consistency, strengthens communication, and simplifies processes.
Similarly, using cloud-based systems that integrate with one another ensures that data stays up to date no matter which system you’re using or which team is accessing it. This helps teams stay on the same page and develop more cohesive project plans across the board.
4. Top preconstruction teams collaborate.
Since the construction industry operates on single-digit margins, there’s little to no cushion to absorb unforeseen costs when something goes wrong. That means the risks you avoid with thorough preconstruction planning (think subcontractor default, budget overruns, and schedule delays) will determine whether or not you make money.
One of the best ways to mitigate these risks is by getting all project stakeholders on the same page from the get-go. Highly effective preconstruction teams understand the importance of collaboration between teams and eliminating silos across offices. Successful collaboration strengthens relationships both internally and externally, allowing everyone to bring their expertise to the table to make the best decisions and avoid the most risk.
5. Effective preconstruction teams promote transparency.
Today, 45% of construction companies report that a lack of visibility across projects is a top challenge. At the end of the day, facilitating transparency between both internal teams and external teams (owners, general contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers) leads to better project outcomes for everyone.
As our friends at the Construction Productivity blog argued, “Companies that leave obstructions in place will experience faultier communication, more contentious collaboration and less access to data—plus a reduced ability to make use of the data you do have. Today, projects cannot meet the increasing pressures of construction in environments that don’t foster transparency from the start.”
Excellence in Preconstruction = Better Construction
In order to become a highly effective construction organization, general contractors must first become a highly effective preconstruction organization. Investing in preconstruction ensures projects go more smoothly, from choosing the right bidders (not just the lowest ones) to mitigating risk from the start. That’s why success in today’s industry begins with a more productive, more accurate, and more collaborative preconstruction process.
Learn more about how to build a more connected team – starting in preconstruction and continuing on through operations – here.