As construction projects grow and supply chains expand, the level of effort needed to interpret and report on data increases significantly. However, teams continue to be burdened with the task of collecting, feeding, and maintaining data in outdated systems that don’t support true collaboration.
Construction organisations face multiple challenges when delivering projects. These include increased financial risk as projects grow in complexity, ineffective internal and external communication, and a lack of insight into essential project information such as timelines, costs, and resources.
While technology can help address those challenges, many organisations still rely on inadequate legacy systems or homegrown applications. Shortcomings include:
- Disconnected information: Chasing down information across organisations and applications slows down the discovery of issues that increase costs and delay schedules.
- Manual updates: A spreadsheet approach courts errors and duplication that jeopardises data integrity, version control, and sometimes a person’s job.
- Poor visibility: Team members lacking accurate, real-time information leads to inefficiency and risk. Projects must measure performance against budget in a meaningful, proactive way.
The trouble with permissions
Moreover, the approach to user permissions in many systems is not conducive to collaboration.
The implementing organisation often configures the permissions in the system, owning and governing all the data. They also take on the responsibility to build the "firewalls" between the organisations. This is acceptable if the work is predominantly internal, but when external teams are involved, this lack of trust limits collaboration.
Limited trust within the industry also plays out in project controls. The controlling organisation paying for the system often wants to see all data and activities. This puts risk on the contracting organisation because they might make a mistake.
Alternatively, they may become inadvertently liable because, given their level of visibility, they can’t claim they didn’t know something about the project.
It also puts risk on every other organisation across the project as they can be shut out of the project control system at any point, losing access to their data. As a result, they may elect to run a backup system and duplicate everything. This invalidates the "single source of truth" concept underpinning true collaboration technology.
This results in poor adoption of the system and lack of trust among other organisations involved, so information doesn’t flow. It creates an administrative burden for the controlling organisation, slowing the whole process down because people are reliant on others to configure something.
A better way
The alternative approach is a project control system that reflects the base requirements of trust and adoption. That means there is no super-user who can see all informationâ€•regardless of access rightsâ€•and that the ability to access (and own) information is transparent to the publisher of the data.
A project control system should support broad project management and communication needs and provide appropriate security to protect against external threats. It needs to be operated by all parties, not controlled by one firm. It should also offer fair and equal treatment of all participants, protecting information rights of each firm.
In such a system, information transmissions can’t be amended after the fact by anyone. It also provides a basis for all organisations to communicate privately and assures them that their access can’t be cut off without due notice.
Only project-centric solutions can act as a unifying force between teams.
This enables better processes that deliver repeatable, successful outcomes over multiple projects. Businesses are able to rapidly deploy new projects, adapt to unique and changing business requirements, and operate leaner with teams using data rather than collecting it.
The construction industry is rapidly embracing the value of data, but project teams and organisations remain fragmented. So, the collection of, access to and quality of data across a project is becoming a key focus.
At the centre is a modern project control system that instils trust and encourages collaboration.
- Oliver Greenwood is vice president, global consulting for Oracle Construction and Engineering
Image Â©GCR, illustration by Denis Carrier