Sage Advice US

Three common hurdles to reaching construction collaboration

Not many contractors I know will deny the importance of collaboration among the building team, especially on complex projects. Building owners are demanding it more and more. And it doesn’t take much to see how improving project collaboration can lead to tighter timelines, lower costs, and higher quality work. In fact, according to our Sage 2015 construction IT survey, contractors ranked collaboration as their second highest business objective for this year.

While project collaboration is a desirable goal for many contractors, certain factors can get in the way of achieving it. How can you clear the path to collaboration? Here are three common obstacles to watch for:

A non-collaborative company culture

Perhaps the biggest roadblock to collaboration is your own company culture. The very nature of construction projects—with numerous, independent players involved—creates walls between team members. Getting rid of the traditional silo, us-and-them mentality is key for collaboration to take hold. To build a truly collaborative culture, three elements must be in place: trust, open and honest communication, and accountability across the entire building team.

More pressing issues take precedent

No doubt you have a lot on your plate these days—getting your backlog filled, finding qualified workers, dealing with rising labor and material costs, and more. Plus, competition is stronger than ever as everyone ups their game to take advantage of new opportunities. Consequently collaboration initiatives can easily get pushed to the back burner as you deal with more urgent matters.

Time for a different approach. Rather than looking at collaboration as something you’d like to do in the future, consider how it can help you address your current issues and put plans in place to make it happen now.

Not knowing where to start

Collaboration is a broad concept and can easily become overwhelming when you consider all the interactions that occur on just one construction project. But it doesn’t have to be a major ordeal. Just by identifying a few collaboration opportunities—such as how to better handle RFIs—you can see immediate results. A step-by-step approach will also cause less disruption to your business as you gradually introduce new and better processes and technology.

Those contractors who know how to join forces with their partners to deliver the highest project performance will certainly come out on top. As Anthony Fieldman, president of RAFT Architects stated in a 2013 FMI article The power of collaboration in design and construction, “Cross-disciplinary thinking is an emerging prerequisite to success.” Fieldman was referring primarily to collaboration during preconstruction, but I think the same hold trues for all phases of the building project.

Cloud-based software technology is making it much easier to collaborate than in the past. For more details on what project collaboration software can do for your construction business, check out our Sage Construction Project Center and Sage Bid Management information sheets.