A typical project team in the AEC industry can be complex, with roles, responsibilities, and specialties tailored to each phase of the project. With so many moving parts, the key to success is the creation of a high-engagement atmosphere where everyone is compelled to do their best to fulfill a common design vision.
Some team members may be remotely located as vital project contributors. Others, like surveying or design visualization specialists, may need access to specialized software in addition to the common design software used by the majority of the team. Important stakeholders, like the project owner, may only need to see the central model or drawings for feedback or project management purposes.
Getting your team to wholeheartedly engage despite such varied roles, locations, and responsibilities isn’t easy. How can you bring them to commit to the project when faced with pressures such as limited construction budgets, shortened deadlines, and the lack of in-person interaction? By starting with these basic principles to build team engagement:
- Access first
- Anytime feedback
- Cross-team communication
- Collaboration, not just file-sharing
1. Access first
One of the easiest ways to increase team participation and engagement is by making inclusion and transparency a foundation of your leadership style. By providing access to project data, the message you send to your team is that you support an open and collaborative environment, and believe their contributions are important to the project’s’ overall success. In the end this builds trust between project teams.
Of course, there is such a thing as too much access, so being able to control all aspects of access to project information will help you control project quality and design revisions. The best way to do this is by having user roles with distinct permission levels. Some good rules to follow when providing access:
- Have clear separations between view-only, editor, and administrative roles
- Provide access only to information that is needed–no more, no less
- Set guidelines for those with access to the project to help them navigate the shared online space
- Set ground rules for admins, so that creation, deletion, and other gatekeeper responsibilities are respected and followed consistently
2. Anytime, anywhere feedback
In today’s technology-powered work landscape, work is no longer tethered to your desk. Work now takes place from home, in remote offices, or while on site visits, via mobile devices.,
Provide your team with access to project data, then offer tools that easily and intuitively collect feedback. In fact, technology that facilitates feedback also measures it well. The number of document views, downloads, comments, markups, and chat threads can help qualify the team’s engagement as the project progresses.
Simultaneous feedback mechanisms cut short hours wasted on linear feedback cycles. For example, cloud-collaboration platform BIM 360 Team has a live design review feature that allows any team member to review designs and files in any browser. What usually would take weeks to review with your extended team in regular standing meetings now can be accomplished on-the-go on any device. This feature is irreplaceable for project teams that require co-location, or coordinating between different time zones.
There are challenges when collaborating on international projects: time zone plays a role in availability and there are different standards in various locales. It’s tremendously beneficial to have immediate feedback that is not in an email.”
— Luis Cetrangolo, BIM Manager at Tsoi/Kobus & Associates
3. Cross-team communication
Access and feedback allow an individual team member to be on the same page as everyone else when dealing with essential project information. However, the larger the team or more complex the project, disparate roles and functions end up creating silos. This causes confusion, misunderstanding, and resentment amongst team members because of a lack of transparency.
There are very few things that a clear and inclusive message can’t solve. It starts with you as the project lead, setting the stage for a healthy and communicative environment. It is the groundwork you’ll do to ensure a communication-friendly environment on your team.
Some ways to ensure cross-team communication on your project are:
- Facilitate a project kick-off meeting to discuss cross-team communication and collaboration suggestions
- Create project wikis that outline the outcome of the discussion in your common data environment
- Set an example by following chosen collaboration methods as often as possible
- Schedule regular check-ins to go over project updates and open up the floor for cross-team exchange
- Make one-on-one connections on behalf of team members who can benefit from a cross-industry perspective when tackling a problem
Cross-team communication can help ensure that design has engineering input at an earlier stage, eliminating costly rework down the road. Streamlining cross-team input can save time on feedback cycles, allowing teams to connect with ease despite differences.
4. Collaboration, not just file-sharing
Social technologies are creating incredible optimizations for workforces around the world. These technologies have significantly disrupted business as usual. In architecture, engineering and construction, we’ve seen these disruptions affect the industry, from communication preferences and data collection to project delivery methods and collaboration models themselves.
Executives say that their companies are using them to increase their agility and to manage organizational complexity. Many believe that if organizational barriers to the use of social technologies diminish, they could form the core of entirely new business processes that may radically improve performance.
— How social technologies are extending the organization, McKinsey & Company
Social technology enables a centralized 3D information-rich model to be co-authored by many team members. It is behind the widespread use of mobile apps on the job site, which construction workers intuitively use to finish jobs faster with greater accuracy. If you haven’t begun using these solutions, consider moving to BIM today.
At the foundation of these innovations lie the principles of collaboration. Beyond a file-sharing solution, you need technology that enables and amplifies cooperation, integration, democratization, and support in the workplace.
Collaboration is enabled with features like a filer viewer that opens files no matter their file extension type, device and OS. Collaboration tools allow for better project access, management and controls.
Having the ability to share knowledge freely between each other, external experts, and even customers impacts the quality of productivity positively. With increased access to knowledge, reduced communication costs, and increased marketing efficacy, collaboration tools ultimately promise customer satisfaction.
For true engagement on your team, remove barriers that cause distrust and confusion. Foster an environment where your team members feel valued, included, and involved. Come to a quicker consensus with the help of tools that encourage transparency and cross-team communication. Replace the endless rounds of emails and phone calls with succinct feedback at the exact location in the design where it is needed, wherever you may be.
Focus on problem-solving issues that affect project delivery, rather than counter-productive discussions that eat up valuable time. Use BIM collaboration solutions that deliver the 3D BIM model experience seamlessly (link to post 1). Center collaboration in your team’s playbook, and realize its positive impacts on your team and project’s success.