Construction Collaboration: 6 Common Challenges & How To Overcome Them

Proper construction collaboration can make or break both a project, and your organization’s overall profitability. Whether your team is all in the same location or collaborating with specialists on the other side of the world, poor collaboration practices lead to miscommunication and costly mistakes. According to Navigant Construction:

  • 9% of a project’s combined cost comes from rework

  • 52% of rework is due to miscommunication and poor project data

  • ~35% of time is lost to ineffective activities

  • $280 billion in rework expenses accrued each year

Fostering a work environment of construction collaboration goes beyond cost savings. It also results in a number of additional benefits. What’s more, there’s an array of tools and systems you can use to make collaborative construction a reality for your organization.

Why is collaboration important in construction?

Team collaboration is important in most industries. The same is true when it comes to construction collaboration, as timelines are tight and safety is paramount. On top of this, you’re often managing distributed teams, general contractors, construction teams, and more. 

Establishing top tier construction collaboration takes time and effort, but the benefits are well worth it.

Reduces rework and project delays 

Improved collaboration naturally leads to improved communication. Effective communication can result in fewer missed details and misunderstandings. In fact, 52% of construction rework is attributed to miscommunications and bad data. If your team is able to quickly communicate any project updates, whether with field teams or design teams, it’s less likely bad data or miscommunications will hinder your progress.

52% of construction rework is attributed to miscommunications and bad data

Improves and speeds up decision-making

Clear communication does more than reduce your chances of reworks and delays. It also helps improve and expedite your decision-making.

Vague messages or missing information can result in extensive back and forth, or someone taking their best guess. Either event wastes time, and the latter likely results in costly rework. When everyone is on the same page, you can make better-informed decisions, and faster.

Reduces risk

Safety is at the heart of every construction project. When key players are clearly communicating, sharing the latest information, and on the same page, prioritizing safety is far easier. 

Poor construction collaboration can result in muddied messaging, the wrong files getting accessed, outdated information, and more. Any of these factors can result in as-built conditions failing to reflect as-designed. Construction sites are often fast-paced and chaotic. When your as-designed and as-built are at odds and communication is falling to the wayside, your chances of risks skyrocket.

Enhances productivity

With improved construction collaboration, comes the ability to make snap decisions, get the answers and information you need, and ultimately boost overall productivity. If there’s an issue on the site or a client makes any changes, a collaborative team is able to communicate these shifts to the other stakeholders in a hurry.

More efficient use of resources

The old saying, “Measure twice, cut once,” is epitomized by proper construction collaboration. When you’re minimizing risks, reworks, and lost time, you’re freeing up countless resources — people, time, materials not lost to rework, and more. This is doubly true when you incorporate the right software and tools into your collaborative efforts. For example, Gilbane, a leading integrated construction company, incorporated digital twins into their process using the Matterport Pro2 cameras. This allows them to quickly create digital twins, offer virtual tours, and save the time and cost of sending people to worksites.

In a single four-hour, online meeting, we designed and went through 21 branch locations using Matterport. That’s 21 times our team avoided a day of time lost to traveling to a physical location, which translates to 168 hours working hours saved.” — Joel Vande Boom, Director of Strategic Projects, Midwest, Gilbane

6 biggest construction collaboration challenges & how to overcome them

Virtually every construction site and project has countless moving parts, points of failure, and communication hurdles. Efficient construction collaboration can help your team make sense of any number of moving parts, counter failure, and communicate effectively. But, there are numerous challenges that come with building construction collaboration. Fortunately, there are numerous solutions.

1. Upfront project alignment

Upfront alignment between designers and the construction crew is critical to a project’s success and overall construction management. Unfortunately, upfront alignment isn’t always easy to establish, for a number of reasons.

  1. Unclear communication: Misunderstandings around scope, timelines, design, and general project information can lead to misalignment and differences between as-designed and as-built. This can also lead to preconstruction taking longer than it should, resulting in lengthier and less productive project planning.

  2. Differing perspectives: Designers and crew aren’t always on the same page and may have different points of view when it comes to tackling a project. These differing perspectives can slow down the planning process (and cause tension, if not tempered).

  3. Tight timelines: Sometimes a project has a tighter turnaround time than you’d like. This can result in rushed decision making and get in the way of sitting down and ensuring alignment.

  4. Budget constraints: It’s not uncommon for a budget to limit the original vision of a designer or client. This can result in having to swap materials, alter the scope of a build, and so on.

How to ensure upfront project alignment

While initial misalignment is sometimes inevitable, there’s always a way to get everyone on the same page and align expectations on shared goals.

First, sit everyone down and make sure any disagreements or confusion are cleared up. Outline clear budgets and timelines, and establish stakeholders over each major area to streamline communication.

Then, utilize the right tools and tech. For example, if you have a team that’s globally distributed or you’re managing multiple worksites, the Matterport E57 file can be a boon to your team. The E57 file contains a high-density point cloud, enabling you to make digital twins for your construction project and keep your team on the same page — wherever they are. This also helps drive alignment with your designers, as they have an exact replica of a space to work with, rather than a concept.

E57 Pointcloud

If communication is an issue, consider adopting a real-time comms platform, like Slack or Teams. This will allow your team to quickly communicate any changes, issues, and so on, keeping everyone aligned.

2. Scattered documentation across different stakeholders 

Because teams and worksites are often scattered, sometimes distributed across countries, it’s not uncommon for documentation to become scattered. This can result in one stakeholder operating with one version of a document, while another is referring to an outdated document or one with someone else’s unauthorized changes (another side effect of misalignment).

In construction project management, you’re dealing with thousands of measurements, material decisions, and more. This makes it easy for things to fall through the cracks. Fixing scattered documentation can help your team avoid costly reworks, ensure sites are built as-designed, and minimize build-related safety risks.

How to fix scattered documentation

The aforementioned real-time communications solutions can help your team communicate any documentation changes. Beyond this, utilizing accurate models is a great way to ensure everyone is using the same measurements and not working from old concepts.

For example, the Matterport Scan to BIM service makes it possible to quickly turn a digital twin into a workable building information modeling (BIM) file. Equipped with this BIM file, your stakeholders can jumpstart their work with accurate measurements that are uniform for everyone viewing the file. With a BIM file, there’s no more guesswork, no more dated concepts, and a great start to collaboration.

3. Communication challenges

Poor communication can stop collaboration dead in its tracks. Between distributed teams and worksites, scattered documentation, and additional challenges, communication within construction faces an uphill battle.

Without the right technology, communication is especially difficult. For example, if you’re not using any kind of digital twin or point clouds, you’re left with blueprints, designs, photos, and the worksite itself. If someone has a comment about a certain material or doorway etc. they have no easy way to communicate their feedback. The most direct way would be going to the worksite, but this results in costly travel. And a comment on a blueprint or design doc is moot if the as-built isn’t lining up with the plans.

How to fix communication challenges

The right collaboration tools can help you overcome virtually all communication challenges and ensure successful collaboration.

For starters, the right communication platform allows you to quickly send feedback or ask questions. But, what if the worksite is far away and you’re wanting to communicate client feedback? With a digital twin you can “be” at the site. From there, you can use Matterport Notes to leave comments and feedback directly on the file. You can also utilize Matterport Tags, which make it possible to tag sections of a Matterport space. You can choose a custom color, set a title, and fill in a description for the tag. Was there a last-minute material change? Tag it and explain the change. Did an outlet have to shift to a different wall? Tag it!

Not only will these notes and tags help you communicate more effectively, but having the digital twin itself will give your project stakeholders a visual reference. This alone can answer questions otherwise left unanswered by dated blueprints or docs.

4. Coordination challenges

Even with streamlined communication and uniform documentation, coordinating project teams and clients isn’t easy. Clients don’t always have the same technology or technological prowess as your team, making it difficult for them to fully understand files and documents.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s also easy to overwhelm clients with information. A detailed blueprint or design doc can contain everything your team needs to get started, but to a client this can result in information overload. This can result in slowdowns as you try to get alignment, which in turn complicates coordination.

How to overcome coordination challenges

When keeping clients in the loop and coordinating efforts, sometimes less is more. It’s important to keep clients in the loop and communicate critical information, but this doesn’t mean overwhelming them with details fit for engineers and construction crew.

Make sure your communications are as concise and clear as possible, informing the client without overwhelming them. Then, deliver files and visuals that align with the client’s level of experience and understanding.

For example, the Matterport Floor Plan feature can help you transform a 3D virtual tour into a clean floor plan schematic. This file is easy for clients to open and work with, while still communicating critical information, measurements, layout, and details that might be important to the project. Another pro tip for crystal clear and easy-to-share client updates, is to navigate to the point of interest within the model, then simply click the letter “U” on your keyboard. A custom URL pops up on screen. By sending this URL, the client (or colleague) is taken to that exact vantage point in the digital twin.

Floor plans 3

You can also use 3D tours to keep clients in the loop and coordinate updates and changes. Arup, a global engineering and consulting firm, uses Matterport 3D models to ensure alignment across their own team. But, they also use these models to loop in clients and other stakeholders, giving them virtual tours and keeping them up to date.

5. Technology integration

If it’s not already clear, the right technology can go a long way when it comes to fostering construction collaboration. But, technology integration isn’t without its own challenges.

  • Resistance to new tech: New technology usually entails more training. A lot of employees get comfortable with their current tools and simply don’t want to learn another platform or tool.

  • Pricing issues: A lot of new tech comes with a hefty price tag. This can lead to sticker shock and general resistance from higherups when it comes to purchasing new technology.

  • Integration issues: Sometimes integration itself is the problem. If you’re already deeply entrenched with certain construction software solutions, and a new piece won’t easily integrate with it, the new tech can seem like more trouble than it’s worth.

How to overcome technology integration challenges

As a first step to long term success, shortlist the solutions that are built to be easiest to use. You can also overcome the ROI budgeting case and integration challenges.

  1. Showcase the benefits: Highlight the benefits the tech brings to your workflows and team. How much time could a particular project management software save you? How much stress will it remove from your plates?

  2. Get buy-in as early as possible: Resistance to change is common. Overcome this by getting buy-in from people as early as you can, showing the tech to key stakeholders and leaders. Once you have a few people bought in, it’ll be far easier to get everyone on the same page.

  3. Find tech that integrates with your current platforms: Look for solutions that integrate with the tech you already know and love. And, find cloud-based solutions, as these allow remote access. For example, the Matterport Autodesk Construction Cloud and Procore Technologies integrations allow you to use these two popular platforms within Matterport and quickly create and load BIM files without file conversion or download/upload rigamarole.

Technology exists to make our lives easier. When you can easily overcome technology integration challenges, you can start streamlining workflows and foster a collaborative environment quickly, and at scale.

6. Change management

Change management is critical to the success of any new initiatives, whether you’re adopting new technology or trying to overhaul communication and workflows. With so many moving pieces and variables, change management in construction is fraught with challenges.

  • Distributed teams and jobsites can act as barriers to change management, making it difficult to communicate changes across teams.

  • Time constraints can limit how much effort employees are willing to dedicate to training and change.

  • Resource constraints can also limit change management efforts, preventing you from purchasing training, software, and more.

  • Bad habits can branch across multiple worksites or locations, making it harder to correct them via new initiatives or practices.

  • Existing, dated technology can hold back change management efforts and communication.

How to overcome change management hurdles

Change management isn’t a one-and-done effort. It’s an ongoing practice that needs to evolve with your organization. Despite its fluid nature, there are multiple steps you can take to jumpstart your change management efforts.

  1. Develop a communication strategy: The right communication strategy is key for change management. Create a strategy that outlines your core messaging, what the benefits of this change are, who should review your change plans first, and so on.

  2. Focus on benefits: Just like selling people on new tech, you need to sell people on change. Rather than fixate on what’s changing, focus on how this change will improve everyone’s experience. Use concrete examples that ground this change and the benefits in reality.

  3. Establish risk management processes: Change isn’t without risk. Make sure you have a risk management process developed that coordinates with your change, allowing you to check the right boxes as you go.

  4. Provide consistent training: Training is essential to change management’s success. Make sure you give employees the training they need to succeed, and update training as time goes on.

  5. Minimize friction everywhere you can: The entire point of change management is reducing the friction associated with change. Minimize any friction within change management as well. For example, with a Matterport Digital Twin, your team can simply and securely click a link to be “on site” friction free.

Lastly, don’t neglect to use any tech and software at your disposal. Any bit of change you can streamline can give you precious time to focus your efforts on further change developments. For example, Matterport Tags are perfect for marking up mock builds for training purposes, and for helping new hires understand worksites as they’re onboarded.

Establishing a strong construction collaboration process

Much like a build site, establishing a strong foundation of construction collaboration takes time and effort. And, it’s often messy. But it’s also well worth the effort, as it can allow your team members to work more efficiently, reduce errors, and enjoy their jobs more.

As your workplace shifts and grows, your collaborative efforts will too. With a strong collaborative culture in place, your team will be capable of weathering any change and continue to thrive as your organization grows.

Speaking of shifting and growing, if your organization is changing up your workplace in the near future, discover how you can simplify your move and foster collaboration using digital twins.


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