Apart from communication management in a project, collaboration is typically identified as being among one of the ten knowledge areas in project management.
Collaboration is a method of working effectively whereby individual workers or a group of workers in an infrastructural project work together towards achieving one or more shared project objective(s).
Typically, collaboration is needed in large construction and infrastructural projects when the limitations of the resources, abilities or knowledge of just one worker prevents the workers or team from achieving a certain project objective and meeting some certain project requirements alone. Alternatively, collaboration can also be applied if it helps the individual or team achieve a certain project task faster and more efficiently.
Collaboration can enable individual workers or teams to carry out bigger and more complex project tasks, learning from other project workers and reducing the amount of effort spent on accomplishing a task.
The ideal project collaboration environment
Most construction and infrastructural projects are unique and temporary, so all stakeholders have to be informed of critical project aspects if the project is to be completed successfully within the triple constraints of cost, time and quality.
This is where collaboration comes in. Typically, for infrastructural projects, the BIM is employed as a tool to foster best practices in construction collaboration.
The information that is held in the BIM tool can be extracted in any form which is also important. The adaptability of the output from the BIM is also an essential aspect for collaboration as most project stakeholders will prefer their project communication in various formats such as pdf file formats, jpeg images, mp3 files, mp4 videos, 2D drawings or 3D drawings. And these adaptabilities can be integrated into the BIM tool by the manufacturer or the vendor of the BIM tool.
Root causes of problems associated by collaboration.
1). Lack of a collaboration tool
With the increased scope of most infrastructural and asset development projects, it is mandatory to execute them with an effective tool that will not only foster collaboration but also automate and simplify the management of the entire project to ensure that this is completed successfully. All projects are unique, temporary and cost-intensive, so you would want to deploy the best tricks in the bag to ensure that the project gets completed with the optimal use of resources to ensure project profitability and client satisfaction. BIM is your best tool to accomplish this process.
2). An ineffective risk management plan
A project risk management plan is similar to a project with no risk management plan at all. Typically, this risk management plan serves as a record of project risks/problems with their attributes such as measures to tackle the risk/problem, the project stakeholder responsible for this risk as well as the time that is best to tackle this project risk. Typically, any known root cause of collaboration problems would have been documented in the watch list of the risk management plan to ensure that the problem does not ultimately lead to subsequent problems further on during the project.
A risk management plan should be effective enough to have a list of all project risks including risks involving project collaboration and be able to address it at the right time. For instance, if there is a risk that two different contractors work collaboratively to achieve a giving project work package cannot work together because of conflicting work schedules, this should be documented in the risk management plan. Or if two teams are not able to work collaboratively due to shortage of equipment or tools, it should be listed in the risk management plan for further treatment. However, if there isn’t a plan for all this documentation to be done, keeping track of all these issues can be difficult. Furthermore, they could lead to other problems such as poor work quality, costly delays, demolition of completed construction works and rework.
3). Interpersonal conflicts among team members
A lack of team bonding activities to enhance the group dynamics as well as interpersonal relationships among project team members. Collaboration which is often a tool used to decode project information will not work effectively in a project team where there are interpersonal conflicts among the team members or factions among teams most especially, the project subcontractors. For the process of collaboration to yield positive outcomes, the full team working in the project which includes contractors, sub-contractors, tradesmen and so on, should commit themselves to a common objective, and each worker involved in the construction supply chain involved in the project must take part in decision-making, while fostering a general project environment that is bigger than the individual culture of their respective companies.
Every team member from the main contractor as well as sub-contracted companies supports the project, offers solutions to problems as well as help in the organization and coordination of logistics in the project.
All project team members respect the project workflow, while risks are being allocated to the stakeholders most capable of handling them. This way there is an establishment of trust which leads to a respectful and transparent communication pattern.
4). Language Barriers
Since infrastructural projects often involves people from different nationalities and cultures, there is typically a problem of collaboration which arises from the fact that project collaboration solutions are being administered in different other languages which the site workers are not used to. Collaboration problems arising from language barriers can give the success of your project a devastating blow. You want to know how? Just think about the biblical narrative of the Tower of Babel, which was one of the first projects to fail as a result of the use of multiple languages in a project.
Collaboration, while it means working together in teams, can be marred by language problems. Apart from the spoken language, there should also be a common means of communication and project managers should confirm that everyone involved in the project can work in the same language. Why this may not be possible practically most of the time, an effective translator could be hired if this is the only viable option. For collaboration to work effectively, then the barriers to communication should be cleared immediately.
The use of BIM as an effective tool for collaboration
Before the production of BIM by construction software production companies, there have been collaborating in the industry. However, BIM collaboration in construction is a whole different ball game entirely. It simply means the automation of the entire workflow to ensure that the project tasks are done once and signed off. It promotes work efficiency on a different level.
BIM is typically applied in infrastructural projects or large constructions, actually in arguably all projects where there is a deeper need for collaboration. As an essential collaborative tool, BIM provides a measured, structured and wide-range approach to enhance teamwork.
BIM comes with a fixed set of techniques and processes to guide project stakeholders which range from the project clients, project supervisors down to the site workers on the most suitable method of application for collaborative techniques.
Project design coordination is typically a detailed and involved activity and the regular exchange of BIM data ensures that the whole team is working on the same and the most current model.
The idea about BIM is to simplify and integrate the planning, designing, construction or the operation of an infrastructure, a building or a landscape asset with the use of electronic information. Practically, this implies that infrastructural or building projects can be built and designed through the use of images and data sets digitally, even before the first foundation is started.
Noticing potential project problems at very early stages of the project typically means that these problems or challenges are tackled and solved as they are detected or are managed in the watch list of the risk management plan to be dealt with at the appropriate time.
In the absence of BIM, problems are often seen at important project milestones at which they are particularly costly and very difficult to correct.
Currently, BIM is seen as an innovative tool to meet and satisfy all the three components of successful infrastructural projects – namely Time, Quality and Cost, through an integrated project management process that is based on a collaborative, reliable and an efficient work method.
Through BIM, communicating the project in a 3D model to all stakeholders informs them all of the planned expected project outcomes in a clear, brief and fully understandable – giving the whole site personnel as well as management of the project an accurate picture, requirement and objective of the project.
Typically, collaboration and delivering a complete collaborative project by using BIM have two different meanings and will have different results when applied to an infrastructural project.
Typically while collaboration alone means just working as a team to accomplish project tasks, on the other hand, collaborative construction technique with BIM means that the ordinary workflow of the construction collaboration teams gets integrated with BIM to automate all the aspects of the workflow.
This total BIM integration which is a part of the BIM implementation plan can range from mapping project 3D data to the excavator, cranes or any compatible machinery working out in the fields. This way the excavator (driver), is given live 3D feeds of the excavation profile, excavation points along with the depth of excavation. This is to ensure that he stays within the quality expectations of the work package while working at an optimal work rate to ensure that the excavation work package gets done on time and with the right quality at the first attempt.
However, while there have been considerable efforts to approach large projects and infrastructural construction with a more collaborative tool like BIM, using the tool on large projects guarantees that all stakeholders in the project are notified at every stage of the project and that the most updated project scope document is available in a central place, this encourages a flow of proper project information to increase work efficiency, minimize project work delays and increase the cost-effectiveness of the project.
Furthermore, the application of BIM for an effective project team collaboration typically means that specific design aspects of the project scope are fixed and agreed upon preventing the need for further budget contingencies or project rework due to unplanned changes that was caused as a result of a lack of coordination, communication, collaboration, or cooperation.