2016 was a year that saw a massive upheaval in the political and social landscape. The people spoke – voted – and as a consequence the UK is destined to leave the EU and the US has a President the likes of which they have never seen before. The term post-truth has moved into common parlance and it is accepted to tell porkies in public. Meanwhile the construction industry generally continues as before, typically crying out for clients to tell us what to do, for more collaboration, and by the way we are facing an unprecedented skills gap. Most of which sounds depressingly familiar. One other significant event in 2016 was the BIM mandate coming into play from April. Is this heralding a new age or is it going to be like everything else, something we talk about but avoid doing if at all possible? Worse still are we regressing to old style relationships in the way we work?
The reality is that we are in a digital world where pretty much everything we do is directly enabled through some digital process or tool. BIM, it is hypothesised, will only work efficiently if there is collaboration throughout the whole project delivery process. It is not unreasonable to suggest therefore that collaboration remains the single most important enabler for higher productivity, efficiency or whatever you want to call it. Very few articles, books blogs actually tell us how to collaborate, so here goes.
- All of the participants need to want to do it and to see it is best for the project and their organisation, in that order.
- Commercial arrangements need to acknowledge participants will collaborate, without needing to spell it out.
- The participants must trust each other and share problem solving benefiting the project before the companies.
- Non-believers should be removed.
- Governance must be robust.
- Procurement strategies must focus on the ability to deliver the product within this environment. This should extend throughout the supply chain.
All of that leads to a massive shift in risk profile and that is the point. Collaboration is really about managing risk in a different way, building collective responsibility for the delivery of a project.
We must not rely on the contract, the client or BIM to make this work. It is undoubtedly hard work and most people find it more challenging to work in this environment than a traditional delivery model. My sense is that the younger generation with their more open approach to sharing data and information will demand to work in this way, particularly when they start to occupy senior positions. Perhaps we should skip a generation.