How we can create a collaborative delivery environment

Terry Stocks
The UK’s current track record of delivering major construction projects leaves something to be desired. There’s no hiding the facts – we’re facing lost efficiency, lack of quality, skills shortages, and cost and time overruns.

But all is not lost – there are initiatives looking to improve this situation. From BIM to modern methods of construction and the ICE’s Project 13, to Building a Safer Future and Transforming Infrastructure Performance. The list goes on.

Change needs to start at the beginning of the process: with the client

These are all laudable initiatives, but my worry is that, in the main, they stand alone and fail to ensure innovative approaches are taken across the delivery value chain. What do I mean by this? Well, we can create an idea or proposal for change, but if it sits alone all it has is potential value. 

For real transformation to take place, change needs to start at the beginning of the process: with the client. This is fundamentally about a clear brief of requirements and expected outcomes as well as outputs and creating the right environment to deliver in new ways and more collaboratively.

This approach recognises that without the right contract, we can’t deliver innovatively – the same old contracts will continue to yield the same old results. 

I cannot emphasise enough how important this first step is in creating the right environment for change. Our industry has a reputation of being adversarial, managing each project with a bespoke client and supply chain strategy. Too often we base contract awards on contractor estimates, rather than comparing to previous project outturn costs, which arguably represent the true project cost and timeframes. What we need are new models that create delivery enterprises that are incentivised or penalised against outcomes – this move away from traditional procurement norms will help ensure we get non-traditional results. 

With the client foundation in place we can continue to work our way through the delivery value chain, putting in transformational initiatives at every stage. This includes engaging the right people at the right time; ensuring the correct use of technology and digital in the design phase; continuing validation and verification of data and quality throughout the project’s lifecycle; managing and supporting asset handover; and migrating asset data to clients and contractors once the project is complete. 

We can even continue to the post-occupancy stage, ensuring data is used for FM tenders and enterprise systems such as CAFM and asset management platforms. 

There is a real urgency for the construction industry to start thinking and delivering in this holistic way. Lowest cost, single stage tendering is not delivering what we need. What we need is to create environments of early engagement, where teams come together to combine technical and delivery expertise, and delivery programmes are drafted to reflect the true asset delivery timeframes and sequencing of activities are optimised. This is key to aligning the industry improvement initiatives I mentioned above to deliver real value. 

I believe that clients and their procurement approaches are the key catalyst for change. This, coupled with the supply chain’s focus on identifying and delivering the ‘value chain’, is the only thing that can bring about transformation. Together, we can protect and enhance the delivered quality of assets and create a collaborative delivery environment that delivers outcomes rather than outputs.

This article was first published in Building magazine.

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