Planning and implementation of collaborative working into a construction project

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1. Introduction

Since last couple of decades, the construction industry has been going through transformation in the way it works. Till few years ago, the concept of using web-based techniques for managing construction project seemed utopian, but is quite close to reality now (Nikas, A. 2007). As per Yeomans (2006), the industry is moving from a conservative culture, fragmentation, poor knowledge management, an adversarial nature and lack of industry standards for information exchange to more transparent and efficient, internet and communication based collaborative working culture. The application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) stimulates more standardised communication between different actors of construction project, who might be working from different parts of the world (Adriaanse, A. 2010). Current trends in ICT are inventing a wide range of new computer based tools to support Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry (AEC). These tools promise great increase in effectiveness and efficiency of the project. However, to achieve these improvements, we require more than just a technical solution. It is now been widely accepted that, to overcome problems mentioned above and to deliver more effective and efficient project, different actors of the project (client, contractor, designer, architect, etc.) need to work collaboratively (Brandon, P. 2009, p.1).

This report discusses the importance of collaborative working, different technologies available in the market, approximate investment for integrating these technologies into the project, cost of the software, training, etc. Overall impact on time, cost and quality of project by working collaboratively has also been highlighted.

The report unfolds in the following way. First, history and background knowledge of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and collaborative working is mentioned briefly and importance of working collaboratively by using available web-based tools is highlighted. In second section, different technologies available in the market are discussed along with their cost and facilities provided by each technology and recommendations are made about which technology should be used for project. Third section talks about how collaborative working can be planned and implemented during different stages of project. Fourth section talks about reasons for using extranet on project and approximate saving in time and cost is estimated by referring few case studies. In fifth section, effect of ICT and collaborative working on people involved in project is discussed. Final section highlights the benefits of using web-based technology and collaborative working on a project and its' overall impact on project life cycle in terms of time, cost and quality.

2. Exploring Technologies available for collaborative working

Use of investment in ICT in AEC industry has been growing steadily in recent years. Research carried out in different types of industries such as aerospace and manufacturing has confirmed that increased investment in ICTs does not guarantee improvement in organisational productivity unless and until it is coupled with good management practices (Ruikar K. 2009). Hence, it is very important to select appropriate technology for every stage of the project. List of few of the major service providers of collaborative technologies in United Kingdom is given below, along with the solutions offered and services provided by them.

2.1 BIW Technologies (Products and services, Online):

2.1.1 Solutions for collaboration: Document Management, Visual Collaboration Environment (VCE) Viewer, Asset Manager, Security (Exclusive URLs, SSL option, Secure login, User profiling, Audit trail) and Outlook Integration.

2.1.2 Services: Configuration, Consultancy, Helpdesk + support, Hosting, Team training and Training Academy.

2.2 Business Collaborator (BC) (Product, Online):

2.2.1 Products and Solutions: Project extranet, Enterprise collaboration, Programme management and BC mobile.

2.2.2 Services: Implementation, Consultancy, Solutions (Latest project news, process navigator, cost management, GIS integration, etc.) and Training.

2.3 4Projects (Solutions, Online):

2.3.1 Solutions: 4Projects Extranet, 4Projects Tendering, Software as a service and Legal admissibility.

2.3.2 Services: Support, Implementation, Training, Consultancy, Archiving and Escrow agreements.

2.4 Comparison:

There are more service providers in UK, like Bidcom, Build Online, Cadweb, Causeway etc., but solutions provided by these companies are not in sync with the requirements of project. Hence, detailed analysis of solutions and services provided was done for only three companies mentioned above. After comparing these three companies in terms of solutions and services provided, it was observed that 4Projects is offering few additional features like 4Projects Tendering and Escrow agreements than that of BIW Technologies and Business Collaborator. To know more about these companies and to enquire about the charges taken by company for its services, a telephonic interview was held with Mr. Steve Park of 4Projects, Mr. Chris Smith of Business Collaborator and Mr. Michael Bull of BIW Technologies on 19th Jan 2010.

Following table is created to compare between services provided and approximate fees charged by these three companies. Following assumptions are made for calculating total cost to the project.

* Project duration: 36 months

* Designing phase: 6 months

* Wind up phase: 6 months

* Total project cost: £40 million.

* No. of people undergoing training: 30

Service Provided and cost

BIW Technologies

Business Collaborator


Cost of Training


No comments available

£1200 per day

Time for Training

1-2 days

2-3 days

2-3 days

No. of people allowed per session




Additional cost for training space and facilities




Web space allotted for project




Monthly subscription charges

Design phase: £300-£500

Construction phase: £1000-£1500

Wind up phase: £300-£500

No comments available

£500-£1000 per month

Total cost to the project

£31,000- £46,000

Cannot be determined

£30,000- £40,000

Hence, it would be advisable to implement 4Projects collaborative technology for the given £40 million project, as total cost for implementing it will not exceed £40,000, which is in turn comes around 0.1% of total project cost.

3. Planning and Implementation of Collaborative working on project

Collaboration is considered to be highly complex and challenging task because of the nature of industry, where people from different background and culture work together. As defined by Kalay (1998), collaboration is 'the agreement among stakeholders to share their abilities in a particular process, to achieve the larger objectives of the project as a whole', whereas, collaborative working in construction can be described as 'joint efforts among project stakeholders to effectively and efficiently accomplish a construction project' (Brandon P. 2009, p.2). But, successful implementation of collaborative working on a project can't be achieved without the use of ICT tools, which may vary from simple MS office to highly sophisticated project extranets (Shelbourn, M. 2007). By referring to all three definitions mentioned above, it can be said that collaborative working is nothing but right combination of technology, people and harmony between them.

As per Adriaanse (2010), in order to serve the purpose of successful collaborative working, we will have to consider following factors, which can influence the extent of incorporation of ICT in work process.

Personal motivation: Personal attitude or motivation, up to a large extent, can determine the extent to which people are willing to use technology. It is one of the most important factors, as it influences both, the willingness of a person to use ICT by himself and his willingness to invest resources available with him to achieve short term as well as long term goals of the project. Hence only those people should be appointed to use ICT, who are highly motivated.

Time pressure: In an industry like construction, where everything works in short time frame, people being trained on ICT, should be given appropriate time to get used to the new technology, so that they don't revert back to the old traditional way of working.

External motivation: The importance of inter-organisational relations and contractual arrangements cannot be ignored in construction industry. Several bilateral contracts will be negotiated between different participating organisations like client, contractor, designer, architect, etc. Hence, use of different ICT tools, which will be used with that particular organisation, should be clearly mentioned in the contract to avoid any future conflicts in order to maintain the harmony.

There are many factors which contribute to the success or failure of implementation of collaborative working. Extensive research is done at Loughborough University UK, in the area of Planning and Implementation of Effective Collaboration within Construction (PIECC). As per PIECC (2005), following six key factors can be considered critical for effective collaboration in construction.

Vision: All organisations working on a project should agree on aims and objectives of the collaboration.

Engagement: Project director should ensure that all key stakeholders are consulted as to the rules and regulations to be implemented during collaboration.

Trust: Appropriate time and resources should be allotted to all the participants so that they can build trusting relationships amongst themselves.

Communication: All key participants should decide on the common modes of communication.

Processes: All the key participants should be made aware of how the collaboration will work on day to day basis on business as well as project level.

Technologies: All participants should reach on common agreement over which technologies are to be used during project lifecycle in order to ensure that the collaboration is maintained and implemented easily.

3.1 Barriers to effective collaboration:

PIECC (2005) considers following factors as barriers to successful implementation of collaborative working.

* Different organisations that have come together for project might have different vision, mission, priorities and goals.

* Every organisation has its own culture and methods of communication.

* Imbalance of resources like time, money and people can occur at any stage of project.

* Confidentiality issue amongst different organisations

Hence, by keeping these factors and barriers in mind, appropriate framework should be created for planning and implementation of collaborative working in construction project. As per Shelbourn, M. (2007), emphasis should be given on following four stages, which will result in effective framework.

Business strategy: Establish a strategy for working collaboratively by developing a business case. While doing this, identify potential partners from different organisations, who will be working together on a project and provide them with resources for collaboration.

Collaboration brief: At this stage, entire collaboration management team should come together and should develop a common vision by keeping project goal in mind. Collaboration risks should be assessed and discussed simultaneously.

Plan the solution: Roles and responsibilities should be defined clearly in this stage, so as to avoid any conflicts in the future. Formation of policy, project process and selection of appropriate technologies should also be done.

Implement solution: Recruitment of people, training, purchasing of technologies should be done at this stage.

After every stage mentioned above, performance of collaboration should be reviewed by independent body of people and feedback should be given whenever required.

4. Reasons for incorporating Project Extranet into Collaborative working

As discussed in chapter two, it is recommended to use 4Projects as a project extranet for the project.

Following are few important features provided by 4Projects (Online), which would be quite useful for the given project.

* Project inbox

* Drawing module

* Task and discussion module

* Online viewing and redlining

* Multiple upload

* Tender management

* Bid management

Extract from case studies that use project extranet on projects in terms of:

Time: Thames Water has saved approximately 16% time in document assembly and approximately 20% time in contract assembling (BC Tendering, Online). So, it would be reasonable to say that total time saving for entire project could vary between 10% and 20%, which turns out to be about 3 to 7 weeks of entire project duration.

Cost: British Airport Authority (BAA) has saved 2% of total construction costs through use of project extranet, while Stanhope & Bovis Lend Lease saved £231,000 on a £20 million project (Case Studies, Online), which turns out to be approximately 1.2% of total project cost.

By referring to case studies mentioned above, it can be estimated that there will be approximately 10% to 20% saving in time, which would be around 3-7 weeks and total savings in terms of cost will vary in between 1% and 2%, which would be in between £400,000 and £800,000.

Total investments for using 4Projects on project will be in between £30,000 and £40,000 whereas profit could vary between £400,000 and £800,000.

Hence, by using project extranet of 4Projects on project, estimated saving in terms of time will be in between 3-7 weeks whereas profit is estimated to be around £600,000 after deducting investment on project extranet.

5. Effect on people working on project

On the basis of topics discussed in previous sections, effects of collaborative working on people can be summarised as follows.

* More transparency in process results in better understandings between people.

* Frequent communication increases the trust between people and organisations.

* Better planning reduces ambiguity in instructions, hence better understanding of work.

* New ways of working may throw new challenges which can motivate people to accept them.

* Stress free environment due to less repetition of work.

* Better productivity as people can work faster due to clear instructions and less repetitions in work.

6. Business benefits

As per Network for Construction Collaboration Technology Providers (NCCTP) (Construction collaboration: the benefits, Online), benefits can be classified into tangible and intangible.

6.1 Tangible benefits:

* Reduction in expenses of printing, reproduction and distribution of internal and external posts and couriers

* Reduction in management of drawings and documents

* Reduction in travel and meeting time and cost

* Faster drawing revision cycles

6.2 Intangible benefits in terms of:

6.2.1 Time:

* Faster communication

* Electronic sharing of information can be done much faster than printing, scanning and re-printing process

* Faster compilation of information like tenders, policies, etc.

6.2.2 Cost:

* Fewer claims for incorrect/out of date information

* Substantial savings in overall cost of project

* Less reworking results in saving of time, hence money.

* Large amount of money can be saved due to reduction in use of papers and printing work

* Fewer legal disputes and litigation

6.2.3 Quality:

* Fewer mistakes

* Greater transparency

* Better customer relationship

* Improved monitoring of individuals

* More secure data management infrastructure

7. Conclusion

This report has explored services provided with project extranet by different companies along with the cost in order to estimate the investment required. Recommendation for selecting project extranet is made on the basis of total cost to the company and services provided by particular company.

After recommending technology, strategy is outlined for the planning and implementation of collaborative working on project. While doing this, different critical factors and barriers, which can influence the outcome of implementation, are taken into consideration. By keeping these influencing factors and barriers in mind, a framework is referred, which can be used on project for effective implementation of collaborative working.

In later part of the report, decision to incorporate project extranet of 4Projects for a given project is justified by studying few case studies of projects, where project extranets have been used and substantial profit is achieved. Also, different services and solutions provided by the company are listed down to support the decision.

By highlighting the benefits achieved by different projects given in case studies and then relating them with the given project, approximate estimation is done to find out the potentially possible savings on project in terms of time and cost. It is observed that, by using 4Projects, project duration can be reduced by 3 to 7 weeks and around £600,000 can be saved.

Alongside all these aspects, for achieving the potential benefits of project, it is essential to get right people and right technology to work together and thereby creating proper harmony between them.


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