By Scott Unger | Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Competitive advantage in the construction industry derives from the ability to profitably deliver superior project outcomes to customers. Optimization of the core design and construction processes that connect companies with their customers and supply chain is central to the ability to create and maintain a competitive advantage. While the traditional view of business process optimization involved a periodic review and adjustment of processes, the acceleration of the pace of change in the industry today requires a much more dynamic and continuous approach.

The distributed nature of the problem in the construction industry places a premium on the ability to collaborate and effectively share information, as the industry will always require a large number of people on projects. Therefore, the right kind of collaboration is crucial for improved efficiencies and greater productivity, regardless of the size or scope of the project.

According to digital transformation expert Daniel Newman, founder of Futurum Research, “Agility is key to modern-day business success. Professionals and leaders must be able to quickly shift gears and refocus on new issues as they come to light. Agility also means departments should step outside traditional roles and start working together more closely on projects to streamline the project management process. The importance of agility also extends to data. When you have more control over the data your company uses, it’s easier to gain actionable insights from that data and leverage it properly.”

The dynamic nature of the construction industry creates new requirements for program and project management technology solutions designed to manage increasingly complex projects. In today’s reality, companies must not only be able to define and execute processes that they believe to be optimal today, but they must be agile as well, with the ability to rapidly and effectively respond to change.

The processes and workflows companies have developed to manage projects are part of their competitive advantage. For example, how an organization manages the transition from a document such as an RFI to a potential issue through the RFQ process, to a change request, and finally to a change order can have an enormous impact on margin. To truly be agile in today’s environment, organizations need the ability for the software to conform to their current best practices.

Unfortunately, given the nature of change in the construction industry, what is optimal today is suddenly obsolete tomorrow. Agility requires that companies are capable of addressing two major drivers of change in the construction industry:
  • Market and Environmental Conditions. As carefully as companies plan for the growth and health of their business, the only constant is uncontrollable factors. These can include increasingly difficult customer demands, competitive landscape, more savvy subcontractors better prepared to represent their interests, economic conditions and political events. Collaborative software solutions must be capable of rapidly adapting to deal with these changing market conditions.
  • Innovation. The second driver for change is internal. When organizations come up with great new ideas on how to better run their business, they must be able to react and implement these ideas quickly to capitalize and maximize the value of those innovative ideas. As such, agility and innovation are inextricably linked, with agility being the fundamental enabler for creating value through innovation.

Traditional SaaS technologies designed to enable collaborative project management have not lived up to the hype and promise since their genesis in the late 1990s. These traditional solutions provide little other than cosmetic configurability and generally force users to conform their processes to that which is defined in the software. In addition, when an individual company requires a custom change or addition to the system, they must typically place a request in the development queue of the vendor and hope for the best.

Fortunately, new solutions, delivered as an application platform as a service (aPaaS), are emerging and changing the way in which collaborative project management systems are delivered. These solutions provide robust document and cost management apps that can be quickly deployed to accelerate time-to-value, and also deliver a low code/no-code development environment that allows customers to tailor apps to meet their unique requirements and even create new apps to augment the vendor-provided solution.

For example, CBRE is leveraging such technology to improve collaboration among all members of their project teams, providing superior project deliverables and improved efficiency to manage all aspects of project delivery.

As the pace of change continues to accelerate in construction, collaborative project management technology is going to continue to play an important role for all project stakeholders. Technology that can efficiently conform to organizations’ current best practices and provide the agility to respond to both external market dynamics and internal innovation, will create an increasing competitive advantage for industry leaders and help drive much-needed improvements in efficiency for the industry as a whole.