So much has been made of collaboration and implementing integrated project delivery systems; the benefits can be exciting, but the process can also be disappointing and a point of contention.  Wember continuously advocates for project management technologies, in particular the use of our online Owner’s Representative software.  We are also using Bluebeam, Skype, Doodle and many other tools to collaborate and fortunately, other members of the project team do as well, including architects and contractors; unfortunately, they are often different from one another.  They work in a variety of industry software including Vela System, Timberline, Submittal Exchange, Plangrid and many more. This makes for many different platforms, which can defeat any time-saving promises made by using an integrated process.

We have found when working with larger firms that have an established IT department and standards policy, they mandate to work be done on their systems, no exceptions.  When a project team’s contractor and architect are operating on different systems we see less collaboration and more double entry; add to that that we as Owner Representatives are also entering the data into our online system, it makes for triple entry.  So what do you do?

1. Discuss proposed tools in the interview to learn software and technologies are in place and how flexible the potential team members will truly be on the use of them.  Try to understand which systems are integral to the team’s process and which are established for marketing purposes.  Ask questions of the entire team to see how they use it, all too often the corporate partners have mandated systems with no training and support for the users, such as the superintendent.

2. Try to understand if the tool is providing value to the project or just to the team member.  We have seen systems work well for a contractor, but lack collaboration abilities.

3. Be aware.  Sure your contractor has punch list software but if they are managing the software can they delete items at will?  Is it in your architect’s contract to generate the punch list and manage it to completion?

4. Have a kick off meeting with the team to evaluate which systems make the most sense and try to pick the one that works the best for the project, including the owner.  Understand the costs of the selection as some tools have unlimited users and others charge by the seat, which impacts the project costs.

5. Provide training.  If your software is selected you will need to provide the other team members with the ability to use it.  We find that an excellent training opportunity is to make sure the platform is used at every OAC meeting.

Unless you hire a full-service provider of design and construction expect to have redundancy and challenges when managing data and workflows.  Although the impact of each entity using their own software is minimal to the owner, it can be frustrating to present three different submittal logs and have three different passwords, which hampers the project’s flow and defies collaboration.

Paul Wember ~ Owner’s Representative