While the world is still struggling to overcome the pandemic, governments are preparing stimulus programs to jumpstart their respective economies. This could provide a massive opportunity for the construction sector. However, seizing it is going to be hard without efficient construction project management across companies and systems.
The USA, Japan, China, and the EU are among the economies that will see a considerable amount of money poured into their COVID-19 recovery programs, including infrastructure stimulus. However, the money is not free to use for just any type of activity. The funding has a purpose beyond giving first aid to the economy. The other motive is to boost the environmental, digitalization, and communications performance of the respective societies.
The stimulus goals coincide with the construction sector’s striving to become more sustainable, digitalized, and networked. The industry has indeed come a long way in digitalization over the last few years. However, there are still inefficiencies that may hamper construction project management of the demanding stimulus projects when it comes to collaboration.
Nations Deal Out Stimulus Money, But with a Purpose
The USA is in serious need of infrastructure improvements. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2017 Infrastructure Report Card gave the national infrastructure an overall grade of D+. Even though they have yet to shape the magnitude of an infrastructure package, there is an estimated funding gap of more than $2 trillion between needs and expected spending according to the New York Times.
China is known for rapid urbanization and large-scale construction projects. It is now determined to boost its economy by investing in new infrastructure construction. The planned projects include high-speed rails, 5G internet base stations, and large data centers. According to East Asia Forum, 23 provincial-level governments are planning a total of US$6.5 trillion of multi-year investments.
Japan’s $708 billion economic stimulus package aims at reducing carbon emissions and fostering digital innovation. Likewise, the EU has prepared a EUR750 billion recovery package – NextGenerationEU – for its member nations to support green and digital transition.
The EU wants to start a massive renovation wave and roll out renewable energy projects, especially in wind and solar, and kick-start a clean hydrogen economy in Europe. As for digitalization, there will be investments in the rapid deployment of 5G networks. How these intentions will materialize is up to each member of the union. In any case, the stimulus funding will probably result in demanding construction projects.
How to Set Up a Successful Stimulus Project Successfully
Governments don’t have a long time to set up infrastructure stimulus and other construction projects if they want to achieve the intended economic effect. As several projects are starting up simultaneously, project owners have to develop a way to manage both their portfolios and individual projects. They need to implement construction project management software that is fast to roll out and integrates various processes and workflows.
The ISO 19650-1:2018 standard provides recommendations for the type of collaboration environments that owners are responsible for setting up. The standard talks about the Common Data Environment (CDE) to manage BIM and other information, including exchanging, recording, versioning, and organizing for all actors. As the UKBIM Alliance reminds, a CDE is not a single app but a framework for workflows and possibly a range of technologies.
Whether it’s a green – or brownfield – development, data and document control management must be systematic from the get-go. The best way to do it is to have a framework that captures all the documentation and communication across systems and participants. This framework is called the Integrated Data Environment (IDE), and it satisfies the requirements of a CDE perfectly. It gives the owner an uninterrupted and recorded data flow from first ideas to project closeout. Even if the project does not start right away, there’s a solid informational foundation to build on if the process eventually moves ahead.
Before the project starts to materialize, project owners should define critical metrics against which they can evaluate progress. Data for these metrics should emerge automatically from the project’s available data. Therefore, every project participant needs to be a member of the IDE. This way, the owner then has an audit trail of happenings at every stage of the project and can aggregate the necessary information for decision-making.
The Environment for Successful Project Information Management
The time frame for bidding on stimulus projects can be very tight. The project delivery can include special requirements regarding the schedule, quality, and organization and digitization of information. Managing the bidding process and the subsequent delivery will benefit substantially from an IDE and integrated construction management software.
When project managers, designers, the general contractor, all the different trades, and manufacturers can communicate quickly and securely, their productivity increases. There are fewer chances for errors and miscommunication. That has an immediate impact on the companies’ bottom lines.
Construction and project managers and document controllers spend over a third of their time in non-value-adding activities, such as looking for project data, conflict resolution, and dealing with mistakes and rework. In an integrated data environment, that waste is almost nonexistent.
Getting Everyone Onboard is Not Easy
The construction industry’s digital transformation had already started before COVID-19, but the pandemic has sped up the change in an unprecedented fashion. However, it is still not easy to reach an integrated data environment in projects.
Each participant has its own construction project management software and repositories, which don’t necessarily interoperate by default. With disconnected point solutions, it’s hard to automate processes and create digitalized workflows. Construction leaders who want to simultaneously manage a portfolio of projects also face technical roadblocks. When each project has its own way of communication, data aggregation becomes cumbersome.
There are numerous tools and techniques to transfer data between systems and apps. However, these integrations are often project-specific, require IT knowledge and support, and can be unreliable at times. Using this strategy to build a coherent system that is also easy-to-use is exceedingly tricky.
From Point Solutions to Platforms
McKinsey & Company talk about the change that’s taking place in the construction technology ecosystem in their 2020 paper titled Rise of the platform era: The next chapter in construction. The authors describe how construction technology investments are shifting toward the development of integrated platforms rather than point solutions.
Several vendors are moving towards the platform model. For example, Microsoft, Autodesk, and Procore try to integrate workflows and participants in their offerings for the AEC/O industry.
Some platforms integrate systems and processes within a vendor’s product family. However, they don’t typically provide easy-to-set-up integration between other vendors’ software or platforms.
ProjectReady, the IDE for Construction Project Management
The developers of ProjectReady realized the need for cross-platform integration that allows various professionals and organizations to work effectively on a project. ProjectReady is a web-based IDE that integrates with several systems that construction sector firms typically use. These include SharePoint, Teams, Outlook, Autodesk BIM 360, Bluebeam, Plangrid, and Procore.
ProjectReady provides a secure framework for collaboration, connected document control workflows, and tracking tasks and milestones across teams and workflows. It even generates documents automatically. A dashboard view of the project portfolio and individual projects gives vital information for decision-making and management at one glance. ProjectReady also has a powerful search function that works over the connected systems.
The implementation of ProjectReady is fast and requires minimal support from IT departments. Rapid roll-out is especially valuable in the development, bidding, and delivery of stimulus projects.
Integrated data environments are the way to manage, control, and connect everything on an infrastructure or building construction project. They provide a repeatable standard across project portfolios and platforms, providing the required underlying foundation and ensuring that the digital twins for future operations rely on accurate data. It is hard to see how successful stimulus projects can do without them.
This blog post is in collaboration with ProjectReady.