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From remote work orders to social distancing guidelines, 2020 tested the collaborative capabilities of many construction teams. 

Even before the increase in virtual meetings and remote inspections, collaborative technology presented many benefits for organizations when it came to streamlining communication across internal and external teams, offering more visibility into projects and enabling greater efficiencies. 

That said, it can be challenging to choose the right solutions to fit an organization’s needs. 

Examining options with a clear problem-solution framework can help eliminate some of that chaos. Executives should ultimately consider the value of a solution and adopt a problem-solving approach to find the right tools for specific challenges employees are facing. 

By pinpointing the exact benefits of different digital collaboration tools, construction executives will be equipped with the right knowledge to implement options that are key for long-term business productivity and financial success. Below are some of the top benefits contractors should consider when examining different solutions. 

Streamline Communication with Model-Centric Workflows

While 3D modeling was once a means to an end—to generate 2D drawings—models are now a useful source of information about a project. For the most part, 2D drawings still represent the governing contract documents. However, building information models provide additional context to more fully communicate design intent. Many design and construction firms continue to evolve toward a model-first approach to documentation, as 3D visualization tools can help enhance and streamline the communication process between project partners and clients. 

Some programs allow users to work concurrently with the drawings and models, and even automatically generate overlays. Integrated mark-up and tracking tools enable design and construction teams to collaborate in real time to resolve issues, enabling a more streamlined approach. 

3D models viewed in virtual and augmented reality can also facilitate the collaboration process. For example, some clients may have difficulty making decisions if they are unfamiliar with reading building plans. While architects and contractors can help guide them, nothing compares to the ability to visualize 3D renderings of the project. Ultimately, 3D visualization supports more efficient decision making and ensures more confidence in the final project. 

Promote Greater Visibility into Remote Projects 

Oversight of construction projects is critical and even necessary but it can be challenging to achieve a high level of visibility when trying to comply with social distancing orders or coordinate with multiple remote partners. The industry continues to adopt more offsite, prefabricated construction, which also presents oversight challenges. That’s where the right digital collaboration tools become critical.

Documenting construction projects on an ongoing basis with photographs was primarily for record and the means for organizing photos was by saving them in folders according to the date or area. Finding a specific photo at a later date was often a tedious and time consuming process. Multiple programs now exist that allow photographs to be “pinned” to the location where they were taken on drawings, most often floor plans and elevations. Furthermore, as the project progresses, updated photographs can be added to those same pins, creating a timeline of the project. This approach is much easier to navigate and solves a fundamental problem in efficient project documentation and retrieval. 

These tools pose many benefits to a project during the current pandemic where teams are having to balance the need for “eyes on the jobsite” (supervised construction) while restricting the number of “feet on the jobsite” (social distancing and restricted access). Having easy access to current site conditions through a location-based interface allows owners, design partners and even inspectors virtual access to the project. Utilizing 360-degree cameras and aerial drones provides an even greater and more complete visualization of the work. Some programs even allow viewers to add comments, and support formal field observations and RFIs within the photographs, integrated with project management software. 

Similarly, as the industry moves toward more efficient project delivery methods, including offsite and modular construction, supply chain management tools can offer greater visibility into this process. Instead of having to call each partner involved in the process for an update, contractors have real-time visibility into the status of prefabricated components and materials, providing for greater oversight and control. 

Drive Efficiency through Clear Prioritization and Documentation

Digital project management tools play a critical role in keeping large teams on track, helping contractors meet deadlines alongside multiple partners in various locations. 

These tools often offer different functionalities, including the ability to set deadlines and reminders to help ensure that teams prioritize effectively for maximum productivity. 

Similarly, digital documentation capabilities offer critical benefits when it comes to organization. Long projects that span multiple years can pose unique challenges as teams shift, making it easy for project decisions and reasoning to become lost in the shuffle. 

Three years into a project, teams could be debating about a decision that was already discussed at length or rejected two years earlier. The right documentation tools allow users to search past conversations, so existing team members can jog their memory and new employees can gain insight into past decision making for more efficiency. 

Ultimately, digital collaboration tools are becoming key to helping teams prioritize tasks and achieve maximum productivity. 

Weighing Solution Benefits with the User Experience

Commercial contractors should be sure to prioritize these benefits—streamlined communication, greater project visibility and increased efficiency—as they evaluate the effectiveness of different digital collaboration tools.

By adopting this problem-solution mindset and soliciting input from the employees who will be leveraging the solutions on a daily basis, construction executives will be well-equipped to implement the right digital tools to enhance overall business productivity and profitability. 


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