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For any construction project to succeed, it’s imperative that all project or program stakeholders establish consistent and clear communication process early in the project. In no industry is this practice more important than multi-site construction.

An often-overlooked segment of the construction industry, multi-site projects represent a significant volume of work nationally. Multi-site involves similar work on dozens, hundreds or even thousands of sites across a wide geography. The scope of the work could be remodeling retail stores across the country, rebranding multiple locations due to an acquisition, or managing ground-up new to industry locations.

While remodels or minor façade updates may appear inconsequential, the reality is multi-site construction work is incredibly intricate and demands extensive planning to execute the work across a wide geography—and typically in open retail environments with customers present. Multi-site programs typically involve numerous vendors from many different geographic areas and require working relationships with a wide variety of municipalities and their authorities having jurisdiction.

Given the level of complexity inherent in multi-site programs, there’s an enormous need to establish best practices in the field and to gather perspectives from the primary stakeholders involved. While buy-in from all stakeholders is certainly required for a multi-site program to succeed—including construction managers, program managers and tradesmen in the field—collaboration must begin between owners and contractors.

Sevan Multi-Site Solutions recently partnered with Dodge Data & Analytics to conduct a multi-site research study. The study explored critical success factors for multi-site projects, considering the opinions of owners and contractors and the impact each party believes different elements have on project quality and outcomes. The results of that study, published in the report, Challenges and Opportunities in Multi-Site Construction SmartMarket Insight, focus on nine major areas of impact, including the following:

  • how owners source labor for their programs;
  • managing changes to the scope of work;
  • the impact of technology;
  • dealing with permitting issues;
  • how to convey lessons learned through a large program of work;
  • how to address skilled labor shortages;
  • enhancing safety onsite;
  • managing material and equipment procurement; and
  • how payment terms influence an owner’s ability to attract general contractors.

Across the board, the report’s findings demonstrate owners and contractors would more readily find success and increased efficiency in their multi-site programs by engaging with one another earlier and more consistently. This foundation of communication proves to be the component that all parties agreed is crucial to the completion of current projects and sourcing for future ones, but also shows critical gaps between owners’ self-assessment of their practices and contractors’ views.

For instance, 80% of owners responded that they frequently define the scope of a program or project accurately; however, only 16% of contractors agreed that owners did so. This troubling response alone makes the case that owners should engage relevant stakeholders—contractors included—as early as possible, preferably in the pre-design phase. Multi-site programs are easily compromised when new players become involved later in the program without benefit of involvement in early scope and execution planning.

When detailing common issues with sourcing vendors for projects, more than half (56%) of owners report that they are confident that they know what makes their projects attractive to contractors to bid, yet only 16% of contractors agree this is the case. Similarly, while 76% of owners believe that they frequently communicate their future construction plans to contractors, only 19% of contractors find that this occurs on a consistent basis. Here, both parties could benefit tremendously from building a more transparent relationship. From a long-term standpoint, owners can identify where and when projects are forecasted to occur, and in turn, contractors can share staffing, bandwidth and availability of crews with owners, emphasizing any forecasted periods when they will be looking for work, which can lead to more competitive pricing.

The same can be said for communicating permitting requirements. Given the geographic reach and scope of many multi-site construction programs, varied permitting requirements can significantly impact a program’s timeline. However, while more than half (52%) of owners believe they are frequently keeping abreast of the changing permit requirements, very few contractors (21%) agree. These findings suggest that without a general contractor on board during preconstruction to coordinate the permit requirements and application process, the specific permit requirements may not be truly understood as early as they should be, leading to major issues down the road.

Despite the fact that each of these stakeholders voiced differing opinions throughout the study, research found more than 70% of owners and contractors agree that making time for program-level scope and schedule coordination early in a multi-site program improves scope clarity, quality, schedule, budget and, ultimately, contributes to the program’s success. Both parties are aligned, as more transparent, early and consistent communication will lead to strengthened, enduring partnerships in the long run.

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