Owners, architects, and contractors alike all tout the advantages of collaboration in building projects. No doubt, collaboration has become an industry buzzword, and in the complexity of contemporary society, collaboration is a virtual necessity to successfully plan, design, build, and maintain our physical environment.
But it takes more than lip service to a buzzword, or even good intentions by decision-makers, to make collaboration successful. It takes a commitment by all project stakeholders to engage and meaningfully interact in support of what's best for the project.
Successful collaboration in any context requires the successful execution of (and dedication to) three main components: people, process, and tools. These three components are complementary and synergistic. That is, when applied together, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
In the context of AEC, these complementary components of collaboration are more specifically described as IPD, Lean, and BIM. While the successful execution of any one of these components is comprised of people, process, and tools, they are not the same thing.
IPD, Lean, and BIM are all different from one another, and address different aspects of professional practice, but play well together. Any one of these components can be implemented independently, but will have less effect on successful project collaboration if done in the absence of its complementary components.
For example, if IPD is implemented, but without BIM or Lean, a project team has a framework to allow collaboration and is incentivized to achieve better results. However, IPD by itself doesn't offer suggestions or a roadmap of how to act differently, to improve, or to share information. Stakeholders may collaborate, but without Lean processes and BIM tools, they risk inefficient exchanging of out-of-date information.
Likewise, if a firm implements Lean, they adopt the attitudes, processes, and techniques for continuous improvement, increasing value, and eliminating waste. However, by itself, the scope of Lean is limited to internal efficiency within an organization and not to the broader team of project stakeholders. Supply chains and interactions with third parties are deficient when a firm implements Lean in a vacuum.
Finally, BIM tools enable visualization, communication, understanding, and confidence about a proposed design or scope of work, but by itself the return on investment in modeling is lost by not sharing or collaborating with the model. IPD arrangements and lean processes provide the framework to address this deficiency, allowing a project team to get the most out of BIM.
When all three components of collaboration are implemented together, we see project teams successfully work together for maximum benefit of the project. With IPD agreements structuring people's interactions and incentives, and with Lean processes to increase value and efficiency, and with reliable, pervasive BIM to provide clarity and a single source of truth, practically any project can be successful in the 21st century.