2021 prediction: Collaboration and consolidation

Updated: Jan 28

Entering 2021, we highlighted some of the trends and themes we expect to see across civil infrastructure over the coming year. Of these, common visualisation, collaboration and decarbonisation come out top of mind for an industry focused on resetting, recovering, rebuilding and reimagining a better-built future. For the second blog in our 2021 predictions series, we deep dive into the importance of collaboration and consolidation within construction projects and how it can be achieved.

Collaboration within the civil infrastructure industry has often been a struggle, be it internal project collaboration between teams or external with the rest of the industry. Forced primarily by the pandemic, a huge positive to emerge from 2020, has been joint ventures, collaboration and a greater willingness to work together to get things done. Sensat believes that this collaboration will continue into 2021 as companies assess best practices and innovation to improve built infrastructure. With the ability for in-platform collaboration and consolidation, it has never been easier to share, overlay, annotate and analyse data to tackle challenges and make decisions.

When it comes to industry consolidation, in what is still a highly fragmented industry with a high number of competing companies, consolidation is ripe for the picking as businesses work together to create solutions, tender bids and come together to complement each other and create supply chain resilience.

What does collaboration in construction really look like?

In 2021, collaboration in construction will hopefully mean a more collective approach towards objectives. Fostering collaboration will allow the industry to better pool knowledge and resources to more effectively achieve shared goals and innovate. Collaboration has the potential to streamline workflows so that projects can be better delivered on time, on budget, and more sustainably.

Challenges of collaboration

Construction has previously lagged in a collaborative mentality for an accumulation of reasons, of the most prominent these include:

1. Fragmented teams and organisations:

Within projects, teams are often fragmented, with different departments and organisations, all using different platforms, file types and software which are often incompatible with one another. These restraints prevent teams from sharing data with others. As a result, information is often siloed across repositories and systems, leading to data being collected and used inefficiently between organisations and even departments. As an industry, now more than ever, we are having to make better use of collaborative tools, such as Sensat’s visualisation platform, which can aggregate data effectively and make information more accessible. In turn, this will enable better data-informed decision making.

2. Adverse nature of business

Within construction, businesses are forced to compete for projects with respect to the time and budgets they can be delivered within. The high number of competing firms can be pinpointed as one of the reasons why margins remain relatively low in construction. As a result of the competitive nature of the industry, it results in a lack of innovation and information sharing between businesses. Industry consolidation may overcome some of this, but a step forward is working together not against each other.

3. Digital Lag

Construction is the second least digitised industry in the world. The digital lag has meant that the development of communication of resources and information has been slow. The delay in digital adoption has caused a hindrance in creating a more collaborative mentality as it has limited information sharing, which other industries have benefited from in recent decades.

Without the implementation of cutting-edge collaborative tools, it is difficult to aggregate data in aspects of centralisation, compatibility and quality. Due to this disjointed nature between teams, often decisions are made using only partial pictures of projects, which negatively impacts bottom lines. As an industry, we are data-rich, however, we often struggle to leverage it. The challenge here is to get teams to work together using data sets simultaneously.

What will change in 2021?

Embracing collaboration and consolidation within construction in 2021 has the potential to bring several benefits to the industry. In clarifying collective objectives to teams, unity instead of enmity can be fostered; projects will be better able to achieve on-time project delivery, work within budgets, as well as waste fewer materials and manpower.

Further evidence that collaboration will be big in 2021 comes from the UK Government's Construction Playbook, which reinforces the importance of collaboration in public work projects in terms of how they are procured, delivered, and assessed. The Construction Playbook states that through adopting a more collaborative industry mindset, “this will create a more resilient pipeline and drive efficiencies, innovation and productivity in the sector”, something that we should be striving for.

In 2021 we also expect to see an increase in the use of platform technologies, which will further enable collaboration across project teams, organisations and consortiums. Advancements in platforms are helping modify traditional information relaying, with project stakeholders now being able to share data and information for easier to decision-making. Sensat’s own platform creates a common visualisation environment of project sites which can be collaborated on anytime, anywhere with an unlimited number of users through an internet-connected device. The platform also allows users to upload unlimited files and data into a project providing one common view, where markup, annotation and sharing findings is seamless. This combination of user accessibility and infinite file management will continue to help the construction industry achieve a more collaborative working environment.

For more information read how to navigate what’s next in civil infrastructure. Alternatively, take a look at the first blog in our series which looks into the importance of common visualisation platforms in 2021.