Jerry Laiserin is an American writer on AEC software who has written many thoughtful pieces relating to collaboration. I was therefore delighted when I read last month that he was to become a contributor to Cadalyst. I have just read his first contribution, AGC Dispute with AIA Represents Deeper Rift, and it confirms my view.
He looks underneath the roots of a dispute about a standard form of contract and identifies that the issue is more about protecting the roles of some professionals at a time when technology is offering opportunities to improve the flow and management of information within the project team. As he says: “everyone who supports ‘the way we’ve always done things’ must share responsibility for the present state of affairs“. He goes on:
“all parties … need to address … a realignment of compensation and risk to reflect the value of information added to a project by each participant. One way of correlating information and risk is to recognize that greater information reduces uncertainty. Reduced uncertainty, in turn, represents decreased risk. Therefore, as project information increases, project risk should decrease. What remains in question is whose risk is mitigated by which information created by which other parties — and how much compensation does that mitigated risk deserve?
“… As I see it, the point is that all parties to the process must bring a collaborative attitude to the task of crafting documents for a technology-driven, collaborative working environment….”
This underlines the point I make time and time again about construction collaboration: it’s 80% people and processes, only 20% technology. Contracts are a big part of that ‘process’ issue, and can seriously hamper effective collaboration, as Jerry says. However, I have witnessed UK projects which have been able to overcome some of these challenges by adopting more collaborative approaches of the kind advocated by the Latham and Egan reports in the 1990s. For example, BIW [my employer] was involved with the award-winning Andover North redevelopment project, a much admired, innovative (and still all-too-rare) project (see case study) in which, among other things, project team companies co-operated on a gain/pain-sharing basis, with all members committed to working transparently towards the achievement of a shared goal. It’s not impossible, but it does require exactly that kind of collective, collaborative attitude that Jerry talks about.