The state of (construction) collaboration

I spoke at the Collaboration Cafe symposium held at London’s Building Centre on Tuesday, 30 March. I was third speaker on, following StickyWorld and Slider Studio founder Michael Kohn and Axis Design architect Rob Annable, and my brief from Michael was straightforward: to expand on the blog post, The end of the construction collaboration era?, I wrote last week.

In some ways this was a useful suggestion as the blog post (largely repeated on my pwcom blog) elicited some interesting and useful comments. As a result, I quoted both Incite‘s Sean Kaye and GleedsJasper Singh in the presentation, as both touched on a similar area: that the mainstream collaboration platforms are pretty dull to use and are unlikely to excite Gen Y industry professionals enthused by Web 2.0.

This issue was also raised during discussion at the symposium with Woobius’s Bob Leung talking about the principles that had driven development of the Woobius collaboration application (post), emphasising simplicity and ease of use, particularly where such platforms are used for projects that are at an early or conceptual stage and don’t warrant sophisticated or deep levels of process functionality (a point repeated by Michael in respect of StickyWorld).

As well as Michael, Bob, the panel for the debate included other architects and designers: Robin Nicholson (Edward Cullinan Architects), Ben Derbyshire (HTA) and Darren Comber (Scott Brownrigg), and there were a fair few more architects in the audience. Their apparent frustrations at having to use different platforms that didn’t talk to each other was raised (I did mention the efforts of the NCCTP to agree a data exchange standard), and there was broad agreement, I think, with one of my points that, even if the systems were more intuitive to use and more interoperable, many industry professionals are still personally reluctant to collaborate. I still think that people and process issues remain a major barrier to effective collaboration in the UK construction sector.

(The debate was well chaired by Building Centre director Andrew Scoones. During his introductory remarks, he referred to several research projects undertaken by the Building Centre Trust towards the end of the 20th century, and one of the documents he waved in the air was a case study I wrote on use of the Cadweb extranet at Reading’s Green Park development, published in April 2000 – almost exactly ten years ago.)

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