Industry experts weigh in on a recent study & offer their advice for better collaboration
by Elizabeth Manning
October 17, 2019

Dodge Data & Analytics and Sevan Multi-Site Solutions recently released a study that reiterated the need for stronger communication and collaboration between project owners and contractors.  

The study Challenges and Opportunities in Multi-Site Construction SmartMarket Insight, found that 70% of owners and contractors agree that making program-level scope/schedule coordination a high priority early in construction planning improves project scope clarity, quality, schedule and budget. Survey respondents weren’t in agreement on everything else, though.  

A few key findings are listed below:

  • 56% of owners are confident they know what makes their projects attractive to contractors to bid, but only 16% of contractors agree with that sentiment
  • 92% of owners believe they frequently form long-term partnerships with contractors, but only 35% of contractors reported that was true
  • 76% of owners report they frequently communicate their future construction plans to contractors, but only 19% of contractors said this occurs frequently

If you read our weekly newsletter, theHuddle, you already know all this. As promised in theHuddle, we caught up with Dodge Data & Analytic's Donna Laquidara-Carr and Sevan Multi-Site Solutions' Steve Kuhn to talk about key findings from the report and how construction managers can learn from it moving forward.

Laquidara-Carr is the industry insights research director at Dodge Data & Analytics. She's been with Dodge for over 25 years and has been working on research and analysis for the SmartMarket Report series since 2010. Kuhn is the executive vice president at Sevan Multi-Site Solutions and is one of Sevan's founders. He has more than 20 years of expertise in construction management and currently leads all relationships with Sevan's Business Partners. Read their insights below. 

CBO: What findings were you most surprised by in the Dodge/Sevan report?

DLC: To me, some of the striking differences between the owners and contractors were the most surprising. For example, only 19% of contractors find that owners share their future construction plans, but 76% of the owners say that they do share their plans with contractors.

Many contractors (62%) think that this is because owners are worried about confidentiality, but few owners are actually concerned about that. Instead, most are worried about giving out information that contractors will use to form their plans, only to have it change on them.

What is striking about this, and is consistent with many of the biggest disparities throughout the report, is the way that it emphasizes the need for better communication, rather than different processes, which I think is the fundamental message of the report.

CBO: Why do you think multi-site projects are particularly at risk for a lack of communication and collaboration between owners and contractors?

SK: Since these are often large programs of work, the implications of a breakdown in communication and collaboration can be magnified. On the other hand, though, the data also demonstrates the potential for the benefits of communication and collaboration in a multi-site program to also be amplified over other types of construction.

For example, the issue of continuous learning, where owners can share the lessons learned from contractors across everyone involved in a program of work, has the potential to really advance continuous improvement.

CBO: What is your best advice/top tips for how both parties can improve processes for better communication regarding projects?

SK: Communication was a subject that was addressed in our 2018 Symposium by two clients who presented some best practices for communication among program teams. The key points they touched on are listed below:

  1. Always know where you are, where you are going and how you are planning to get there.
  2. Provide written documentation of roles and responsibilities of all team members early in the program.
  3. Establish a communication cadence that allows for regular team communication.
  4. Contractors and suppliers should not assume owners know what they know—they need to educate owners on issues and bring solutions for them to select from.

CBO: Can you speak to the state of multi-site projects in the industry? What do you see as far as trends for these particular projects?

SK: Sevan Multi-Site has noted that technology is a huge trend in multi-site construction. In restaurants, we are seeing digital menu boards, touchscreen ordering kiosks and continued growth in digital ordering from apps allowing customers to order ahead and simply come and pick up, with restaurants needing dedicated spaces for those orders awaiting pickup. 

In retail, it is the continued focus on consolidations and partnering, leading to a lot of existing and open store remodeling. Retailers are discovering the power of technology to track and forecast the shopping habits of customers that allows them to optimize the use of their store space. 

In general, multi-site owners have embraced the services of third-party program management firms like Sevan as they cut back their internal design and construction staffs and push more towards capitalizing these costs.