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Uncertainty in Construction. Is it avoidable?

McGraw Hill Construction recently released a SmartMarket Report titled, “Managing Uncertainty and Expectations in Building Design and Construction.” Depending on who was being surveyed for the report (owners, architects and contractors), the reasons and perspective on why uncertainty in project management occurs varied. Naturally, it’s always someone else’s fault.
According to the report, the top 3 ranked causes of uncertainty are:
  1. All 3 surveyed groups, owners, architects and contractors, say that unforeseen site conditions is the #1 reason for uncertainty.
  2. Architects and contractors blame owner-driven changes and accelerated schedules that lead to uncertainty.
  3. Owners and contractors say that design errors and design omissions are causes for uncertainty.
As the paper states, “This consistent lack of alignment demonstrated between owners, architects and contractors about these extremely important aspects of project control, execution and team performance highlights a challenge of perceptions within the industry.” So how can owners reduce these types of uncertainties?  Every project will likely run into some amount of unforeseen uncertainty whether it’s a design error or emission, or something like a weather event. But these can be greatly reduced by 2 things, technology and project collaboration – which can be seen as one and the same.
The report says that “a position paper by an owner’s group calls for owners to lead ‘the creation of collaborative, cross-functional teams comprised of design, construction and facility management professionals.’” It additionally states that, “most studies agree that owner expectations and buy-in are crucial to reducing the costs of change.” Utilizing the technological advances made in project management, such as cloud-based construction software, allows all team members – owners, contractors and architects - to have full project visibility. Up-to-date information keeps all parties aware of a project’s status at any given time and allows changes to be made, and approved, at a much quicker pace which ultimately reduces the costs of change and unforeseen circumstances. Better collaboration through technology represents a huge opportunity for our industry.