As Australia’s construction projects get bigger and more complex, technology company Oracle is helping construction firms see their data in new ways, discover insights and collaborate without adding to their risk. Oracle Aconex is an advanced project management platform that brings together project partners in a system based on trust and fairness to help increase the effectiveness of teams and improve project delivery results. With a fair footing for all partners, the platform encourages wider adoption and participation across construction project teams.
A decade ago, a billion-dollar project would have been considered a rarity, but these are now commonplace. If it is not the size and scale of a project that pushes the limits, it is a raft of new techniques, materials and ways of working together that add to the complexity. Right now, around Australia, construction projects worth billions are underway to build the world’s tallest hybrid timber tower, new vaccine facilities, and modern inner-city residential projects, and solve regional infrastructure challenges.
When projects stray from the plan, they can fail spectacularly. From failed infrastructure collapses to stalled projects, almost every town or city has at least one example to share.
In an industry renowned for thin margins, any delays or budget blow-outs can be devastating to a business and leave project partners open to a world of risk. Trust between construction partners is critical for delivering safe, high-quality and reliable construction projects. That trust also extends to how project information is captured and shared so teams can use it for continuous improvement in project delivery.
The science of teamwork
Countless research studies show us that good teams are built on trust, diversity, strong leadership, respect, excellent communication, accountability and transparency. There is also a secret formula created when partners with unique and distinct skills collaborate. Aristotle captured this as “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. However, you could also think of it as synergy.
If you throw people, money and opportunity together into a room, there will always be one or two looking out for themselves. Professor Kathleen Vohs at the University of Minnesota ran a series of experiments exploring the psychological consequences of money. Interestingly, the results found that just showing test subjects a picture of money was enough to change their behaviour and make them act more selfishly.
It is this tension between collaboration or individual gain that threatens the success of any project team. It comes down to a choice: to make as much of the situation as you can for yourself through a quick win or benefit from the collective opportunity and longer-term relationships to achieve more than any partner could do on their own.
Pushing for data parity
In the past, the biggest or lead construction partner might mandate a project system or platform to use, and all partners would feed their information into it. Or the partners would centrally provide their data to the lead partner for them to enter directly. As the platform purchaser, the lead partner has the seeming advantage of complete ownership of the data and control over how and when it appears in the platform.
Construction partners would often keep separate trails of information if they were legally required to prove their actions or interaction with other partners to absolve themselves of fault. Because of uncertainty over who has the correct data, this doesn’t always work well for legal proceedings and breaks the chain of responsibility and accountability.
Oracle Aconex was designed to solve this, and took the uncommon path towards a true common data environment (CDE) where each partner is treated equally in the system. The aim was to create a highly collaborative platform that could still protect each of its members and deliver better results across all stages of a construction project. The platform manages processes across the entire project lifecycle and enhances collaboration between project teams.
“We designed Aconex so that all construction firms in a project still own their data and have complete control over what they share. On the flip side of that, we also treat that data as unalterable once it is shared with project teams, so the platform becomes a viable audit trail of what happened, when and by whom for accountability,” said Callan Mantell, Area Vice President at Oracle.
“In today’s environment, and under some of the modern contract arrangements, I wouldn’t want to be in the position of controlling data for other project partners as it can now take on additional responsibility including liability as well as ultimate risk,” added Mantell.
Feeding the AI machine
Aside from improving compliance and audit chains, one of the recent drives to taking back control of project data has been the uptake of machine learning and AI technologies. By making current and past project data accessible to these technologies, companies can better understand common obstacles, strengths and opportunities as well as predict issues on a project, why those issues might exist and how to mitigate them.
Oracle is also using data about project management to better predict the paths that projects take, streamlining processes and automating others to achieve a better outcome for all. The Oracle Construction Intelligence Cloud Advisor is the first product from the Oracle Construction Intelligence Cloud Service suite, which has launched in some other markets and will be available in the Asia-Pacific region soon.
Oracle Construction Intelligence Cloud Advisor continuously identifies hidden risks that need to be investigated and actioned, including schedule delays, poor schedule quality, process inefficiencies, and project planning issues. It provides advanced warnings and learns over time, improving the accuracy of predictions, so teams can make proactive decisions and take preemptive action early.
“Ultimately, construction teams all want to come together, collaborate and tap into that synergy and achieve more together. Through Aconex, we give every project the best chance of success by giving partners a level playing field when it comes to their data and a clear framework for teams to operate in on whatever devices they want to, to get the job done,” added Mantell.
To learn more about Oracle Aconex, please visit the Oracle website.