Tenet #1 – If it is not neutral, it is not a true project collaboration system
No sportsperson would compete in a game where the referee was constantly favouring the opposing team. In the same vein, if a collaboration system is seen to be controlled or operated in the favour of one company, it will deter users from the other organizations involved in the project from proactively participating.
A neutral collaboration platform is one that provides equal rights for all participating organizations. Using the right balance of permissions and security controls, each organization can share and control what information it wants to make available to other parties. Once that information is shared, it is fully auditable and searchable by all those who received it. No one company should be able to shut off access to the other participating organizations throughout the defined project life.
An absolutely unbreakable rule is no one should be permitted to delete data records at any time. If the collaboration solution allows data to be permanently deleted by users, it is not creating the necessary system of records, which puts organizations at significant risk of regulatory and compliance violations, not to mention monetary sanctions in the event of a legal hold or e-discovery process. The collaborative platform should keep a definitive data record in the event of a disagreement. Any other way of collaborating just doesn’t cut it.
Beyond the legal issues is the business value. If definitive records are not being kept through the collaboration platform, then the system becomes less reliable as a decision-making tool for all parties involved, whether they are other departments or divisions within the same company or other companies in a multi-party scenario. If nobody can rely on the data, then what good is it?
Tenet # 2 – An enterprise solution is not a true project collaboration system
Closely related to the first tenet, but necessary to spell out separately, an enterprise solution that is internally operated by one organization or group participating in the project cannot be considered true project-wide collaboration. Enterprise solutions are excellent when it comes to managing all internal information assets for a company for internal collaboration but they are not going to encourage outside participants buy in. Would you submit vital information into a system outside your control? At the very least, you would create a local copy in your own system that creates duplication. The issue here of course is that there is then no single system which exists to resolve disputes.
Enterprise systems are designed with security being the number one priority, and understandably so. However, a true project collaboration system will offer the same standards of security. Compliance to the ISO 27001 Information Security Management Systems (ISMS) can create a formalized benchmark by which to evaluate such capability. An ISMS helps determine how information is handled, including processing, storage, transfer, and archiving.
Tenet # 3 – If it is not easy for everyone to use, it is not a true project collaboration system
Even if organizations trust that a system is neutral and so emotionally commit to participate, they will soon stop it if it is not easy to use. Meeting the needs for both powerful, deep functionality for heavy users such as document controllers and intuitive at-a-glance tools like project managers and directors is challenging, but it is possible. Unless you want to spend a great deal of time and money reconfiguring, a system that is purpose-designed to fit the specific processes and requirements of a building project is strongly recommended.
Trust in the project is only secured when there is trust in the system
Project collaboration systems only work when there is the buy-in of the majority of users in the various organizations involved in a project. To get buy-in, your system needs to tick a lot of boxes. Simply put, what users need to trust the system is:
- Fairness – equal control levels over data for all parties
- Ease of deployment and use
- Support throughout the project life
Without trust in the system, there will not be buy-in from the project community and information is therefore not captured. Without information being captured, traceability and transparency are not possible and a culture of dependence on trust cannot be built.
Get it correct, and you will reap the rewards
Introducing a true project collaboration system on a project can have significant tangible benefits in the form of risk mitigation, time and cost savings. Equally important, over the longer term, the more “true” project collaboration systems are used across the industry, the greater transparency there will be. This will gradually foster a culture where the most competitive companies are those who work in partnership, agree on what is promised and then each deliver on their side of the bargain for mutual gain.