In the age of advancing technology and tools at your fingertips, digital collaboration has become a large part of the construction process. It’s fueled the evolution of partnerships and created transparency for all parties from design to completion, raising the bar when it comes to creating a seamless construction process. The right technology is also integral in keeping projects on track in the face of COVID-19 or other unplanned crises. Setting a clear strategy and creating a solid technological foundation are not only imperative to arming employees with the right tools to do their jobs in any location, but they are also crucial to enhancing existing technology to improve both the client experience and digital collaboration capabilities.
Keeping Clients First
When the pandemic pushed the entire workforce to home and remote offices, the plan to enhance JE Dunn’s collaboration tools was accelerated, underscoring the emphasis on improvement during an unpredictable scenario. Once the workforce—both on jobsites and in offices—went to full remote work effectively, the IT team focused on ensuring our external clients had similar success to our internal JE Dunn employees. The primary tool for that is our innovative Dunn Dashboard, the platform used to store all project information that offers internal and external partners, design teams, and owners access to real-time information—everything from project communications to drawings and financials. While project teams have been using Dunn Dashboard for years, they are finding new ways to maximize its benefits to streamline communication and improve transparency throughout the project.
Additionally, the Dunn Dashboard unlocked the highly anticipated capability to have preconstruction-specific dashboards for digital, real-time collaboration. “One of our current projects has a very large client team with a larger number of stakeholders than we typically see,” said Preconstruction Services Director Brian Haulotte. “The project itself is very data heavy, so we decided early on to utilize Dunn Dashboard during preconstruction, which is a shift in when we typically begin using the tool. We started putting everything in there because of massive file size and number of people who needed access, and it grew from there. All partners and owner reps starting using it for a single source of information, and it organically became the standard, preferred source of communication for the entire project.”
When it’s time to transition from preconstruction to construction, the exact same Dunn Dashboard URL is maintained. This means there is a single location (URL) to find all information related to a project from preconstruction through closeout. In addition, users can toggle between preconstruction and construction whenever they need to find all critical information. The nearly limitless power of the preconstruction platform Lens, and the insight provided through our Power BI dashboards, are both now on full display in these Dunn Dashboards. Every single member of the team also has around-the-clock access to everything—yet another way the team improved upon existing technology to increase digital collaboration when teams are working remotely. “Digital collaboration has always been an important part of what we do in the field, but we’ve definitely taken it up a notch and used it more heavily since COVID-19 forced many people to work remotely,” said East Region Operations Manager Jake Bowron. With the ability to more efficiently input and observe data in our daily journals , we now have a better picture of field productivity and insights, keeping all parties informed even though many are no longer on site.”
Laying the Groundwork
JE Dunn is currently evaluating several next generation technologies related to keeping our project teams at the forefront of digital transformation. But it’s the systems we already had in place that aided a smooth transition to remote collaboration—on and off the jobsites as well as with clients—when much of the workforce shifted to remote work.
As stay-at-home orders took effect in more and more cities across the country, the team relied on the technologies in place to provide security and access for the entire workforce. “We knew that our teams were not the only people relying on access and information without interruption—our clients were counting on us as well to keep projects moving,” said Jason Bowne, IT systems and support director. “To ensure everyone at the company from accounting and marketing to project managers and superintendents could stay connected and access to confidential documents securely without missing a beat, we relied on our Dunn Dashboard, Connect (intranet), and other software collaboration tools we had already invested in and implemented. All our digital tools, together with our recent secure remote connection modifications, ensured everyone could be as efficient as possible from their homes, jobsites, or even their trucks (when not moving of course).”
Though IT had been implementing a remote digital collaboration strategy behind the scenes long before COVID-19 hit, the shift to a different video collaboration tool for all meetings hadn’t fully been realized. “When work moved to completely remote for office workers in March due to COVID-19, we went from averaging under 1,000 people using the preferred video collaboration platform to almost 5,000 each week after our workforce shifted to remote work,” said Bowne. “It became apparent quickly that full function video collaboration was now a benefit rather than a hinderance.”
The Value of a Steady Strategy
Creating a unified structure and building upon tried-and-true technologies—rather than changing direction each time something new is released—allowed us to not only create a seamless remote working environment for all work groups during the pandemic, but it also allowed us to build upon and improve it. The tools we had in place became more powerful, and the smooth integration between platforms means we can truly go end to end while maintaining transparency with clients and partners every step of the way. “Next to our hammers, we have added technology to our construction tool belt now,” said Bowron. “Communication lines are so rapid today and expectations continue to rise, so enhancing digital collaboration between clients and our field teams has been integral during this time—and will continue to be one of the most important tools well into the future.”