Effect of Poor Communication in Construction Projects

Poor communication between field and office teams is a major pain point and source of inefficiency in the industry. Construction projects involve many stakeholders across the board, requiring extensive collaboration and information sharing between office personnel like project managers, engineers, architects and on-site field teams like superintendents, foremen and tradespeople.

Breakdowns in communication between the office and the field can lead to a variety of issues such as rework, delays, safety problems, cost overruns and disputes. Let’s take an example we cited earlier about field crews working with outdated plans because the current one was not sent to them on time. This rework alone could cost hundreds of thousands. When there are multiple such communication breakdowns, you could see how it would all add up.

While construction projects have become increasingly complex, the technology and workflows supporting office-to-field communication have not advanced at the same pace in many organizations.

Bridging these communication challenges between field and office is essential for improving productivity, quality, and outcomes in construction. This article will explore the key pain points and their impacts in more detail.

Too Much Reliance on Paper Plans

Construction projects inevitably involve changes and updates as work progresses in the field. However, an over-reliance on paper plans can lead to significant communication breakdowns between field teams and managers/engineers in the office.

Field crews often end up working from outdated plans that don't reflect the most recent changes. Without real-time access to the latest revisions, they risk misbuilding elements or incorporating obsolete information.

Transitioning to digital plans and workflows can help align the team. With platforms that sync changes in real-time, everyone can be on the same page. Digital plan coordination also reduces the risk of errors passed down due to paper plans being manually revised.

Lack of Collaboration Technologies

Email and phone calls have been the traditional modes of communication between teams in construction. However, these mediums have significant limitations when trying to collaborate and share the latest information on complex construction projects.

Email inboxes can quickly become overwhelmed, leading to missed communication and slower responses. Attachments don't always represent the latest documents, and email chains can become difficult to follow. Phone calls may address an immediate need but don't document decisions. With teams juggling multiple priorities, inbound calls can frequently be missed, requiring call backs that waste more time.

To enable real-time collaboration, cloud-based construction platforms are essential. Features like centralized document management, model coordination, task management, and instant messaging ensure everybody is working from a single source of truth. This level of visibility, accountability and alignment prevents many of the challenges created by fragmented, limited communications.

Siloed Teams and Information

Construction projects involve many different teams including field crews, project managers, architects, engineers, and subcontractors. Often, these teams operate in silos without much communication between them. This lack of cross-team collaboration can lead to critical information falling through the cracks.

Siloed teams that don't share information in a timely manner run the risk of duplicating work, missing deadlines, creating safety issues, and generating avoidable expenses. It takes cooperation and coordination between all project stakeholders to deliver a successful build. Fostering connections between departments and opening communication channels is key.

Inconsistent Processes

Construction projects often suffer from inconsistent and poorly defined processes for managing communication between the field and office. Without standardized workflows, teams are left to improvise how information flows back and forth. This leads to process breakdowns like:

  • Important updates from the field aren't logged and shared with the right people.
  • Submittals and RFIs fall through the cracks when there's confusion over who owns the process.
  • Delays happen when the handoff between preconstruction and construction isn't clearly defined.

The lack of standardized communication processes makes it challenging to track status, delegate tasks, and keep everyone aligned. Things slip through the cracks and problems amplify when information isn't handed off properly between the office and field. Defining and documenting processes would enable smoother collaboration and ensure construction teams stay on the same page.

The Solution - Adopt Collaborative Field-Office Software

Providing the latest information
Adapting a cloud-based software for construction teams would go a long way to mitigating these issues highlighted above. Tightening the processes around communication standards and document storage would ensure that the right information is passed on to the right field crews at the right time.

Avoiding delays and rework
When your teams are on the same page regarding the latest design or process changes, less errors are made which means companies can save a huge amount of money each year.

Capturing and Leveraging Field Data
Too often, critical field information like daily reports, punch lists, safety observations and quality checklists gets stuck in disconnected systems or paper processes. This disconnect prevents timely and informed decision making by project managers back at the office. Using software allows critical information to be captured, processed, and harnessed the right way to make better decisions for your company.

Bridge the Gap Between Field & Office for Smarter Construction

In summary, poor communication between construction field and office teams can lead to a number of pain points that negatively impact projects. Relying too heavily on paper plans, not utilizing collaboration technologies, having siloed teams and information, can all contribute to communication breakdowns.

These breakdowns can lead to costly mistakes, delays, safety issues, decreased productivity, and lower quality work. They make it difficult for teams to coordinate, solve problems quickly, and have visibility into the overall project. This results in avoidable rework, blown budgets, and missed deadlines.

Improving communication requires a focus on cross-functional collaboration, transparency, implementing construction management software, digitizing workflows, and creating a culture of open information sharing. Enabling field and office teams to work together more closely bridges gaps, aligns the project delivery, and sets up construction projects for success, and companies for a brighter future.

March 12, 2024

Get started for free

Upgrade your construction management at $0.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Prices Start At $0
Unlimited Users
Pay Only For Your First 50 Users