Can You Manage Uncertainty?

Design and construction are messy, inherently filled with ambiguity and uncertainty about the outcome. For years, the industry has tried to create more certainty and reduce ambiguity, however, the improvements are small and generally very localized. Why? Because each project is a bespoke creation that reflects the values, capabilities, skill, needs, and culture of the owner, design, and construction teams. One could argue, the industry will never achieve the same level of integration and efficiency of other industries, because the process is built around the value of uncertainty. But there are ways to turn uncertainty to certainty.

In 2014, the AIA Large Firm Roundtable sponsored a special SmartMarket report authored by McGraw Hill titled “Managing Uncertainty and Expectations in Design and Construction”. The focus of the report was to explore the reasons and costs inherent in the design and construction process while providing owners with a better understanding of how to accommodate for those inevitable outcomes. Through a process of in-depth research with major clients from around the world, the report catalogued the major factors that result in higher costs. This is valuable information and I recommend reading the outcomes; there are real opportunities to improve your design and construction process. Yet is it possible to “manage” uncertainty?

The root of the word – uncertain – is by its very definition impossible to manage – it is an outcome that is unknown, is beyond certain knowledge, or is not clearly named or defined. What is important is understanding that the uncertainty exists and breaking down the mechanisms that create greater uncertainty – silos, isolation, and lack of communication – is of paramount importance.

We previously spoke in this blog about the thousands, perhaps millions, of decisions that make up the design and construction process. Therefore, it is uncertain – because you cannot possibly know and understand every decision that is made throughout the process, at the level necessary to predict the implications of any one decision within a given timeframe. So, embrace the uncertainty, but be clear in the communication and recognition of the impact of each of those decisions. Share widely and broadly but share in a way that creates a record and capability to follow the chain of ownership.

Beyond uncertainty, there is opportunity, especially as we move into a fully realized digital design and construction ecosystem. Imagine these three scenarios:

– An equipment supplier makes a change to the configuration of its equipment and the change will affect three other trades. They update their BIM to reflect these changes and would like to get that communicated as quickly as possible.

– A supplier has suffered a major supply chain setback and cannot get the original product specified in time for installation. They sourced a similar product, but it has slightly distinct characteristics and requirements. They have the updated data including new BIM info and would like to distribute it to the entire team to figure out what implications there are for the project.

– The project team has been specifying one manufacturers product for the last five iterations of the BIM, but suddenly decides it needs to switch to a different manufacturer. The original supplier believes they have the contract since they were included the last five times. No one tells them the product has been changed.

Each of these scenarios are real and happen every day. Each has an implication on cost and can raise the uncertainty level in the project. Having a mechanism that could find and quickly communicate changes lowers the uncertainty and improves the ability to control the project and costs.

This is the power of Concert. With a permanent record that is accessible to all members of the design and construction process, with the capacity for information to flow two ways and to query that information at any time, Concert supplies the platform to reduce uncertainty and improve your ability to effectively communicate the right information at the right time. It is simple, robust, and built on a deep understanding of the design and construction ecosystem.

Check it out today, it is the future of a digital ecosystem.