Consistent, quality site data drives collaborative contracting

November 1, 2022
Explore the critical success factors for operating standard forms of contract and why collaboration is key.

We recently wrote about Network Rail’s journey to embracing collaborative standard forms of contracting.Namely the NEC4 contract which we understand will be widely used in Control Period 7.

There are several critical success factors for operating standard forms of contract and these hold more importance where collaboration is integral to the contractual processes.  

Essential ingredients include -

  • Knowledge - with transactional, reactive forms of contract it’s possible to muddle through without real knowledge of what they say.  Relying on traditional practices and experience may suffice.  Try this with NEC and you could be timed out or miss an important step in procedure.  Knowing what you have to do is crucial.
  • Discipline - even the best teams can get lost in the administration.  Keep within, or beat the timescales set down by the procedures.  Being consistent and compliant is critical.
  • Culture - there has to be transparency, cooperation and a willingness to follow the contract.  To do so is not aggressive, it’s collaborative.

All three of these elements are needed to drive true collaboration and culture underpins everything.  A key aspect of creating the right culture is transparency.  Holding back information, providing opaque data, or no data at all, destroys well intentioned efforts to build a collaborative culture.

How can we use transparency to build trust?

The current experience of the UK construction industry and in particular rail is one of receiving data from site in sporadic formats, incomplete, inconsistent, unstructured and unvalidated.  By shifting this model of site data capture to one of consistent, structured, high quality data being accessed in real time, transparency is transformed.  It takes courage from all parties to follow this approach, however complete transparency of site data should be embraced to build trust rather than avoided to mitigate unintended consequences.

In a recent conversation with an NEC author and contracts expert we arrived at the subject of site data and the phrase that stuck was “we shouldn’t be arguing about facts”.  It seems so obvious and bizarre but without high quality site records it’s common that contractual parties will spend a disproportionate amount of time debating what happened rather than why it happened, who is the best place to manage the risk of an event, how to deal with it and what the contractual outcomes are.

In 2022 we are still discussing whether site records can be relied upon as a contemporary and accurate account of works.  Without confidence and transparency in these records trust is difficult to build, a collaborative culture is impossible to achieve and standard forms like the NEC are not able to meet their objectives.  Part of the answer lies in committing to a single, agreed site data capture method.  Consistently applied with data captured in a structure which fits commercial reporting requirements.

How does site data capture specifically support NEC processes?

NEC4 builds on many of the best practice processes of NEC3 and in many areas having detailed, structured, accurate and contemporaneous site records will directly support the contractual obligations of both parties.  

These include -

  • Submission and acceptance of programme submissions
  • Substantiating applications for payment
  • Validating costs for both payment and compensation events
  • Supporting notification of compensation events
  • Providing context in the early warning risk management process
  • Evidencing test and defect results

Capturing data on site - what are the options?

Let’s consider the various options available and what is currently happening on sites across the UK -

  • Paper - yes, still paper. :-(
  • Digital forms and Excel - better than paper
  • Digital forms with workflow and Excel - better than digital forms
  • Best in class SaaS platforms for capturing site data - best practice!

Millions of pounds are spent every single week on the administration of rail projects in the UK and even more money is lost and in many instances wasted on expensive claims and disputes resulting from poor site records.

It’s often said that the construction industry needs disruption from technology however this infers a painful transition to adoption of digital solutions.  It doesn’t need to be this way.  Simple, off the shelf SaaS software, delivering best in class focused solutions and supported by dedicated teams means that site operatives and office staff can embrace the benefits without fearing the obstacles to deployment.

Raildiary has been created by industry experts and is supported by a UK based dedicated team.  Being the UK’s leading site data capture and commercial analysis solution in the UK rail industry is our mission and we believe it can help transform the culture and outcomes of collaborative forms of contract.

Consistent, quality site data drives collaborative contracting

Nick Woodrow

Operations Director

A positive and outcome focused chartered civil engineer with over 20 years spent in a broad range of businesses successfully delivering complex projects & leading teams at C-level.

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