Collaborative, integrated project teams hold the key to delivering better project outcomes - International Burch University
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Collaborative, integrated project teams hold the key to delivering better project outcomes

Collaborative, integrated project teams hold the key to delivering better project outcomestony-gates-e1624539764394-300x300.jpg

Tony Gates is managing director at Sir Robert McAlpine

The core message underpinning this, for me, was clear:  all parties should commit to investing in, and building, long-term relationships throughout the value chain. The guidance, in fact, goes on to state explicitly that “a partnership model with the principles of collaboration, openness, transparency and flexibility based on contractual delivery can be beneficial in driving successful outcomes and innovation”.

But, how can the industry truly heed this call, both when procuring projects and once they reach site? One solution would be to proactively use integrated project teams (IPTs), namely a system of collaborative working where everyone involved in a project – be it the client’s project team, suppliers, contractors or consultants – works in a single team, together for the project’s duration. The upshot is that teams and individuals that know each other well produce better project outcomes, with enhanced cooperation between team members fostering greater innovation and efficiency. Waste is minimised. What’s more, in the frequent scenario where they stay together over multiple projects, teams stand to benefit hugely from accelerated learning and improvement.  What’s not to like?

Though, to some, the rationale behind IPTs may appear aspirational – and the concept abstract – truly integrated project teams are, in fact, both deliberate and strategic; they can even be designed and measured against a clearly defined set of principles and measurable success factors. As well as covering more tangible elements such as structures, systems, processes, decision-making and data and information, the ‘integrated’ umbrella also encompasses the concept of a single integrated culture; a key facet that can be defined on the basis of both behavioral expectations, competencies and individual team members’ responsibilities.  A better place to work, surely?

In addition to the cultural and commercial advantages, I firmly believe that embracing and fostering truly integrated project teams can also play a crucial role in enabling us to hit the ambitious net-zero targets our sector is striving to achieve. This view is mirrored by the influential World Economic Forum in its report on ‘Shaping the Future of Energy, Materials and Infrastructure’, in which it highlights that “strong partnerships and commitments throughout value chains are essential for those sectors to power the systematic changes needed to deliver on the promise of a net-zero world”.

Fortunately, the UK Government has already made a swathe of green pledges and investment into net-zero infrastructure. Its Project Speed, for instance, has been held up as a key driver in helping the UK “build back better, greener and faster”.

So now is the time for the construction industry to take these words and turn them into action. In macro terms, this means bringing leaders and decision makers closer together from the project outset, whilst on an individual level, instilling in project members an enhanced awareness of, and open-mindedness to, ideas and approaches that differ to their own will be critical. The Institution of Civil Engineers’ Project 13 under the leadership of the Infrastructure Client Group is a great example of this thinking and I congratulate the Clients and Suppliers that are fully embracing this way of working.

I’ve been fortunate enough to see the tangible benefits of IPTs, with both Highways England and HS2, on a number of major projects now almost three years into their IPT journey. The proof of the pudding is in the eating – IPTs produce better outcomes.

The challenge now is to learn fast about these new ways of working, focus on developing the individual technical and behavioural competencies to thrive in IPTs, and then reap  the cultural, societal, environmental and economic rewards that result.

*Tony Gates is managing director at Sir Robert McAlpine and Chair of the Project 13 Supplier Engagement Community.


Department of Civil Engineering