Technology is more objective than people are. So when you’re talking about interoperability, it improves a project just by virtue of removing the subjectivity of the human perspective.
Interoperability is the compatibility of data and its ability to pass from one system to another system while being translated for common understanding. Instead of the hassle of two or more systems of siloed data that can’t communicate with each other, interoperability enables teams to pass the information back and forth without losing anything.
An example of where this works well is the financial services industry. Companies work with a common set of data fields, and they speak the same financial language.
Of course, the challenge in the construction industry is that project activities are not like banking transactions. Different information is important at different times. Construction transactions differ widely from each other, with unique aspects on each project. Whereas interoperability works best when you have a structured set of things that are identical, that scenario rarely happens on large, complex construction projects. There are layers of complexity.
To achieve the best interoperability, communications and workflows need to be structured and automated, rather than handled manually, to avoid human error. For example, in the request for information (RFI) process, teams need structure and a common format so they can pass RFI forms back and forth efficiently and keep everyone on the same page.
In construction, it is also important to maintain an official record of what has happened on the job. This not only helps with tracking performance, it is critical in case of litigation. Historically in fact, each stakeholder has maintained their own official project record to manage risk.
Interoperability would enable those multiple project records to be synchronized, with all documentation in every stakeholder’s official record. It not only can save time, it eliminates subjectivity. One thing that could help would be standards and stronger governance around the RFI process so it can easily be synchronized across multiple systems. To integrate disparate tech stacks, the data needs to be structured similarly enough in both systems so they can be correlated. In addition, unique identifiers are needed for data exchange.
The process of interoperability is improved when teams have a central location for project information. While there is an increasing number of options, blockchain technology is one example of a centralized ledger for a single source of truth. Companies can push data into it, and it is unalterable.
Much progress has been made to date on construction industry interoperability. There are multiple software solutions available now to urge it forward. Within the next ten years certainly, the connectivity among systems could be fully in place for the interoperability that is necessary for the industry to function efficiently.