Teamwork and Technology: Winning Ingredients for Working Remotely

In March 2020, millions of U.S. workers were sent home to shelter in place to slow the transmission of COVID-19. Those who could work from home scrambled to set up impromptu home offices, manage remote network connections and learn to use video chat tools. 

As businesses pivot during this time of change, communication technology has been pushed to the forefront of keeping everyone connected and productive. While this is a new work model for many, our San Diego Juvenile Justice project team discovered years ago that implementing a strong technology plan using communication and collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Smartsheet and Egnyte provides teammates working remotely the tools to efficiently organize, plan and execute work to reach their project goals.

A New Idea

In 2017, Balfour Beatty’s San Diego office began pursuit strategy to become the design-builder to combine two existing, Juvenile Justice facilities in separate locations into a new, $112 million, 130,000-square-foot Urban Camp Facility for the County of San Diego.

DLR Group’s L.A office joined the team as design partner, and Balfour Beatty leaders from coast-to-coast began providing their unique expertise and experiences. As a design-build project, the proposed team required a full complement of architectural, engineering and construction professionals to execute the multitude of services required for the project. Using the proven, lean decision system of Choosing by Advantages, the core members of the Juvenile Justice team performed a collaborative evaluation of 41 firms, ultimately selecting 20 firms to join the pursuit team. 

The team knew that to win a complex project of this size, they would need to cultivate a highly collaborative environment. The challenge was how keep to the large team engaged and working together on the pursuit strategy for more than a year while working from their respective locations. 

Over the last decade, Balfour Beatty has continuously improved project collaboration and communication with owners, design consultants and trade partners by taking advantage of improvements in cloud-based technology that allows real-time information sharing. The Balfour Beatty + DLR Group design-build team decided to apply this same strategy to their pursuit efforts. 

Building a Communication and Collaboration Hub and Technology Plan

From the earliest days of the pursuit strategy, the team kept project information in Microsoft OneNote, which allowed them to easily share pursuit information and meeting notes. In early 2017, Microsoft released Microsoft Teams and the Balfour Beatty + DLR Group design-build team became early adopters. MS Teams provided the platform to manage all the collaboration needs of the team members and serve as a hub to connect the team’s communication tools. 

In late 2018, after responding to the County’s Request for Qualifications and participating in an interview, the team was shortlisted to receive the Request for Proposal. Preparing the proposal would require the use of additional software applications; therefore, Balfour Beatty Director of TPD Daniel Shirkey, was engaged to update and expand the team’s technology plan to include:

  • Microsoft Teams – Official team communication hub with links to Egnyte and Smartsheet and meeting minutes in OneNote
  • Egnyte – File storage
  • Smartsheet – Task management
  • Destini – Estimating and 5D (cost)
  • P6 / Smartsheet – CPM schedule
  • BIM 360 – Model collaboration and constructability
  • Revit – Model creation and compilation
  • Bluebeam Studio – 2D collaboration and drawing review

When the Request for Proposal was released, the team had six, short weeks to prepare their response with qualifications, an estimate and design concepts. However, due to the team’s foresight in establishing the communication and collaboration hub and technology plan, they were ready. 

Over the next month and half, the team worked swiftly to build a detailed proposal that would provide the County of San Diego with valuable project solutions. They also continued a relentless pursuit of innovation. To help project stakeholders envision the project, team members from DLR created a 3D printed model that was used during presentations to explain the project approach and answer questions.

Project Award and Beyond

All the team’s planning and preparation paid off when the Balfour Beatty + DLR Group design-build team was awarded the project in September 2019. 

The Juvenile Justice team has continued to use Microsoft Teams as the project’s central communication hub, providing a continuous project record from the earliest days of the pursuit strategy. The MS Teams group has 78 members to date, and new members can access a full onboarding plan. The technology plan continues to expand as new collaborative applications are developed and adopted. The team is currently implementing Balfour Beatty’s Procore Project Management platform for the project. 

Daniel Shirkey explains the development of the technology plan and its continued success. “With such a diverse team, a strong technology backbone was needed. At the onset of the project pursuit, the team outlined all major technology platforms for the project, established leaders for each platform and housed orientation guides in MS Teams. This allowed all team members to quickly access the tools. This ease of access and integration is continuing to contribute value during the project.”

The San Diego team is using this pursuit as a model for other opportunities as they also look beyond the horizon for new collaborative tools. They most recently built a landing page in Bluebeam to provide easy access to all the technology applications they leverage. 

When asked what it took for the team to build a winning effort and overcome all the challenges they faced, Justin Maletic, director of business acquisition stated, “This dedicated team of professionals stayed focused on a common goal. They combined their creative talents and expertise and built a solid plan of action.”

Three years ago, our Juvenile Justice team used technology to expand the definition of collaboration. Their ingenuity serves as an inspiring example for overcoming team challenges for those of us working in the “new normal.”