Collaboration has long played a critical role in our industry. With today’s increasingly complex projects, the right team of partners is important in not only winning commissions but also in successfully completing projects.

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Excellence in Design Starts with a Strong Core Team

Excellence in design is achieved by excellence in service. A goal on every project should be to effectively translate the client’s vision. Excellence in service is not only about the design. It means managing process and project development, mitigating risk and assembling the best team.

Ronald Armstrong

It is important to develop a stable of core consultants based on specialty and geography. Consultants must have similar work ethics and philosophies relative to project delivery, documentation, coordination and risk management. This allows seamless teamwork, better service and minimizes risk.

These core consultants must understand how to work as an integrated team, bringing tremendous value without a tremendous learning curve. A trusted team member knows your work pace, communication methods, expected project management process, document and quality control methodologies. These shared ethics allow for more predictable and qualitative schedules, documents and processes.

Excellence in Service Means Carefully Adding Team Members

When you need to add consultants, carefully vet prospective firms. Here are screening criteria that can help in making wise picks:

Expertise – Best in Class:

Look for firms with projects that are best in class. For example, in researching library or lab consultants, identify firms involved in current, notable projects. Next, dig deeper and research the projects. Were they finished on time and on budget? Does the project perform? Is the client happy? Look for a proven track record.

Culture – Similar Philosophy:

No two firms are alike. It is important to not only be wowed by a firm’s expertise, but to make sure your cultures blend. Ask potential partners to describe their approach and philosophy while you listen for key words to ensure they are a good match. If the consultant joins your team, make sure they are ready to commit to your processes and methodologies, as well as your firm’s service ethics.

Technology – Passion for New Solutions:

Evaluate what platforms the firms are using and look for members with a willingness to incorporate cutting-edge solutions. On a recent project for the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Los Angeles, our firm’s team used Revit by Autodesk for building information modeling (or BIM). The model produced by the design and construction team is now used in an advanced building monitoring system. It one of the most extensive and advanced application of its kind in any sector, public or private. Look for the types of partners that will stimulate the best creative options for your team.

Communication – Centralized System:

Always have a centralized communication system with a single point of accountability, and ask your partners to do the same. Remain sensitive to the client’s bottom line and use video conferencing or Skype to streamline communication. Consider Citadon for web-based document management and collaboration solutions and “Go To Meeting” by Citrix Systems to conduct remote meetings using desktop-sharing software. Strive to incorporate electronic construction phase communications and management tools.

Connections – Collaborative Marketing:

Look for interest in collaborative marketing. When possible, select consultants with a positive track record with your potential or current client. Partners that help win and/or develop new work is an important differentiator in today’s competitive marketplace.

Projects – Ability to CREATE New Work:

Look for partners who are creative in developing new projects, versus just responding to RFP/RFQs, and find ways to leverage your collective efforts. Explore ways to solicit repeat (non-bid) business and assemble teams that offer alternative project opportunities.

Stability – Keeping a Good Stable:

There is always a learning curve when working with new consultants; look for firms with healthy backlogs. Excellence in service leads to excellence in design and happy repeat clients.

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