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2017 CURT Owners Study: Defining Project Excellence

This year’s CURT (Construction Users Roundtable) national conference was centered around a simple idea: excellence in total project performance. But like any great idea, bringing it to life can be far from simple.

Our annual owners study seeks to outline the path and figure out how great owners have already made progress. This year’s study explores the key ingredients of project excellence and how to bring it to life.

We start with a core question: what is project excellence?

What it Looks Like

To get a better picture of industry perceptions of project excellence, we led two roundtable discussions. The first was with owners, and the second was with their A/E/C (architecture, engineering, and construction) partners. This operational relationship is the foundation of a successful project.

The overarching theme was one of collaboration, where the owner-A/E/C relationship trends away from the transactional. Instead, both sides are trusted for their expertise and contribute equally to planning and managing the project.

This manifests in a few key ways:

  • Pre-Project Planning: both groups agreed that planning should start as early as the RFP stage. Owners emphasized alignment with key project stakeholders, particularly the end user, and establishing clear and obvious goals. On the A/E/C side, the themes are similar but more centered around logistics: project control, engineering, and front end.
  • Developing the Team: trust is the name of the game here, the idea that all parties involved know what to do and are capable of delivering. This prevents micro-management and delays, and keeps morale high by removing blame from specific parties.
  • Being Realistic: this is more so an issue of practicality and expectations management. Realistic budgets and deadlines again come back to trust: trust that the architect, engineer or contractor is giving the owner a good deal, and trust that the owner understands project scope as well as their own business need.

Industry Prevalence

So if we know what excellence looks like, how often do we actually experience it?

Our owners survey shows definite room for improvement. 64% of owners rated themselves as above average, with only 9% at high excellence. The remaining 36% rated themselves as average or worse. Those in the upper echelon showed significantly better results in meeting two critical goals: budget and schedule.

So what are these high-performing owners doing differently? In our next few installments, we’ll explore that question with the goal of bringing project excellence to life.

You can read the full study here.

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