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IPD Advisors: Your Guide to Optimizing Project Success

By Robert Balicsak and Dick Bayer | September 9, 2021

Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is gaining popularity across Canada’s public and private sectors. IPD’s approach integrates people, systems, business structures and practices into a process that collaboratively harnesses the strengths and insights of all contractual participants. Taking this approach increases value to the owner, reduces waste, maximizes efficiency and allows shared risk to be managed. Given its many benefits, it’s no surprise that the IPD methodology is gaining traction – particularly in municipal, transportation and education construction projects. As a result, we are seeing owners issue more RFPs for IPD Advisors across the Canadian market.

The IPD model can be challenging to implement for those new to the methodology. Unlike the other CCDC series of contracts and traditional deliveries, the IPD model imposes few enforceable obligations on parties. Rather, it creates a relational team that is empowered to define, manage and deliver the project. Because this is new territory, many project teams treat the IPD model as if it were a more collaborative Construction Management (CM) model. A CM “not at risk” model means that project delivery could actually be more expensive because we don’t maximize the ability to control participation on the project that eliminates wasteful, redundant, but common processes.

So how exactly does hiring an IPD Advisor optimize the chances for successful IPD delivery?

Neutral project advocate

An IPD Advisor is a neutral project advocate. Rather than speaking on one party’s behalf (such as the owner, consultant, contractor or subcontractors), an IPD Advisor gives a voice to the project itself. The advisor facilitates project delivery by helping the project team understand and implement IPD and Lean strategies.

An IPD Advisor does not manage, lead or dictate how an IPD team should deliver the project. Rather, the role is to teach the principles, offer the tools and work towards enhancing the team’s capabilities, processes and effectiveness. The IPD Advisor is there to support the project team as needed—that means that a good advisor will coach the team so it can confidently apply the knowledge gained as the project moves from validation to construction.

Imagine taking a vacation with a local guide that offers you a culturally rich experience, while also providing you with the tools and knowledge to confidently explore the country on your own. This is what hiring an IPD Advisor brings to a construction project.

The business side of IPD

As with any new approach, your team must gather both knowledge and experience to master its delivery. Setting a foundation for teamwork is vital to successfully implement the IPD approach. To make the most of the strategies behind IPD, the team needs to be open to approach things in a new way. This involves developing a plan that defines the new practices, protocols, procedures and tools that will be used to execute the project. By doing so, the team creates a new business culture around the project that creates an effective “playing field” so that all team members develop a high level understanding of the approach and how best to leverage team resources.

When a new employee is hired, they don’t enter an office with their own laptop and programs. They are onboarded to learn and adapt to the firm’s processes, procedures, and programs. The same is true of the IPD approach.

An IPD Advisor helps the team develop a project plan, onboards each team member and assists the team as it develops the necessary IPD culture.

Why you need an IPD Advisor

In reality, an IPD Advisor offers much more than advice and education, contributing practical advice on:

  1. Team Procurement:
    A well-rounded, educated IPD team is critical to a project’s success. A knowledgeable IPD Advisor should have deep procurement experience so they can help procure a highly-qualified IPD team – from consultants to trades – that offer the right mixture of experience and enthusiasm needed to enhance your project. Whether it’s the entire IPD team or an individual partner, your IPD Advisor will need to help you develop a procurement strategy that not only meets the needs of the project but fully aligns with all procurement policies and directives.
  2. RFP Development:
    An experienced IPD Advisor should be able to help craft an appropriate Request for Proposals (RFP) that includes the specific qualifications, experience and skill sets needed to deliver an IPD project. They can offer recommendations on how to evaluate the information once it’s been received. An IPD Advisor will help ensure the members of your project team are clear on both project objectives and the IPD approach. They can also take part in the interview process to help identify proponents with the qualities that embody the collaborative spirit of IPD.
  3. Contract Development:
    As IPD is still relatively new in Canada, it can be challenging to develop a contract that’s easily understood and implemented by the IPD team. An experienced IPD Advisor can help you and your legal team develop a clear and concise contract that outlines your vision for the project. As IPD is also new to many owners' legal counsels it is important that the IPD Advisor uphold the intent of the contract model and not concede to draft supplementary conditions which causes imbalance in a partnership agreement.
  4. Team Management:
    IPD Advisors help establish a team culture through onboarding, instilling team thinking and suggesting tools such as dashboards and software programs that members can use to communicate and monitor a project more efficiently. Experienced IPD Advisors can bring a number of the important tools to supplement gaps in the ability of the owner or the project team to create the governance structure necessary to lead the development of the business side of IPD. These tools include benchmarking, parametric costing, team building strategies, and other important processes and procedures that allow your team to benefit from the relational structure of the IPD model.
  5. Lean Design and Construction:
    An experienced IPD Advisor understands the importance of developing and implementing a lean operating system in both design and construction. The IPD model is not self-effectuating: it needs a robust lean operating system to focus on value delivery and waste elimination in developing the IPD approach. This is where IPD teams can truly innovate a take advantage of the project’s resources to benefit the end result.
  6. Project Innovation:
    An experienced IPD Advisor stays on top of new technologies as they emerge within the design, construction and facility operations industries. They will also suggest how to apply innovative techniques, such as pre-fabrication and modularization, to help you achieve better project results. By creating room for innovation, new ideas are supported and not dismissed just because it is new to the team and seen as a risk – an IPD Advisor sees it as an opportunity.

IPD Advisors play a critical role in guiding you and your project team. They ensure all members have the knowledge, tools and support to confidently implement and reap the full benefits of IPD and Lean methodologies. They work to help focus the team, ensure the project is not being implemented using traditional approaches and in doing so, help build our collective IPD capabilities in Canada.