Case Study: Balfour Beatty

balfour-beattyBalfour Beatty Construction drives down waste, increases efficiency and improves productivity.

One of the largest construction management companies in the US transforms business process management with Casewise.

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Company profile

Balfour Beatty Construction, an industry leader for more than 80 years, is the fourth largest general builder in the United States. With more than 2,500 employees, Balfour Beatty delivered $4 billion worth of projects last year that enhance people’s lives, and alter the landscapes of communities and the nation. Examples of the complex infrastructure and iconic structures Balfour Beatty has built include the Space Needle in Seattle, the Pentagon Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Florida, among many others.

The company’s vision is to “differentiate ourselves so significantly that we change the industry.” Service delivery is the priority and rather than looking to maximize profits on individual projects, the company’s focus is long–term client relationships – Balfour Beatty Construction has achieved an 82% repeat customer rate over the past five years and has won hundreds of awards for construction excellence.

Balfour Beatty Construction is an innovator in its sector with a mission to eliminate waste and inefficiency from every project it performs for its clients. As part of this ongoing commitment, the company recognized an opportunity to dramatically transform its process documentation and provide its teams with instant access to all company procedures, from anywhere and on virtually any device.

Balfour Beatty chose to work with Casewise to commence an ambitious program of process optimization, initiated in 2015. The company engaged Casewise’ business process and operations specialists for a customized solution built on Casewise modelling and collaboration platforms.

The solution has been launched across the organization with the first phase focused on the fundamental execution processes – initial feedback suggests over 80% of users are already finding benefits. With Casewise, Balfour Beatty will increase productivity, improve services, better manage project risks, and reduce waste.

The search for leaner construction
Across the construction industry, it is estimated that up to 40% of a construction project’s cost is waste. This includes time, resources, productivity and raw materials. The fragmented nature of the industry is largely to blame – with many different organizations involved in any one project, from designers and architects to construction companies and a wide variety of subcontractor trades.

Angela Floyd, Vice President of Business Improvement at Balfour Beatty Construction, believes that making inroads into this level of waste and inefficiency can deliver major benefits for clients and the construction industry itself.

“A $50 million project is not unusual,” she says. “When you do the math that is a lot of waste.”

A journey that starts with delivering insight
Balfour Beatty was determined to lead the industry in innovative practices that would help reduce waste, more efficiently deliver projects and provide greater value for clients. The beginning of this journey, Angela explains, was to take a long, hard look at Balfour Beatty’s own processes. These were Word or Excel documents maintained in a SharePoint library – a solution that was inefficient and restricted the sharing of ideas, best practices and feedback. The company wanted to move to a new way of collecting and sharing information, one that would transform process documentation and enable the standardization and improvement of all its business processes.

“We had grown over recent years through a number of acquisitions, so our processes were fragmented,” Angela says. “The first thing we had to do was to capture the current state for all of these processes and organize them in a way that would be intuitive for the user and ultimately help the employee understand what is required in their particular role or area of responsibility.”

Balfour Beatty Construction decided to implement a new business management system that would give all of its 2,500 employees easy access to the content and information they need on a variety of platforms including mobile and desktop. The company was adamant that this new system should be “as intuitive and easy to use” as the leading ecommerce platforms, with virtually zero training requirements.

Balfour Beatty consulted widely with its staff and assessed a series of potential solutions. Casewise was chosen for its user-friendly front-end interface, powerful database functionality and exceptional levels of service and support.

A company-wide solution
The company selected Casewise Evolve and the Casewise Suite for modeling as the platform that would drive a planned program of improved corporate insight and process optimization. From the beginning, Balfour Beatty was clear about its intention to use the Casewise solution across its entire operations.

“Often these kinds of systems are used in specific departments or functions,” Angela says. “We wanted to leverage the solution more broadly. We have 2,500 employees and we expect all of them to use this platform.”

Enhanced insight leads to process improvement
Installation began in August 2014 and took only a matter of weeks. Then followed many months of populating the system with high quality content. This involved more than 400 subject matter experts from across the business coming together to discuss processes and best practices.

“Step one is to document our procedures,” Angela says, “then focus on making sure we have embedded them, which leads to standardization and alignment. Then we can really focus on how to optimize the processes.”

Casewise teams delivered wide-ranging assistance and support, helping Balfour Beatty to customize the platform to meet its needs. Implementation involved Casewise experts who spent the time learning about the business, the challenges and related objectives to help deliver the best tool.

In May 2015, Balfour Beatty launched the platform across the organization with around 70% of the processes documented in the new system. These included the core business processes used in construction activities with support function processes such as HR and finance being added.

As easy to use as an online store
Implementation included customization of the user interface to suit Balfour Beatty’s processes, culture, industry and ways of working. “We wanted something that no one has to be trained to use,” Angela says. “No one has to be trained to go to use the sites of the leading ecommerce retailers. They are laid out in a way that the average user can easily work out what to do and to find what they are looking for. That is what we wanted and it is what we have been able to get. We did a lot of pilot and user testing along the way and received really good feedback. The Casewise platform is exceptionally easy to use.”

Results and benefits
The consistent documentation of processes is encouraging standardization across roles, functions, departments and locations. It saves staff from having to ‘reinvent the wheel’, and will significantly reduce the amount of induction training required for new recruits. Information on all the processes they need to follow are available within a few clicks.

Consistency is also helping to drive improvements in quality. All members of the team are aligned around the key processes so that management can move beyond compliance monitoring and focus on how to work with their teams to simplify and improve the process.

Easy access to insight sparks innovation
The company has also found that having clearly defined and documented processes is fostering greater levels of innovation. Angela says: “There was a fear early on that this whole process might be restrictive: does writing everything down detract from being innovative? But people have a desire to have the fundamentals documented, simplified and easily available. This actually frees them to be more creative and productive.”

A tool that requires only ten minutes of training

Balfour Beatty now has a solution that is genuinely intuitive, with users typically requiring as little as ten minutes of training in order to understand the navigation and find the information they need.

Importantly, the new system is winning hearts and minds, with feedback extremely positive across the organization. This means employees are actively using the new solution and embracing it as an improved way of working – one that makes their jobs easier.

“We are also very excited about the social features on the Evolve platform such as the discussion boards and rating system,” Angela says. “This gives us a simple way of generating feedback and communicating what is/is not working.”

5% productivity gains 

Balfour Beatty has set out on a learning journey, starting with the thorough and systematic documentation of its processes. The next stages include using the information for analysis to generate improved business insight and fine-tuning processes across the organization, eliminating those that are unnecessary.

The company anticipates significant benefits. “We expect productivity improvements in the neighborhood of 5 percent just by having this platform in place,” Angela says.

Such a step-change in productivity will help the company achieve its long-term aim of being the leading innovator in its sector. Casewise solutions are helping Balfour Beatty Construction to share lean construction methods and standard operating procedures across the organization that improve services, lower costs, and reduce waste.