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Bridging Communication Gaps in Civic Infrastructure Projects


From roads to bridges to drainage systems, a successful civic infrastructure project requires communication among all stakeholders. But communication challenges can arise throughout the life cycle of any infrastructure asset.

From roads to bridges to drainage systems, a successful civic infrastructure project requires communication among all stakeholders. But communication challenges can arise throughout the life cycle of any infrastructure asset.

At the planning stage, a lack of communication between asset owners and contractors can lead to costly and time-consuming redesigns. During construction, siloed project management tools can make it difficult for team members to share vital information. Communication issues during operation can delay maintenance requests, compromising infrastructure quality and safety.

Agencies must make sure everyone from contractors and engineers to architects and residents is involved and informed from the start of an infrastructure project. Digital solutions can help to streamline this collaboration and communication at every stage.

“Sharing information results in massive cost savings and time savings over the life of an asset,” says Matthew Sprague, industry strategy director for local government and utilities at Trimble. “Technology can equip and enable this.”


To stay on time and on budget with any infrastructure project, stakeholders need transparency. But project managers, architects, engineers and maintenance teams often use their own siloed solutions to store information and manage their specific workflows.

Sharing information is critical, particularly if an organization is working on multiple projects at once. If they have dozens of project managers with dozens of project management solutions, it’s difficult to identify which projects are over- or underbudget, and which projects are on track or falling behind. A unified project management solution can help professionals share this data and make smarter decisions throughout every phase of their infrastructure project.

Technology can also streamline communication on a single project. A solution that utilizes 3D building information modeling technology, for example, can help project members work together by feeding common data into all models. If a change needs to be made during the design process, team members can implement these changes in real time within the solution, creating what Sprague calls a “collaboration hub.”

When stakeholders do use distinct solutions, those technologies still need to be able to communicate with one another so that all team members can easily share data.

“You want to create a connected data environment where all stakeholders’ solutions can interact with one another and share critical information,” says Sprague. “Interoperable technologies allow everyone from surveyors and engineers to inspectors and lawyers to harness integrated data and to make well-informed decisions.”


Effective communication on infrastructure projects doesn’t just mean collaboration among planners, designers and engineers. Agencies must also foster clear-cut communication with constituents when planning, constructing and operating infrastructure. Open and transparent communication with the public helps build confidence in a project, and digital tools can support effective communication with local communities.

Project leaders must meet constituents where they are, using the communication methods they prefer.

“It is no longer acceptable to simply hold in-person meetings,” says Barry Condrey, senior fellow for the Center for Digital Government*. “Virtual and recorded meetings help constituents communicate with other stakeholders on a level playing field, which builds trust with the public.”

Once a new piece of infrastructure is in use, constituents must be able to easily report maintenance requests for various assets, such as potholes and fallen trees or wires.

Technology can be an effective enabler for that as well. The city of Escondido, Calif., for example, collaborated with Cityworks and ArcGIS to develop and deploy an app for reporting graffiti. Residents can easily report graffiti via phone which automatically creates a work order for city employees to remove it. The city also uses the app’s data to identify local hot spots for vandalism.

“When a government is transparent with its constituents, people feel like their town or city is really listening to them,” Sprague says. “Clear communication shows people that their government is working on their behalf to make their neighborhood even better.”


Agencies should consider the following strategies when selecting technology to help improve communication during infrastructure projects:

1. Focus on processes. Identify an inefficient process that could be enhanced by streamlined communication, such as a pay application, request for information or a permit submittal process. Rather than simply layering technology on top of an inefficient process, find the right solution to enhance that process.

2. Select technologies that can expand. Agencies should start with one product and be open to building on that product over time. By implementing tools that use the same platform, they can easily build a series of integrated solutions. Agencies should also look for cloud-based solutions that provide the flexibility to expand and grow with their changing needs. This strategy will also make it easier for agencies to boost their data security.

3. Communicate value. By clearly explaining the return on investment, agency staff are more likely to get budget approval for a solution. Start by communicating the challenges the agency faces. “Identify baseline measurements, such as how much money or time something currently costs,” Sprague says. “Highlight current waste areas and explain how the proposed solution will improve those.”

Enhanced communication helps projects stay on time, under budget and builds public confidence.

*Note: The Center for Digital Government is part of e.Republic, Government Technology's parent company.