Going Digital Through Change Management

Going slow, conditioning users well ahead of the transition and phasing in small aspects of the switch made the change to digital simple—even for the most resistant

The Facility Services teams at Northern Arizona University faced a common problem in the world of modern construction: it was bogged down in paperwork.  

The university had grown and changed over the years, but the planning-and-review processes hadn’t. Reviews and approvals were slow and unwieldy, requiring 50 or more stakeholders to sign off. This resulted in serious delays to the 150 to 200 projects a year at the university, ranging in size from small classroom remodels to large buildings.  

Project Manager Andrew Iacona of the NAU Planning, Design and Construction group knew he needed a plan to fix the entire culture and system of planning. 

“There was an expectation that people would come on their own time, look at these plans and write their comments on them,” Iacona said, describing the previous review-and-approval process. “There was always a log that was getting lost. People wouldn’t put their comments on plans; they’d email them to the project manager … there was a lot to be corrected.” 

Moving to Revu 

Iacona chose Bluebeam Revu as a single platform that could manage plans and communications through Studio Sessions.  

“We knew that we wanted to be more efficient,” Iacona said. “We had to be more sustainable with our process, consistent, effective; we needed more organization.” Iacona and his team did a “value stream map” of its existing paper process and how its new process would look going digital in all the areas that collaboration would occur in Bluebeam. “Right off the bat it added a ton of value to our process,” Iacona said. 

But Iacona knew getting every stakeholder and team member to work in Revu wouldn’t be easy. “The biggest issue,” Iacona said, “is the resistance that people have to change. It’s very natural to resist change.”  

Iacona said he knew everyone had to buy in on the change, with the consideration that “some of the NAU Facility Services team members had been in their roles for 20 years.” As a result, Iacona decided to play the long game. He advertised the transition to Revu for three months to the facilities teams before they were required to start using Revu on October 1.  

“You’ve got to first communicate and provide the awareness for the need for change,” Iacona said, “because the more you hear about something early and continuously, the more you’re going to be OK with it when you actually have to take action on it or implement it.”  

In short, team members had the opportunity to buy in early and adjust; they were also given regular reminders.  

Iacona  also had the team’s contractors come in and demonstrate their use of Revu. “We looked to a lot of our contractor trade partners and we had them come in and present to our users on how they’re using Bluebeam,” Iacona said, “and explain all the benefits that they’ve experienced by rolling out some form of Bluebeam on the jobsite.” 

Managing change slowly 

When it came to training, Iacona started with self-guided resources and scripted process manuals; he then used a “train the trainer” approach. NAU had computer labs onsite where Iacona installed Revu; he then taught three short labs to new users. They then initially only had to watch Iacona work on the platform before participating in a guided exercise. Then, in the final phase, team members were expected to work the platform solo. 

To minimize training and the opportunity for errors, Iacona only taught reviewers three of the markup tools. Although that might seem like a rigid limitation, Iacona said from “a consistency standpoint, our plan review needs to be pretty clean and simple … we made it a little bit more adoptable.”  

Nobody had to master all of Revu, but everyone had to be able to open and comment on a plan.  

Iacona’s efforts took months, but that was a conscious choice of putting time on his side so he could work with the people that he knew would matter the most—the key resistors.  

“When faced with a change, people react first with their own concerns, like what’s in it for me?” Iacona said. “So, you really need to tailor your approach specific to the different people’s needs. The need for a change can be increased by linking it to other issues that people already care about. You need to tap into a person’s desire to avoid loss, as opposed to gain.” 

It’s one thing to change a plan, but quite another to change an entire culture and methodology of planning. Iacona knew that Revu would only work if his NAU colleagues were willing to use it, so he put time on his side, set realistic goals and focused his energies on the problem.   

Now, Iacona’s efforts have paid off—and he has the numbers to prove it.   

“We have hosted 128 plan reviews since we started October 1,” Iacona said. “I don’t remember the exact numbers of comments, but it was well over 1,000 comments.”  

Iacona said his next plan is to get everyone using Studio Sessions, the cloud-based collaboration component of Revu, so they can discuss their markups in real-time.