The term construction is defined as “the business of building things (such as houses or roads)” (Construction, n.d.).
It is typically characterized as a complex and labor-intensive industry. Construction projects create a well-understood final product through a number of different coordinated procurement and contracting strategies. Most construction projects take at least one year, in which they are significantly undertaken in a non-rapid change environment. Moreover, project documentation is a major consideration for any construction project due to the extensive design and construction contract requirements for managing the contemporaneous documentation produced during the course of the project. Further, for the construction project, the project team and primarily the project manager are the focal point of project communication, not just for distributing project-generated information but also for gathering, analyzing, and responding to stakeholders-initiated information (feedback) (PMI, 2007, p. 83).
The construction industry as a process differs from both the manufacturing and information technology (IT) industries in that both manufacturing and (IT) predominantly involve mass production of similar items without a designated client, while construction is typically done on location for a known client.
After exploring some main characteristics of the construction industry from the management point of view, we always tend to consider any construction project as an explicit waterfall case or fully plan-driven in a predictive life cycle because the final product (facility, infrastructure, etc.) is required to be delivered in full to have value to the stakeholders (PMI, 2013, p. 48). On the other hand, we consider IT projects, especially in software development, as explicit agile cases or fully change-driven in an iterative and incremental life cycle because the final product is difficult to define as a whole in advance. Yet, it is possible to define small, incremental improvements that will deliver value to stakeholders (PMI, 2013, p. 46).
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Although construction and IT as industries are embracing two alien methodologies in managing their projects, construction project managers are now making use of the information industry. For example, many projects now utilize project-specific websites for dissemination of meeting minutes and scheduling information (PMI, 2007). In particular, if we look at today’s construction complexity and our great passion to build smarter and smarter structures, it is pretty logical that we find ourselves heading towards a new type of project, hybrid projects. In such projects as these, one can easily find different components from multiple industries, including construction, IT, and software development as well as artificial intelligence. By taking smart, modern building projects as an example, we could notice the explicit boundaries between managing construction projects with waterfall methodology and managing software development projects with lean and agile methodologies have become fuzzier, nested, and interlocked, which requires relentless pursuit to find a magical mixture to bring some concepts together and interleave the methodologies used in both construction, on one side, and lean and agile on the other side.
This paper aims to present AGISTRUCT as an empirical model that is verifiable by observation and experience rather than theory and logic, and by which we can analogize between agile and construction in terms of some of the most familiar artefacts and practices in order to improve our understanding about how waterfall and agile can work together. The value beyond this analogy is to identify similarities and understand differences leading to improved sharing of practices between the two methodologies.
On the surface, there are many obvious differences between large-scale construction and software development. However, the complexity associated with construction execution suggests that the application of agile principles and practices may be helpful in construction. For example, it can improve productivity and manage the construction risks effectively.
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The components of the AGISTRUCT model are designed to reflect a mutual understanding of the main crucial aspects of both agile practices and artefacts used in software production and waterfall practices used in construction. The model components refer to:
- A:Adaptive planning is similar to look-ahead planning.
- G:Globalisation communication is similar to effective communication.
- I:Iterations are similar to weekly work plans.
- S:Story elaboration is similar to workface planning.
- T:Task boards are similar to bar charts.
- R:Retrospectives are similar to weekly progress review meetings.
- U:User story is similar to work package.
- C:Customer feedback is similar to validated deliverables.
- T:Tracking value is similar to S-curve.