Contract Journal IT survey

Contract Journal reports that ‘Four out of five construction firms plan increased IT spend’, according to a CJ study of 500 people conducted with Causeway Technologies.

It gives a fairly positive view of construction’s attitude to IT, with some 79% saying their firms were increasing their IT spend. Process efficiency and compatibility with existing systems were seen as the most important considerations, scoring more highly than customer and supplier relationships, and, more surprisingly, price.

Perhaps most worryingly, many still felt the industry is regarded as technophobic, making it harder to recruit young people into the sector.

In the print edition of CJ, the survey gets more coverage and includes some findings on collaboration: "collaboration tools are not yet considered highly important. About a quarter of respondents scored them a five, but more than half thought they were only worth one to three in terms of importance. The types of company that saw them as important were civil engineering contractors (30% awarding a five) and building contractors (29%)."

On the face of it, these are disappointing findings for the extranet vendors. But perhaps we should look more closely at the kinds of businesses surveyed. The other three business categories were plant hirers (hardly likely to be heavy users of collaboration), specialist contractors, and "other" (classed as clients and consultants primarily). Arguably, the latter are the ones most likely to benefit from using collaboration tools – certainly, the highest levels of collaboration tend to be experienced during the design phase before contractors get heavily involved. I would like to see the same types of questions asked of architects, engineers, QSs, project managers. I suspect the proportion of these professionals rating collaboration a five would be much higher.

Another interpretation of the numbers could relate to whether the survey respondents had actually ever used the technologies in question. Lack of familiarity may mean individuals persevere with traditional information-sharing methodologies and believe these to be sufficient. Wider experience of extranets may see demand for them grow – certainly, I have met very few project team members who, after using an extranet, want to go back to the old way of doing things.

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