Three-quarters of firms still post or email tenders to their clients, despite the fact that e-tendering can reduce their costs and streamline the overall tendering process, reports Construction News, citing a report released last week by BCIS, the building cost information service of the RICS.
The BCIS survey (PDF available here) – reflecting responses from 369 RICS members – showed the percentage of tender documents sent solely in electronic format has almost doubled since 2006, increasing from 8% two years ago to 15% (ie: about one-in-seven). However, the percentage of electronic documents being delivered by physical means, eg: on a disk, increased from 2% to 46% while the percentage sent by email decreased from 64 per cent to 46 per cent.
These results suggest that, since the RICS first issued guidance on e-tendering in October 2005 (see my post RICS e-tendering guidance note: a review), there has been been a reduction of only about a third in in the use of email for e-tendering – despite the RICS’s warnings of the risks involved. Yet, the main area of growth appears to be the sending of electronic documents on physical media – ie: by post or courier.
The RICS launched its own e-tendering system in October 2007 (see my post) but according to reports in Building magazine earlier this year take-up was not extensive (see my January 2009 post RICSe-tendering.com hardly used – not ‘baffling’ and the 14 February follow-up).
BCIS executive director Joe Martin believes the main barrier to adopting a web-based system relate to the presumed costs (though his main focus clearly relates to the RICS e-tendering service). It is also clear from the results that marketing efforts to persuade clients of the benefits of e-tendering need to be upgraded: client demand for e-tendering remains almost unchanged since 2006.
For me, a stand-alone e-tendering system – while a step in the right direction towards electronic information-sharing and re-use – remains a flawed concept, particularly where project teams are already using web-based construction collaboration platforms (aka ‘extranets’) to manage and document just about every other aspect of a scheme’s development. The BCIS report’s final paragraphs appear to suggest that such seamless sharing of information flows is both best practice and desirable:
“BCIS is convinced that Web based e-tendering minimises the administrative overheads associated with tendering, streamlines document handling, speeds up tender processes, eases the demands on managerial resources, provides added security and makes it easier to comply with best practice recommendations. …
“Better structured digital tender data supports improved analyses and facilitates the flow of information from contractors and subcontractors, through surveyors’ systems, into clients’ systems. Over time, BCIS believes industry firms will become increasing aware of the true value of such data.”