The Construction Context of e-Business

The level of uptake of e-business in construction varies from company to company and depends on a range of factors such as the type of the company, its role within the construction supply chain and the level of information and communication technology (ICT) competence, amongst others. The progression towards a ‘holistic’ approach to e-business adoption is gradual as companies develop competence and confidence in the use of new and emerging technologies like e-business. The early years, for example, have seen the Internet being used as a vehicle to promote com, panies by the dissemination of company product and service information with the view of increasing company profile and subsequently the product sales through online promotion. Other trends from the late 1990s to
early 2000 include the use of e-business solutions such as e-procurement through Web directories and search engines, where construction-specific Web directories and search engines enable users to access wide-ranging
information about the construction industry including information about construction product suppliers, stakeholders and jobs. With time and maturing experience there has been a steady increase in the use of more sophisticated e-business solutions.

This is especially true among the more progressive organizations, which use specialized tools such as project
extranet applications and e-tendering tools. This is a significant step forward from the traditional, sometimes arduous paper-based processes. e-Tendering, for example, facilitates the entire tendering process from advertising of the requirement through to placing the contracts. Clearly, e-business can yield business benefits to construction end-users and overcome some of the inherent problems of traditional methods. Strong information technology (IT) capabilities have been a competitive necessity in nearly every industry sector. The post- Latham (1994) and Egan
(1998) era has seen many construction firms investing in technology tools to improve business performance, which sub-sequential led to an increase in technology investments in construction firms. Many firms, however, fail
to recognize that simply investing in technology does not guarantee successful implementation. Adoption of any technology for achieving business targets requires major changes in an organization, its current practices, systems, processes and culture (people). These need to be coupled with correct management practices and strategies. Recent studies have shown that’good management is good business’and firms are more likely to yield business benefits by marrying good management practices with IT investments (AppeI et aL,2004) than by simply increasing their IT spending.

Business Trends

The trends and attitudes towards e-business adoption have always been mixed. On the one hand are the enthusiastic advocates, while on the other the doom-laden opponents who have yet to accept and consider the Internet as an alternative to the traditional tried and tested methods of carrying out business. Part of the scepticism stems from the uncertainty and attitudes towards change, the main challenge, therefore, lies in addressing the psychological factors of taking the systems into comprehensive use and overcoming resistance to change.
This chapter discusses e-business in the construction context including the development of e-business in construction and some of the issues associated with its adoption. It also discusses the key findings of an industry-wide survey aimed at identifying trends and attitudes towards e-business adoption in the UK construction context. The development of a re-engineered business process that highlights opportunities for use of innovative e-business tools within the construction process is also discussed.
Finally, this chapter includes findings and analysis of industry specific case studies that were conducted to assess the impact of specific e-business applications on their end-user processes.

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