Benefits of collaboration in the construction industry

Issue date: 08 November 2005


Issue date: 08/11/05

The University of the West of England (UWE) and Management Process Systems (MPS) have been awarded a grant of over £68,000 from the Department of Trade and Industry to form a new Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP). The project’s aim is to develop an innovative way of calculating the costs and benefits of collaborative and workflow IT business support systems in the construction industry.

The construction industry is worth £57 billion in the UK alone, but many construction projects suffer from delays and overspending. One of the main causes of these problems is the use of traditional and ineffective paper-based change management systems. MPS has developed a successful online Contract Change Management (CCM) system to monitor progress more simply and effectively. The system is already adopted by many leading construction organisations.

Robin Wilkin, of MPS, said, “This partnership aims to enable an enterprise to quantify the benefits obtained from its investment in workflow and collaborative IT systems. Investment costs should not threaten profits. They should lead to improvements in change management, risk management, compliance, better supply chain management, and reliability – in other words, better overall business performance.”

The project will be supervised by Professor Ming Sun of the University of the West of England’s Faculty of the Built Environment, a leading expert in IT applications for the construction industry.

Robin Wilkin continued, “We considered a number of leading research institutions for this project but decided that Professor Sun’s expertise and that of his colleagues was the most relevant to the company’s needs. “MPS’s internet-based IT system (CCM) supports the management of projects using the NEC suite of contracts. It is currently used to support projects run by the Environment Agency, EDF Energy and Imperial College.

“On Demand, Workflow and Collaborative IT business support systems used in the construction industry require an objective evaluation of the expected business benefits and of the challenges in realising them. They cause changes in organisation cultures, methods of working especially across organisation boundaries, how costs of systems are allocated and where those benefits are realised. The partnership with the University of the West of England will significantly improve our customers’ ability to quantify the business benefits obtainable from our system.”

The University’s Faculty of the Built Environment will also benefit from the link by addressing the research challenges posed by the impact of IT innovations on construction. Professor Ming Sun said, “I am keen to promote change and innovation in the UK construction industry and in sharing best practice. We are already involved in a number of initiatives; such as the SWRDA funded Construction Excellence South West and HEFCE funded Construction Knowledge Exchange. This Knowledge Transfer project is an important addition to our work in this area. Working directly with an industrial partner is the best way of ensuring that construction research is embedded in the practical needs of the industry.”

-ENDS-

Editor’s notes

• UWE’s Knowledge Transfer support for industry is managed by the Centre for Research, Innovation and Graduate Studies. For more information on Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, contact Clare Rowson on clare.rowson@uwe.ac.uk or visit http://www.uwe.ac.uk/business
• Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are supported by the Department of Trade and Industry. They offer companies the opportunity of a three-way link with a University and a recent graduate to work on a specific project that will benefit their profitability. Projects can last from between 18 months and three years, and companies can recoup up to 60% of the salary and related costs. For more information visit http://www.ktponline.org.uk
• Professor Ming Sun’s book Understanding IT in Construction, Spon Press, 2004, has been adopted as a textbook by several universities and as a reference guide for construction professionals.
• For more information on Management Process Systems visit http://www.mpsprocess.com
• The NEC Suite of Contracts is published by Thomas Telford http://www.thomastelford.com

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