Research highlights benefits of using collaboration systems
Source: NCCTP

In late 2005, the NCCTP commissioned an independent survey of users of its members’ collaboration systems – or ‘project extranets’. The research was undertaken by Benchmark Research, a market research agency with extensive experience in both IT and construction-related markets in the UK.

During April and May 2006, Benchmark conducted 272 telephone interviews with individual users of UK solutions from 4Projects, Aconex, Asite, BIW Technologies, Business Collaborator, Cadweb, Causeway Technologies and Sarcophagus. Interviewees were drawn from 195 different companies and comprised roughly one quarter each of designers (architects, civil engineers, etc), main contractors and sub-contractors, with the remaining quarter made up of client representatives and quantity surveyors. Over 60 per cent of interviewees had used collaboration technologies on multiple projects.

High levels of commitment

Benchmark asked users how likely they would be to recommend the technologies, how likely they would be to use them again, how they rated the systems’ overall performance, and asked for their attitudes to the technologies. Analysis of the responses on these questions helped Benchmark establish the sample’s overall commitment or loyalty to the technology.

More than half of the respondents were loyal or strongly loyal, while less than 5% were unconvinced or disillusioned. Benchmark divided the sample into five groups:

Loyal advocates (committed evangelisers) – 16%
Loyal (strongly committed to using the technology in future) – 36%
Satisfied but uncommitted – 44%
Unconvinced – 3%
Disillusioned – 1%

Of the first two groups, 62% were QSs, 59% were clients and 58% were main contractors. Just over half (51%) of designers featured in these groups, and 39% of sub-contractors.

`Bearing in mind that this is a relatively new technology, the level of commitment across the board is tremendously encouraging` said Mactear.

Key benefits

Despite the variations in loyalty among the sample, there was widespread acceptance of the practical benefits of construction collaboration technologies.

1. Better communications, faster drawing approvals

Sixty-one per cent of the sample rated better communications between project team members as a substantial benefit. When asked to compare how long it took to approve drawings exchanged via a collaboration solution as against those exchanged by email or other means, survey respondents said average drawing approval times were reduced by 26%, from average of 9.3 days to 6.9 days.

2. Improved accountability

Creating a single, secure repository for the exchange of drawings and other documents improved project team accountability, the survey said. The following were all rated as substantial benefits (ie: rated 4 out of 5 or above):

Audit trail (rated a substantial benefit by 81%)
Traceability and visibility of documents (79%)
Better accountability (73%)
Less confusion over which version is correct (69%)
Everybody works from the same version (68%)

3. Better project management

The survey found users experienced significant benefits relating to project management, communications and team working:

Information available centrally (rated a substantial benefit by 85%)
Less money spent on couriers or post (83%)
Dispersed teams work better together (68%)

4. Improved document control

Similarly, respondents said they benefited from improved document management, storage and retrieval processes

Less chance of losing important documents (rated a substantial benefit by 82%)
Information is more secure (75%)
Distribution and production costs are less (74%)
Archived information can be found faster (72%)
Needs less storage space (70%)
Easier to find/retrieve right document (66%)

5. Benefits to owner/operators

Benefits experienced relating to hand-over, commissioning and operation and maintenance included:

Documents can be accessed 24/7 (rated a substantial benefit by 86%)
Archive of health and safety information (66%)
Archive of FM information (64%)
Costs less to maintain documents (61%)
Documents amended faster and more easily (60%)

6. Competitive differentiation

Construction industry clients within the sample were asked for their opinions regarding collaboration technologies. Almost three-quarters (74%) said they were more likely to award contracts to firms experienced in using collaboration technologies, and over two-thirds (68%) said they would insist on using such systems on all future projects.

Such client attitudes are clearly familiar to many professionals within project teams. Four out of five non-clients (81%) agreed that an increasing number of larger clients insisted on using the technologies, two-thirds felt expertise in their use gave them a competitive edge in winning contracts, and 54% said they would not be able to compete for certain jobs without using the systems.

Both clients and project team members agreed that collaboration technologies gave them greater control over their projects (clients 82%, non-clients 69%).

High levels of user satisfaction
Users tended to be highly satisfied with the reliability of the systems. 73% rated reliability at 4 or 5 out of 5; only 9% rated reliability at 1 or 2 out of 5. Vendors’ support services were highly rated by 62% of the sample, while ease of use, learning curve and functionality also tended to be rated highly, by 58%, 58% and 55% respectively. Speed of upload/download of information was criticised by some; 23% gave this 1 or 2 out of 5, though - as Benchmark point out – the apparent speed of the system will be dependent to a significant degree on the IT infrastructure of the end-user.


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Sarcophagus™ Ltd Langham House, 148 Westgate, Wakefield, WF2 9SR, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom
UK Phone: +44 (0) 1924 580999 Fax: +44 (0) 709 2340 601

Sarcophagus Limited is a company registered in England and Wales with company number: 3780350
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