In the last few decades, the quest for continuous improvement and innovation has led to the discovery of new approaches to best practice by different players in the construction industry in the United Kingdom. These efforts have been initiated with the view to increase understanding of the needs of key business areas as well as increase client, users and stakeholders’ value. In this regard experts in the field of construction have proposed “rethinking of construction” (Egan 1998) by strategically rethinking operational stages in order to decrease cost and improve performance.
One of these strategic operational stages, called the briefing process has perked the interests of the researcher in the course of producing a report on value management. During a research of a case study on ABC, the researcher has observed that without a clearly defined and articulated brief, the concept of “client value” can alter with each individual’s perception. Such alterations can have a deep impact on the quality and the performance of construction projects.
A brief review of text books and reports reveal that construction excellence has not only become an option but a necessity, if the UK construction industry is to survive economics dynamics and changing social needs. Considering the industry is one of the pillars of the domestic economy making approximately 10 percent of GDP and employing considerable number of workers, it is important to note that construction excellence is critical for the UK economy and its future.
More importantly, the construction industry needs to improve itself in order to increase profitability, quality of deliverables and client needs before it can contribute to the economy. The purpose of this study is to show that, players must understand at the center of construction processes and activities is the client. Delivering value can only be initiated if players understand client needs.
This is achievable through articulated briefing process. The brief is the critical communication point where clients and project management meet to transform ideas into reality. Value deliverables is accomplishable if this point of communication is contiguous, based on the same platform and management places the client at the center of the construction process.
Aim and Objectives
The aim of this research is to identify how value management concept can be integrated in the briefing process to articulate client requirements. More importantly the objective is to demonstrate that improved briefing can lead to value management throughout the project lifecycle and improve individual performance. Integrating value in briefing can result in high productivity, positive working environment and also ensure client satisfaction through timeliness, quality and value. Briefing therefore is the essence of partnering which experts in the field of construction have been promoting.
Brief Literature Review
The deteriorating condition of the construction industry during the 1960s through 1980s has led to major disputes and animosity between clients and constructors. With the rise of dispute resolution, legislators, management and players have forced them to reconsider their position and future. Constructing the Team by Sir Michael Latham in 1994 has proposed the industry to concentrate on standardization and improvement efforts through better guidance on best practice and simplification of dispute resolution.
Latham is of the opinion that efficiency savings could lead to better achievements. And to achieve such efficiency communication, training and dispute resolution should be improved. At the core of the Latham report, one observes that better communication is inherent not only between clients and project managers but also with suppliers, contractors, workers, designers, engineers and architects – all contribute to increased efficiency.
Similarly, in Rethinking Construction by Sir John Egan (1998) Egan also identifies the need to integrate five driving factors to secure improvement. These would significantly improve target achievements, reduce costs and save delivery time frame. According to Egan, inefficient practices as well as non-collaborative operational practices lead to disparity and dispute for all parties. It is therefore recommended that all parties understand project requirements, ensure client participation and operational transparency.
The challenge is to achieve high performance amidst constraints and improve construction performance by concentrating on meeting end user needs. It is only through this that the project management can ensure value delivered to the client. To achieve the above partnering is imperative, and communication is vital.
The initial communication point in any construction project is the brief. During the 1980s and 1990s efforts have been directed towards the briefing process and its subsequent techniques as part of management design (Atkin et al 1996). These have been initiated with the view to bridge the gaps between client and management expectations, experience of service and definition of service. There are three compelling reasons why a brief is required for any project management before carrying out work. These are:
i. Effective and measurable work
ii. Saves time and money
iii. Fair remuneration (Herd 2003)
To achieve these objectives briefs must be articulated through clear thinking as well defined objectives. Not only this but briefs must be written, discussed between the clients and the management, and documented. It is a process, as Barrett, Kaya and Zeisel (2004) indicate, of co-learning. Construction excellence can only be achieved when ideas are articulated in well defined format, and received by the task force in the same context as communicated by the clients to deliver value.
There is no clear definition of the brief in construction but the general idea of the brief is that it is:
* dependence upon linear logic
* concentrates on visible ideas
* lack resources for innovative ideas
* lack of quantitative evaluation (Nutt 1993).
As a result poor and inadequate briefs form the basis for construction failure and disputes. To better this process there is a clear need for value
management in briefing process to expand and clarify its usage for the constructional professionals to set benchmarks for their own performance (Kelly, Morledge and Wilkinson 2002).
Given the above literature review and rationale, the researcher hypothesizes that constructional excellence is based on the value of client brief. Value management application in briefing process can form the basis for setting benchmarks for construction excellence and thereby increase efficient and effective task force performance by providing articulated understanding between client and the task force.
The researcher realizes initial investigation of the above have revealed caricature of the significance of value management in brief process and its impact on the client. However, this initial research does not offer a clear picture as to the extent and scope of value management in briefing process or beyond. To enumerate comprehensively the proposed hypothesis there is a great need for further investigation of real life application and theoretical frameworks. Further information on briefing and value in briefing process are required.
For this purpose the researcher plans to obtain case studies and more primary reports on the subject of briefing and value management. The researcher hopes to gain insight of why projects fail, its link (if any) to briefing and how value management application can improve or eradicate failure. The basic premise is to establish the fact that projects fail at the concept stage because of poorly articulated briefs.
The researcher also realizes that to establish the empirical groundwork, there is a great need for setting the conceptual framework. This can be done by researching text books, research papers and reports. To quantify the validity of the research, the researcher if need be, will set out to conduct surveys at the workplace, request interviews of value management professionals in the construction industry and clients. This is also backed by primary statistics from government documents.
Having outlined the various sources above, the researcher also realizes that it may prove difficult to gather enough case studies to show how without well articulated briefing projects can fail as most companies are hesitant to admit failure. Consequently the majority of the focus would be on the literature review and the researcher’s own evaluation of the available cases and theoretical frameworks.
Timetable for Research
For the completion of the study, the researcher has set the following action plan:
May – Start looking at the broad issues surrounding the topic to generate information on sources. June – Searching and schedule contacts for interviews
July – Collating information on the subject
August – Researching primary sources
September – Researching secondary sources
October – Assess initial work
November- Reassess work
December – Submission of first draft
In the course of initial work conducted above, the researcher concludes that communication is critical in client – task force relationship building. This link between the client and the management is required throughout the project lifecycle.
To articulate, a briefing process is established with the view to improve communication gaps but more importantly to ensure clients and professional alike remain focused on the objectives of their projects. In the course of the researcher’s initial research however it has come to light that value management application can greatly enhance this process by contributing to value deliverables. Given the efforts by the government through the Egan and Latham reports, the researcher is of the opinion there is a great need for in-depth research on the application of value management in briefing process.
Atkin, Clarke and Smith 1996, Benchmarking Best Practice Briefing and Design, University of Salford, Construct IT Centre of Excellence. Barrett, P.S., Kaya, S. & Zeisel, J. 2004, Briefing as a Co-Learning Process. Paper presented at the CIB World Congress, Canada, 2004. Egan, J. 1998, Rethinking Construction. Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Herd, C. 2003, The Client Brief. ISBA and CAF.
Kelly J., Morledge R. and Wilkinson S. 2002, Best Value in Construction, p. 5 Latham, M. 1994, Constructing The Team, Final Report of the Government / Industry Review of Procurement and Contractual Arrangements In The UK Construction Industry HMSO, London, 1994, p. 7. Latham, M. 1994, Constructing The Team, Final Report of the Government / Industry Review of Procurement and Contractual Arrangements In The UK Construction Industry HMSO, London, 1994, p. 7. Nutt, B. 1993, ‘The Strategic Brief P’, Facilities Magazine, Vol. 11, No. 9.