Just 25% of construction bosses believe they can stick to a timeframe and budget

October 20, 2017 / Isla MacFarlane
Just 25% of construction bosses believe they can stick to a timeframe and budget

Half of construction firms and project owners have reported adverse project performance in the past three years. The majority lack confidence in the industry’s ability to deliver projects on time and on budget.

It’s time to reassess the approach to effective performance of major construction projects, according to Make it, or break it – Global Construction Survey 2017 from KPMG International.

Of the 200-plus senior construction executives taking part in the survey, only 25% say they have confidence in the industry’s ability to deliver projects on time and on budget.

Richard Threlfall, UK Head of Infrastructure, Building and Construction at KPMG, said, “Economic uncertainty is impacting on business confidence within the UK construction industry. But as the survey shows, the sector is also facing disruption from technology and the changing skills requirement in the workforce. For those companies that are quick to adapt and set aside their initial reservations, they could reap the rewards of more efficient working.”

The growth of the millennial workforce is exposing the limitations of the industry’s reliance on ‘hard’ technical controls. As 37% of the workforce, millennials now outnumber baby boomers, who comprise just 23%.

“While millennials are more comfortable with the technological advances of the sector, they are more likely to reject the strict rule and regulations associated with project management. Some of the executives involved in the survey spoke of staff feeling restricted and how hard, technical controls are proving inappropriate for a younger workforce,” explained Threlfall.

Yet, just 40% of the organisations in the survey have formalised ‘soft’ controls – which promote rather than dictate good behaviour. Threlfall said, “There is an urgent need to reduce the number and level of controls across the construction industry. While it is important to be thorough and systematic, the processes must work for all generations. Rules and procedures are only as good as the people implementing them.”

This KPMG 2017 Global Construction Survey finds an industry that’s very excited about the potential of technology – but also a little cautious about where to invest to get the optimum impact.

An overwhelming 93% of respondents think technology/innovation will significantly change their business, but a mere 5% view their organisations as ‘cutting edge’ in terms of their technological maturity. And, fewer than one in 10 are routinely using innovations like mobile platforms, advanced data analytics, and robotics and digital labour. As further evidence of this slow response to disruption, fewer than half of the respondents say their company has developed a data/technology strategy or roadmap.

Threlfall said, “The survey responses reflect the industry’s cautiousness towards technologies. They would rather follow the status quo than lead on innovation. While the UK is starting to adapt quicker than other regions, there is still a long way to go before companies are reaching their maximum potential.”

While other sectors have succeeded in raising productivity over the past decades, construction has largely stood still. The findings suggest both construction companies and owners need to take a closer look at governance, people and technology.

“These three drivers should not be taken in isolation, and instead focus on how they integrate and influence each other”, Threlfall added. “By embracing technological advances, not only can it improve efficiency, but help to attract and retain talent – something that is critical for UK companies as they try to navigate a possible short-term skills gaps due to a reduced foreign workforce as a result of Brexit.”

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