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ASSESSMENT OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (IT) USES AT PRE-CONTRACT STAGE OF BUILDING PROJECTS

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background to the study

Every construction process requires heavy exchange of data and information between project participants on a daily basis. This makes the construction industry on of the most information-intensive industries. Information Technology (IT) has been widely applied across many sectors in order to increase competitiveness and reduce consists and is today seen as a medium to gain a competitive advantage (Earl, 1993). Construction industries usually use Information Technology (IT) in order to overcome problems and achieve improvements in construction process. The average annual growth rate of IT investment in the construction industry is increasing every year and this now constitutes a significant part of the total project cost. (Issa et al. 2007). Information Technology (IT) is seen as a mechanism that enables fundamental change to be effected in the construction industry. However, firms in the construction industry are slowly responding and adapting to developments in information and communication technologies (Alshawi and Ingirige 2003). O’Connor and Yang (2003) opined that the success of a project is related to the level of IT use. The duo approached the issues of IT by means of statistical methods and discovered that there is a statistically significant correlation between the use of IT and projects being successful. In Nigeria, Oladapo (2007) argued that the level of use of IT in the construction industry is low and one of the reasons is attributed to the project leaders’ attitudes toward the use of IT in their organization.

The integration of construction processes using IT offers considerable potential for construction firms while poor flow and integration of information have led to low productivity and competitiveness in the industry (Hampson, 1993). Technological developments such as the internet and internet are re-defining the way construction firms should carry out many of their strategic, tactical and operational business processes. It is observed that the construction industry is currently experiencing a change from traditional paper-based to digitally based information exchange, which other industries such as aircraft manufacturing and banking have adopted and benefited from, long ago. The use of IT can impact on the traditional processes of organization in construction and result in change in organizational processes, working methods and culture (Alshawi and Ingirige 2002).

This study attempts to evaluate the level of use of IT on construction project. The study will examine the relative effects of selected factors on the use of IT in project delivery, the level of use of IT at the pre-contact stage of construction projects in Akwa Ibom State and its influence on project performance. IT has been an effective tool adopted in other industries to enhance work processes and achieve digital-based documentation and communication, resulting in a real-time connection among work stakeholders and suppliers (Fischer and Kunz, 2004). The use of IT reduces task fragmentation and improves coordination and collaboration, resulting in better communication practices among term members of the construction project. IT use and implementation is not a straightforward process because many issues need to be considered at the earlier stages when IT is to be adopted. However, implementing IT in construction companies does not usually provide all the benefits initially envisaged at the expected time. Other benefits require more time for maturity, therefore, there is a time gap between the initial investment and revenues (Peppard et al., 2007).

1.2       Statement of the Problem

In this era of rapidly advancing technologies, many organizations and governments around the globe are spending a great amount of money on technologies in order to increase their productivity, efficiency and the quality of the work they do. Effective use of information technology will require those who are involved in information management to accept if first. According to Willcocks (2002), it is widely accepted that unless decision makers develop positive attitudes toward IT, they will not use them in their work practice. Therefore, there is need to understand whether project leaders in construction organizations accept technological advances, what the primary elements of successful adoption and utilization of information technology are and what the primary factors affecting the use of IT are. Thus, Nigerian government need to provide the necessary tools in order to overcome such issues and identify the benefits and gains that this technology would contribute to construction benefits and gains that this technology would contribute to construction industries and project performance. By providing the necessary tools and policies, it will most likely create conditions that will guarantee the adoption, acceptance and use of information technology. Cooper (2001) asserted that knowing the factors that influence project leaders, adoption of information technology will help to identify and predict how information technology will contribute to project success and organizational performance in terms of effectiveness and efficiency gain. In Nigeria, Oladapo (2007) argued that the level of use of IT in Nigeria is low and one of the reasons is attributed to the project leaders’ attitudes toward the use of technology in their organizations. As a result, it is important to determine if project leaders are willing to adopt the use of this technology in their daily work and why some may avoid using it.

The problem addressed in this study is to determine the level of use of IT at pre-contract stage, the factors that factors that affect the use of IT in construction projects in Akwa Ibom State and the influence of the of use of IT on the project performance.

1.3       Aim and Objectives of the Study

The aim of this study is to evaluate the use of IT in project delivery and its impact on project performance with a view to promoting IT based project delivery process in Akwa Ibom State. The research objectives are to:

1)         Determine the factors that affect the use of IT at pre-contract stage

2)         Determine the extent of use of IT as pre-contract stage in building  projects

3)         Determine the influence of IT utilization at pre-contract on project    performance

1.4       Significance of the study

The importance of this study comes from the role that project leaders play in the management and execution of construction projects in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. In order for the Project leaders to carry out this role successfully, they need an awareness of the benefits that information technology brings to construction. The study provides very helpful and important information regarding the organizational, project, technological and managerial characteristics and explains the factors influencing the adoption and use of IT. This study further provides a strong understanding of this observable fact and makes a clear understanding of the factors affecting the project leaders’ attitude toward the successful adoption and utilization of information technology for project delivery. This study assesses the level of use of IT at pre-contract stage; this assessment determines which pre-contract process utilizes IT more. This will enable the project leader and construction organization to be fully aware of the IT applications that should be invested in. this study also explores the relationship between the level of use of IT at pre-contract and the performance of projects.

The significance of this study comes from the fact that IT has an important role to play in the speed, cost and quality of project documentation which should translate to improved project performance. In order for this to be achieved, there is the need for greater understanding of the benefits that IT brings to construction. The results will assist oil and gas companies, construction organizations and project leaders to promote the use of IT in the delivery of construction projects in Akwa Ibom State Nigeria. This understanding prompts this study.

1.5       Statement of Research Questions

This study will provide answers to the following questions:

i.          What are the factors that influence IT utilization at pre-contract stage of      building project?

ii.         What is the extent of use of IT at the pre-contract stage of project delivery?

iii.       Does the level of Use of IT at pre-contract have signification influence on    project performance?

1.6       Research Hypothesis

Based upon the research questions, one research hypothesis is postulated and tested in this study. The hypothesis states as follows:

Ho:       There is no significant positive relationship between the level of IT use at   pre-     contract stage and project performance.

H1:       There is a significant positive relationship between the level of IT use at      pre-     contract stage and project performance

1.7       Scope and Delimitation of the Study

This study is concerned with determining the factors affecting the use of IT at pre-contract stage of construction project in Akwa Ibom State, assessment of the level of use of IT and its influence on project performance. The focus of the study is restricted to the pre-contract stage because it is the stage when major documentation on a project is done.

Project location used for the study is also restricted public and private sector building projects. Project category used for the study is grouped into two category namely residential and institutional projects.

The study is limited to building projects construction projects completed between 2011 and 2014 within the state capital and other local government areas.

1.8       Definition of Operational Terms

Computer-based information technology

Computer-based Information Technology is any computer-based information processing system using an extensive technology designed to allow decision makers within organizational units to process data from their external environment into information to reduce uncertainty (Harrington, 1996).

Computer-based Systems:

Computer-based system is a collection of computer hardware and software brought together to facilitate the processing of information for an organization. They are used for a variety of functions within organizations, including component design and manufacturing customer recordkeeping, presentation development, decision making, training, budgeting, planning and controlling (Harrington, 1996).

Pre-contract stage:

Pre-contract stage in construction project includes the conceptual stage, feasibility studies, front-end engineering design stage, detailed design stage, tender and bid analysis (Soh, 1992).

Project leader:

Project leaders in this study are professionals employed in clients’ organizations and they represent the project clients. The project leaders are those at the management level of the hierarchy such as project manager, construction manages, discipline engineers, project engineers, and project coordinator. They are the decision maker in the project.

Information

According to Love (2004), information is an important or useful facts obtained as output from a compute by means of processing input data with a program.

Information and communication Technology (ICT)

The term is broadly defined to include the direct operations of any compute-based o communication technologies, networked or standalone, hardware and software. In general, it is any product that uses of computer or communication hardware or software for the technological base (Cooper, 2001).

Information Technology (IT):

Andersen (2002) define information technology (IT) as all components that together provide necessary information, such as hardware, software, communication technology essential equipment and attendant techniques, the people and the procedures with which they work, and the data that are processed by the system.

Technology:

Defined simply as a collection of processes for transforming inputs into outputs and the knowledge and skills necessary for their application IT is also defined technology as a set of systems for getting the organization’s work done (cited in Harrington, 1996).

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