Eighteen months on from the publication of the Construction Playbook, just how well is the industry doing in meeting the needs for increased digitisation of procurement? Julian Penna (left), Product Owner for MyPagabo, says that while the pieces of the puzzle are all there, the industry as a whole is still a few steps away from completing the jigsaw.
As the construction industry tackles the challenges of building back better from the impacts of the pandemic, the procurement sector is playing as important a role as ever before.
Alongside the far-reaching guidance from the Construction Playbook, the industry has had further steer from Professor David Mosey’s Constructing the Gold Standard on how it should be approaching framework management, client engagement and supply chain collaboration.
Central to all of this is the push towards increased digitisation across the whole of the construction industry, not least in the procurement sector of it. However, despite the increased awareness of the term, there is a disconnect between the theory behind it and its execution in practice.
Taking the handbreak off
For a good few decades now, procurement has been dabbling in what could be described as ‘entry level’ digitisation, by migrating paper forms to online portals and eliminating unnecessary touch points between framework providers and clients.
However, this type of approach will only go so far. It’s easy to digitise something by just putting it on a platform that essentially acts in the same way as clients and framework providers have previously done over email. But to meet the ‘gold standard’ that Professor Mosey sets the target of, there needs to be full emersion in digitisation.
This true form of digitisation is about fundamentally changing the way you work and making it better and easier for the users to get the information they need without having to jump through multiple hoops. It’s not just digitisation for the sake of it, it’s about making the whole industry work and think smarter.
While we’ve moved on from some of the archaic stereotypes, the construction industry still lags behind many other key sectors when it comes to a digital-first approach, and this issue is only exacerbating the ever-growing skills gap that the industry faces.
Teach a man to fish
One of the key benefits of increasing the amount of digitisation is that you are serving everyone with a collated, unified set of data. Whereas previously there were multiple points of failure in the process of matching clients to suppliers, drawing all information into one digitised platform can ensure that both sides of the fence are getting the same information, delivered in a holistic way.
If platforms can fully embrace this, it will hugely streamline the procurement process — especially the optioneering stage. When data is fully collated from the supply chain, the client is able to really look under the hood of the available procurement routes and work out what works best for them.
Most importantly, this can be done by them directly, rather than having to go through a convoluted process of emails and multiple points of contact. It’s the procurement equivalent of the proverb “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach him to fish and he’ll be fed for life.” Framework providers can give the client these answers, but if they give them the opportunity to easily find the solution themselves through a digital platform, the relationship is immediately strengthened.
From A to Z
The more that digitisation is embraced throughout the whole construction ecosystem, the quicker and simpler it will be not only to get things built, but also to continually manage the end asset.
There is already plenty of software out there covering procurement, frameworks, contract and risk management, but what is lacking is full integration and a holistic, end-to-end approach. If you have these systems all talking the same language, the whole of the build process opens up to being streamlined. You can have a project procured through one platform moving seamlessly into the contract management software, while also monitoring social value and ensuring there is ample risk management at the completion of the project to manage the asset.
Digitisation doesn’t start and end at procurement — it’s about creating a full journey right from the very basis and nucleus of a project, all the way through to it being in use and delivering value for the public sector.
At the moment there are multiple different systems that are all piecemeal and don’t integrate anywhere near as well as they should, so those that are doing this are ahead of the curve. However, this highly-digitised, fully-integrated approach needs to become commonplace across the industry if we are to match the pace of change that has been set by the Construction Playbook and the Mosey Report.