Workflow technology in the Construction industrycomputerised representation of thestructure of the work procedures and
(Ellis & Nutt, 1993:3-4)The implementation of WfM and BPRtechnology is based on knowledgeabledesign teams. Achieving seamlessknowledge quality in the design teams isvital because co-operation within thedesign team still rely to a great extent onthe different levels of Informationtechnologies applied in the individualfirms that form part of these teams.The complexity of this scenario invokesa protracted analysis of how to arrive atappropriate available workflowmethodologies to be employed for theindustry.From the existing research findings,there are various methodologies that canbe exploited and applied within theIndustry. There are though, basicprerequisites for the implementation tobe successful.
NEED FOR GOODINFORMATION BASES
Research work shows that whileautomated tools heavily supportconstruction work, and heavilymechanised and revolutionary gains inefficiency have been seen, processes arenot as efficiently supported as required.Organisations find that theirfundamental problem is their inability tomanage efficiently the constructionbusiness processes (Burati 1989). Thelack of standardisation of processes inthe industry compels individual playersin the industry to spend more and moretime looking for information and lessand less time in exploiting it.The Eagan report (1998) observes thatmany UK construction firms andcompanies are taking initiatives toredesign and optimise their processesthrough many different techniques likeWorkflow management, (WfM) Totalquality management (TQM) Kaizen andBPR. Schal (1996) observes thatwhatever the technique selected, it isclear that to a great extent, this changecan only take place due to the improvedsupport being provided by newinformation technologies (IT).Hammer, (1994) sees Workflow andGroupWare
as enabling technologiesfor the improvement of Constructionprocess execution. These technologiescan be applied with or without previousreengineering experiences. Though theanalysis required for their implantationalways implies some form of process re-engineering activities, thesetechnologies have in many instancesbeen misapplied. This raises thequestion of choice of methodology.
There are many methodologies in themarket for process analysis forworkflow management and BPRpurposes within the ConstructionIndustry. Though many, they all fall intotwo main schools of thought:(a) Continuous Process ImprovementThe main proponent is Davenport(1993). This is based: on refiningexisting processes through removingparts/portions of processes that are of low value and replacing them with valueadded ones.(b) Clean Slate approach
This is Hammer’s theory that existingprocesses have not worked and as suchthey are obsolete and should be replacedby new ones to bring about the desiredradical improvement in anorganisation’s performance. Hammer &Stanton (1995: p 3-5) defines BusinessProcess Reengineering as “
the fundamental rethinking and radicalredesign of business processes toachieve improvements of business performance in terms of cost, serviceand speed
GroupWare is a term used to describe a class of computer technology that enables informationsharing, co-ordination and collaboration betweengroups of people who might be in close proximityor globally spaced
There are though, various issues thatneed to be considered when applyingany methodology to the constructionprocess. Consider the followingattributes of a typical construction firmthat would benefit from new technology:
Every construction project hasprocesses that can be transformed byworkflow automation. Many of thoseprocesses are in those parts of thebusiness with the largest financial risk and potential gain if managed properly.
Every construction companycomprises low-risk processes that canequally like high risk processes beautomated if identified and when theyare found to be of value to the entireprocess,
Every construction company hasprocesses that can take advantage of GroupWare and workflow managementtechnology. For instance, the storesdepartment needs to access and shareupdated information on availability of materials, reordering and disbursementtransactions. This department wouldbenefit immensely from automation andworkflow solutions,
Every company needs to capitaliseon its existing technology know-how,and needs to observe and assess itsprocesses with intent to maximise itsoperations.On the other hand, there are seriousfactors that need to be taken intoaccount when reengineering anenterprise. These factors could be:
That the company also has ongoingbusiness that must not be disrupted bynew way of doing business whenreengineering occurs. The fact that BPRinstigates complete annihilation of thebusiness process of the firm in particularprojects, there are ongoing alternativeprojects that might not need theirprocesses to be redesigned in any way.These must go on without disruption.Business process reengineering isincidental in construction projects. Eachproject process is unique though it is thesame firm that carries out the work.