Digitally enabling the construction virtual enterprise
The construction industry is highly fragmented, consisting of a large number of very small companies that come together as members of non-collocated teams to complete building projects, and who subsequently may never work together again. The industry still faces various challenges in terms of human and organisational issues. The Virtual Enterprise (VE), and other variations of the paradigm, relies on networking organisations as elements forming an alliance or aggregation towards some specific purpose or opportunity. Rather than the VE being a completely new organisational form, the construction industry has adopted many of its characteristics in its modus operandi for some considerable time. The construction industry does not operate effectively as a VE and in consequence faces many problems. These problems could be addressed by the development of ICT solutions geared towards digitally enabling the VE. The success of collaborative work, and the successful design and uptake of such ICT tools to support that work relies not merely on the introduction of different technologies, however, but also on critically analysing `human' aspects of organisation. Using applied research and drawing on a central case study in which a VE solution was developed, tested and evaluated in the context of `real world' scenarios, the thesis addresses the socio-organisational aspects of technological intervention and seeks to answer four research questions dealing with the above. The main results include recognition that whilst ICT are advanced enough to offer adapted solutions to digitally enabling the construction VE, the technology alone is not sufficient. The construction industry is not yet ready to move to an approach employing latest ICT development, due to the need to manage human and organisational issues central to technological intervention. The thesis finally offers business recommendations highlighting and mapping the critical human and organisational decisions that need to be considered.