1.1 Background to the Study
Optimal use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is now generally considered to be an essential requirement for achieving international best practice and competitiveness and ensuring long term prosperity. Given the increasingly global nature of construction activity, failure to invest in ICT will not only result in an inability to compete on an international scale but will also place firms at serious risk of losing their domestic market share to overseas competitors more amenable to maximizing the benefits that ICT can confer. This international threat is of serious concern to all participants in a Nigerian construction industry insistent by a very high level of domestic competition and resultant low profit margin. One of the factors to competitive advantage borders on the extensive application of ICT. Accordingly, whilst relatively slow on the uptake, the Nigerian construction industry is now experiencing significant changes in terms of ICT utilization and development. The impact of these changes, and concomitant changes in industry structure and procurement practices, on the quantity surveying (QS) profession will continue to escalate. As information flows increasingly become electronic QS computing facilities, software and databases will need to develop in a compatible manner. Compatibility with and the utilization of CAD systems is just the beginning. It is inevitable that documentation and data will be increasingly automated to the point where measurement and other technical processes will require minimal human intervention.
In a study conducted by Musa et al. (2010) on 115 construction industries that employed the use of information and communication technology in Nigeria revealed that it helps the quality of services of the firm. But, with all these benefits that ICT offers, quantity surveyors are not taking serious action towards advanced adoption of ICT. In addition, clients have been demanding for executing projects within budgeted cost and completion at estimated time, likewise, firms are seeking for strategies and tools to improve the quality of their services (Akintoye, 2001). Hence, information and communication technology (ICT) is considered to be a sustainable technological strategy used in the technological advanced nations to achieve these goals. Ayeni (1989) however revealed that quantity surveying firms had been using ICT for their services since 1980s but the usage is at the elementary stage which involves only typing, printing, phone calls, using Microsoft office like word, excel, powerpoint and the likes, no advancement into the usage of sophisticated software as a result of their negative perception and fraudulent activities. According to Musa et al. (2010) adoption of ICT is now close to two decades of continuous use in work practices of the firms, yet its effects on service delivery have not been empirically established.
Previous literature exists on the introduction of computer, relevance of information technology to the industry. Among others are Oladapo, (2006), Oyenuga (2007); most of which are about ten years old. The gap identified is on the industry’s performance as the best of manual operations still end in time and cost overrun and avoidable despites. It is in light of these observations that this study attempts to impact of ICT application to Quantity Survey practice among Consultancy Firms in Abuja, Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The construction sub-sector of the Nigerian economy is characterized by distinctive organizations, bodies and professionals. There is, therefore, a lot of data that is exchanged among these different stakeholders. For instance, there are professionals ranging from design team, consisting of quantity surveyors, architects, civil and structural engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers to those involved with implementation especially the contractor and the sub-contractors. There is also the client for any given project as well as statutory regulatory bodies that influence various aspects of any construction project, such as sanitation and environment.
Therefore, the presence and creation of an electronic building information system focused on the cost data is, therefore, essential in facilitating inter-disciplinary interactions within construction project organizations and the industry as a whole. The databank would greatly facilitate smooth and open processes during the construction process and access and sharing of the construction information. One way could be starting at addressing the needs at the lowest level of the construction supply chain that are tailored to specifically address the needs of the Nigerian construction industry. There is also an increasing volume of cost information that flows within a construction project’s environment. Some of the information flows outside the project while other information flows within the project itself.
Cost information and cost data flow within project organizations and the construction industry have to be integrated in such a manner that relevant cost data is captured in order to address the increasing complexity of projects and client needs, demands and expectations (Sommerville et al, 2012). In Nigeria, there is increasing demand for real-time data and information that has to be created, transferred or stored. This is important in managing the constantly fluctuating construction contracts as well as the vulnerability of construction personnel that is on the rise as far as data and information in projects is concerned.
The internet has the potential of being a great source of data and information to the Quantity Surveying firms in Nigeria. The QS firms can further exploit the internet resources and infrastructure that is already in place in the exchange of data and information pertinent to their day to day work. This study seeks to investigate the impact of ICT application to Quantity Survey practice among Consultancy Firms in Nigeria by using Abuja as a case study.
1.3 Research Objectives
The main objective of this study is to investigate the impact of ICT application to Quantity Survey practice among Consultancy Firms in Nigeria by using Abuja as a case study. Specifically, the objectives are:
i) To understand the internet-based tools, resources and applications are the Quantity Surveyors in Nigeria utilising in their consultancy work.
ii) To determine the online activities the Quantity Surveyors’ engage in as part of their work.
iii) To study the potential benefits that Quantity Surveyors can enjoy from the incorporation of information and communication technology in their day to day work.
1.4 Research Questions
The following are some of the questions which this study intends to answer:
i) What are the internet-based tools, resources and applications are the Quantity Surveyors in Nigeria utilising in their consultancy work?
ii) What are the online activities the Quantity Surveyors engage in as part of their work?
iii) What are the potential benefits that Quantity Surveyors can enjoy from the incorporation of information and communication technology in their day to day work?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
The followings are the research hypotheses to be tested in this study:
i) There is a significant relationship between the use of ICT by Quantity Surveyor and customers patronage
ii) There is a significant correlation between the use of ICT by Quantity Surveyor and effective practice
1.6 Significance of the Study
This research seeks to investigate the impact of ICT application to Quantity Survey practice among Consultancy Firms in Abuja, Nigeria. This would enable the construction industry engage all the cost consultants in the construction industry on a real-time basis. In addition, it will provide grounds upon which other applications and uses of the internet would emerge, for example, the formation of cost databanks, construction information silos and the creation of primary and secondary sources of information.
The study also seeks to encourage the exploration of technologies that run on the internet that would facilitate the efficient running of projects, for example, use of internet-enabled mobile devices namely tablets, smart-phones, mobile phones and laptops. The use of these devices coupled with the emerging Generation Y of the Quantity Surveyors who rely a lot on online interactions could transform how the QS will carry out their work in Nigeria. The profession ought to identify points where it will evolve with the emerging technological trends especially the internet. The construction industry would also spur a wave of innovation through the adoption of the internet by the Quantity Surveyors. Potentially, QS packages and software suites can be run online by utilizing the Cloud Technologies. This would in turn raise a breed of consultants who will analyse the data and information and relay the conclusions/evaluations back to the consultant Quantity Surveyors or institutions interested in the information.
1.7 Scope of the Study
The purpose of this study is to identify and assess the current levels of usage and investment by professional firms in internet services. Despite there being a large number of Quantity Surveyors registered in Nigeria, the research will focus on those who are based in Abuja. This is because it will be easier to access a wider pool of respondents over a given area due to their possible high concentration.
1.8 Limitations of the Study
It is expected that some respondents, especially the registered Quantity Surveyors, will not complete and return the survey questionnaires used in the study. However, it is anticipated that firms with at least two Quantity Surveyors will be more willing to fill the questionnaires than those with one, since the questionnaires can be given to one of them. Time may be another limitation considering the potential population of Quantity Surveyors, the administration of the research study may experience inadequate time to satisfactorily conduct the study.