Construction Information Technology Blog

So what is e-Procurement?

Posted by Dave Robertson on Jul 28, 2014 12:00:00 PM

Like so many things it depends who you ask. For some it refers to the entire workflow from the moment a need is identified through to the final payment and warranty administration for a service or item. Others describe it as online sourcing and purchasing of items from a catalogue. Wikipedia says: “E-procurement (electronic procurement, sometimes also known as supplier exchange) is the business-to-business or business-to-consumer or business-to-government purchase and sale of supplies, work, and services through the Internet as well as other information and networking systems, such as electronic data interchange and enterprise resource planning.

Elements of e-procurement include request for information, request for proposal, request for quotation, RFx (the previous three together), and eRFx (software for managing RFx projects).

Purchase-to-pay, often abbreviated to P2P and also called req to cheque, refers to the business processes that cover activities of requesting (requisitioning), purchasing, receiving, paying for and accounting for goods and services. Also commonly referred to as procure-to-pay.

In this Blog the term e-Procurement is used to describe the workflows that relate to the external (Vendor and Contractor) facing processes required to purchase goods, services or construction over the internet.

e-procurement

In this very simplified description of the procurement process, the externally facing activities (elements 4, 5, 6) and the interface (element 3 and 7) between those and the internally facing activities are the areas that our software and services streamline.

Topics: Online bidding, Electronic document management, E-procurement

Fairness in the Procurement Process

Posted by Dave Robertson on Oct 2, 2013 9:36:00 AM

Is it important to be fair to all bidders when you are calling for bids or proposals? Of course it is. It’s not only important; it’s supported by many years of case law that all bidders must be treated fairly and equitably. Whether it is for a case of toilet paper, 10 tons of pipe, engineering services or a construction project the principles of fairness need to be part of the process. When a person or company makes the decision to spend their resources to respond to a bid or proposal call in a competitive environment they expect a fair process. Nobody wants to be used to keep someone else ‘honest’ or to have their price leaked to another bidder who is given the opportunity to beat it. The more subjective process of proposal calls can be even more challenging as there are typically many judgement calls in the evaluation process leading to a ‘best value’ decision.

court cases

A key aspect of conducting a fair bid or proposal call is the actual submission process itself. Utilizing a process that eliminates potential unintended negative consequences of process errors is demonstrably better for both the submitter and receiver. A quick review of the 5 articles in the court cases section of this blog demonstrates some of the simple process based issues that can cause both parties lost opportunities and extra costs. While these cases refer to construction related submissions the same principles apply to all procurement processes.

Topics: Risk management, Construction bidding

Cloud Computing in the Public Sector

Posted by Dave Robertson on Aug 20, 2013 7:00:00 AM

In our previous post Cloud computing in 2013, we have clearly established that the cloud is gaining popularity in the business world. This brings us to the next question: What about the Public sector? How far along is cloud adoption in governments around the world? Unsurprisingly, cloud computing has been implemented in various countries since 2009. Some of the leading countries are the United States of America, Japan, and United Kingdom.

The CIO Council report states that in September 2009, the US government announced the Federal Government's Cloud Computing Initiative, aiming to greatly reduce waste, increase efficiency, and lower operating costs. At the same time, Market Research Media also reported that the U.S. government launched Apps.gov, a portal dedicated to cloud computing applications for government agencies.  Vivek Kundra, U.S. Chief Information Officer described it as "an online storefront for federal agencies to quickly browse and purchase cloud-based IT services, for productivity, collaboration, and efficiency." He further stated that cloud computing is the next generation of IT in which data and applications will be housed centrally and accessible anywhere and anytime by various devices.

Meanwhile, according to an article by the IEEE Computer Society and cloudbook.net, Japan announced its Kasumigaseki Cloud in May 2009, which aims to greatly reduce cost while improving integration and collaboration amongst its various ministries. It is scheduled to be completed by 2015. The name Kasumigaseki (as explained in this article) is the name of an area where most government buildings are located in Tokyo, but the literal meaning of kasumigaseki is "fog's gate".

In early 2010, the UK government introduced the G-cloud government infrastructure, an online catalogue containing details of cloud services available for the UK public sector, much like the U.S. Apps.gov website. The G-cloud official site also listed reducing costs and increasing flexibility as some of its aims in adopting the cloud technology.

cloud public sector

Today, there are countless research papers and reports on various countries' government adoption of cloud computing. KPMG and Frost & Sullivan both wrote more in-depth reports around this topic. Although the cloud is not yet a dominating standard, most developed countries with sufficient infrastructure are at some level of cloud adoption while formulating their long-term national strategy. Thus, cloud computing has established itself as the next logical step in both the public and private sector of the IT industry.

Topics: Electronic document management, Cloud computing

Construction-specific project management software for contractors

Posted by Dave Robertson on Jul 26, 2013 11:27:00 AM

Following the 2013 construction project management software benchmark report, Software Advice further states that when you are choosing contractors for your project, find out what PM (project management) tools they are using, because research suggests that construction-specific PM software helps contractors complete jobs on time more frequently than those who don’t use it.

More specifically, contractors who use construction-specific PM software are 1.5 times more likely to report that they almost always complete projects ahead of schedule rather than the those utilizing general PM software. Furthermore, these contractors are also 5 times more likely to report that they almost always finish projects early than those utilizing custom-built PM software.

The article also elaborates on several PM software in the market and how they help streamline the business process and improve communications. For more information, read the full coverage here: http://blog.softwareadvice.com/articles/construction/why-you-should-ask-your-contractor-what-project-management-tool-they-use-0708/

 

pm software functionality

Topics: Construction industry, Construction software

What makes construction procurement different?

Posted by Dave Robertson on Jun 17, 2013 8:20:00 AM

If you are looking to buy a computer, a chair, or a car you can typically see it, touch and try it before you make the decision to part with some of your hard earned money and make the purchase. That is one of the key factors making purchasing construction so different. The purchaser has a vision and a plan for a built asset and needs to find an efficient way to buy a complex custom fabricated piece of work that doesn’t exist yet.

The next significant difference when buying construction is the many varied contractual methods to work through including; stipulated or lump sum pricing, unit price contract, design build, construction management, construction management at risk, design-build-operate contracts and many other possible contractual variations. And of course, once you begin to look at contracts it is very important to understand the legal environment related to the various contract provisions. For example: Does the entity purchasing the constructed asset have a duty to treat all the bidders equally? Can the entity have a preferred constructor but get pricing from others to ‘keep the preferred constructor honest’?

traditional construciton procurementThe common requirement for bid security is another key factor distinguishing construction purchasing. The requirement for submitting bid bonds or other bid security is primarily a construction related activity. Like everything else in this complicated process it has to be done on time and be done right as large sums of money are at stake.

Now, just to add a little excitement to the process, add in the fact that in most construction projects there are a multitude of consultants, contractors, subcontractors and suppliers all bound together through a web of bid submissions and the resulting contracts. In many cases the entire pricing/bidding process occurs in a time restricted environment that adds just a bit more pressure to the entire procurement.

Today the vast majority of this activity happens in the traditional, error prone paper based submission process. However, there is change in the wind. Online technologies offer impressive new tools that bring enormous value and efficiency to this entire process. The inherent risks of errors and omissions are significantly reduced or in many cases eliminated. It is only a matter of time until this ‘new way’ of managing the bid submission process becomes the standard. 

construction procurement2

Topics: Construction industry, Construction documents, Risk management, Construction bidding

2013 Construction Project Management Benchmark

Posted by Dave Robertson on Apr 29, 2013 6:30:00 AM

Software Advice, ­­a demand generation company (headquartered in Austin, Texas­­) has just released their 2013 Project Management Software Benchmark Report, a study that gauges software adoption and effectiveness in the construction project management industry.

Over the last two months, Software Advice surveyed 230 construction industry professionals about their project management practices and outcomes. While the survey surfaced many important findings, three key points stood above the rest:

  1. softwareadvice reportConstruction project management software produces superior outcomes. Construction project management software users were the most likely to report that their system met their needs, with 72 percent of users indicating satisfaction. They also reported finishing projects on time and on budget more frequently than any other type of software user.

  2. Construction project managers are embracing Cloud technology. 57 percent of survey participants relied on Cloud-­based software to manage their construction projects. This indicates that project managers are open to using software hosted and maintained off­site.

  3. Preconstruction planning is a top challenge and priority in 2013. 56 percent of participants reported that inaccurate project estimates were an obstacle to delivering projects on budget. Meanwhile, 70 percent noted that changes to building plans were an obstacle to delivering projects on time. In recognition of these challenges, project managers stated that they would focus on the estimating, takeoff and bidding processes as a top priority in 2013.

In 2013 and beyond, Software Advice will be tracking how well technology evolves to help project managers address these challenges and priorities on the job site. For more information on this survey, and to access a detailed report analyzing findings, visit the 2013 Project Management Software Benchmark Report.

Topics: Construction industry, Cloud computing, Construction software

Innovative Construction Technology

Posted by Dave Robertson on Mar 27, 2013 9:38:00 AM

It’s easy to say that you deliver innovative solutions for your clients. It is much harder to actually be on the forefront of inventing new methods and processes. We have been actively inventing new solutions for many years and made the decision to seek a patent for some of our latest innovations.

Infinite Source is pleased to announce that we have been granted U.S. patent number 8412618 by the US Patent and Trademark Office. As part of our System for Managing Construction Project Bidding we have developed methods to efficiently manage bidder verification and bid bond applications. These key elements of the online construction bid submission process help ensure the authenticity of the bidder and of the bid security provided with the bid. When coupled with Infinite Source’s complete online bid submission process, both bidders and those receiving bids can have confidence that the online process delivers verifiable, complete and fully compliant bid submissions. This reduces the risks and problems arising from non-compliant or incomplete bids while maintaining a highly secure yet competitive environment to manage and receive bids.US patent

This latest achievement is a great indication of our ongoing commitment to research and development leading to more efficient and effective ways to meet the ever evolving needs of the construction industry.

Topics: Construction industry, Online bidding, Company announcements

Are we going mobile any time soon?

Posted by Dave Robertson on Mar 19, 2013 8:29:00 AM

I am often asked for my perspective on the potential for using tablets in the field for construction. I was in attendance at the Associated General Contractors of America’s recent annual conference. It was clear from the presentations delivered to delegates and the company’s attending to display their wares that information technology (“IT”) is quickly being recognized as an essential tool in creating increased efficiencies throughout the life cycle of a project, both off site and on. Many of the presentations were entirely focused on IT issues and solutions and the majority of the vendors in the Constructor Expo pavilion were pitching their IT solutions. I am old enough to remember when the majority of issues and vendors at these conferences related to methods of construction or construction materials.

mobile construction

There was a good deal of attention paid to the use of mobile applications. Presentations were made on its use for safety management, for superintendent’s daily reports, using it to submit time sheet/payroll data as well as functions like creating and managing punch lists and accessing documents and project information. Some of the applications could be utilized on a smart phone but most are designed for tablets. Key to all of this is having adequate access to high speed internet connections to make it all work. So the answer to this question is short and sweet … mobile is already being used on the jobsite and its use will only grow from here.

Topics: Construction industry, Cloud computing, Online tools

Cloud Computing in 2013

Posted by Dave Robertson on Jan 11, 2013 7:30:00 AM

Cloud computing is on the rise. About a year ago, a KPMG Survey titled “Embracing the Cloud” concluded that there is an increased readiness to accept the Cloud and harness its benefits. The vast majority of business executives surveyed expected Cloud-related investments to increase in 2012. More recently, a similar survey conducted by T-Systems in late 2012 found that 44% of those business executives are willing to take advantage of more cloud computing solutions in the future. Furthermore, a recent Forrester Research states that half of all enterprises in North America and Europe are planning to create budgets for cloud-related investments in 2013. In the same way, Gartner’s yearly tech prediction also identifies cloud computing as one of the major influence to a worldwide increase of IT spending in 2013. There is a clear global trend towards Cloud computing.

So the next question would be “Why move to the Cloud?” There are many benefits of cloud computing, particularly cost-savings, flexibility and greater efficiency. With cloud computing, there is no need to invest in expensive hardware or software development and maintenance. Companies can improve their business processes through an on-demand, proven technology usually offered at a fraction of the development cost due to economies of scale. This provides businesses who are early adopters with a new form of low risk competitive advantage. Moreover, the Forrester Research report suggests an era of new IT responsiveness and efficiency addressing the economic inflexibility that ails on-premises IT.

All this hype about Cloud services is for good reason. The Cloud simply works when properly executed. According to this article, a recent survey conducted by the Navint Partners, which interviewed chief execs of companies with over 5,000 employees, concluded that many CIOs are happy with the result of moving to the Cloud. The majority (90%) of the respondents claimed they had gotten all of the predicted savings and nearly two-thirds (64%) of the respondents noted a significant impact on their business process efficiency and effectiveness. Also, 80% of the respondents said that the Cloud gave their company a competitive advantage.

cloud computing survey

Keri Brooke, VP marketing at Host Analytics, said: “Businesses are embracing the cloud and realizing it offers tremendous value and advantages over on-premise applications. This new research reinforces the industry’s shift to a more modern, effective and safe way of doing business.”

It is clear that if your company is not yet using Cloud services, it is very likely that you are missing out.

Topics: Cloud computing, Software management, Saving money

Is Construction ready for electronic procurement?

Posted by Dave Robertson on Dec 21, 2012 7:00:00 AM

That was the key question posed to a group of industry experts participating in a panel discussion at the Construct Canada conference on November 29th, 2012.

Gordon Stratford, director of design for HOK, a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm said, “We should just get over it and get into electronic procurement and do it well because it has the capabilities, if done well, to have a lot more checks and balances than the manual way does.

Stephen Bauld, President of Purchasing Consultants International stated that true e-procurement, picking up and submitting the document electronically, is going to be a game changer and has the ability to remove geographic barriers.

Regular readers of this blog will know that we are strong advocates for the use of electronic procurement systems to streamline and remove risks from the bidding process. To read complete coverage of the panel discussion and see a video prepared by the Daily Commercial News on the event follow this link.

eprocurement construction

Topics: Construction industry, Construction documents, Electronic document management

 

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