Disruption: A force preventing us from modernising

disruption_imageDisruption in South Africa is something with which we are all too familiar. It often has the power to divide or unite organisations, communities and academia, but its impetus is elsewhere: with the individual. Companies and organisations cannot disrupt if their people don’t.

People don’t disrupt for the sake of it, but rather in response to a system or status quo that is not working or working well enough or fast enough. If the technology individuals use on a day-to-day basis is substandard or rigid and inhibits individuals or companies from modernising and improving, it essentially undermines company policy as well the energy and passion of individuals responsible for driving the company forward. The response to inadequate technology is disruption, which often leads to increased human error, reduced accountability and oftentimes results in financial loss that the company or project must absorb.  

In the construction industry, this is all too often seen with quantity surveyors and estimators, who turn to Excel to manage information due to the rigidity of their estimating software.

According to an independent research study conducted by CIS (Consulting in Industry Solutions) in May 2015, with four well-respected construction companies in South Africa, 69% of estimators managed their indirect costs in Excel. On average, 70% of quantity surveyors do subcontract management in Excel, granting 70% capture their monthly valuation adjustments in their estimating software, and 56% of quantity surveyors still manage variation orders in Excel. Although the survey found that 59% of quantity surveyors import their actual costs back into their estimating software, 90% preferred doing their cost reports in Excel.

Estimating is not new to the scene and the software used by many local estimators and quantity surveyors has not changed much in the past 25 years. Dominant estimating software vendor, CCS have served the market for close to three decades in a number of different roles that go beyond estimating and ERP and have helped develop the traditional workflows and processes on the African continent. These products collectively, although from competing vendors, are similar, taking the shape of a spreadsheet with user tools with varying levels of refinement, including reporting and line item generation through assemblies and codes.2

Beyond the estimating arena, the industry in general has and continues to undergo noteworthy shifts, including approaching work in a more collaborative way, cementing different contractual relationships between owner, architect and contractor, using mobile devices and moving to cloud-based software.2

Contractors have also become more conscious of costs and are showing more risk adverse behaviours, leading to management seeking new and improved solutions and processes that could see disruption at a macro level, not only to reduce company costs, but to move towards elements within the design to costs in the estimate that could underpin a move to a truly collaborative estimating environment.

A number of new estimating vendors, have recently entered the local estimating space, which is rapidly changing. These new solutions support traditional processes, but layer on additional tools to focus on the requirements associated with cloud technology and portfolio management within a given company. These tools rapidly increase the access to data within the design and estimate to facilitate conversations with the architect, general contractor, consultants, subcontractors and owner.

The end of 2014 saw EOH making a big splash in the AEC software industry by acquiring Construction Computer Software (CCS) and although it’s hard to know what CCS and EOH’s specific plans are for developing their existing products, EOH already offer a range of new and advanced IT technologies, which will probably find their way into CCS’ offering in the near future. It is clear, though, that other software vendor tools and features currently available in the market have a core focus on mobile and BIM technology while also offering integrated solutions.

The landscape of estimating is developing at a fast pace and traditional spreadsheet-based programmes that were once able to get the job done are no longer viable for construction companies chasing successful return on investment. To stay relevant, feasible and successful, companies will have to be nimble and responsive to these transformations or be willing to face disruption.2


1 Khan, Taimoor. The Changing Landscape of Estimating. http://bit.ly/1PvJfmM
Accessed: 15 January


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