Meeting the expectations of clients through better service delivery has been a key concern of the construction industry over the years (Hui, 2005; Shen & Liu, 2004 ). One recommendation often suggested in recent studies to support the delivery of construction works to the construction client is the use of information and communication technology (ICT) (Weippert, Kajewski, & Tilley, 2003). In recent times the virtual construction concept has emerged where construction actors may rely on modern ICT tools to operate irrespective of time and space, to attain common value delivery goals in construction projects. For example, highly skilled construction parties may be in different physical geographic locations in the world, but they may use modern ICT tools to collaborate to achieve common project goals. The virtual construction concept has the potential to provide cost and time savings to the construction client, and it is also likely to play an important role in the delivery of construction works (Barima, 2003). A key party to the construction delivery process is the construction client, and it may be important to know the client’s expectations in the use of the virtual construction concept. This knowledge may provide understanding on the potential expectations of construction clients and also assist construction service providers to improve on their value delivery systems to their clients. This chapter explores the potential expectations of construction clients in the virtual construction project environment. First, the background to this study is provided via review of previous literature, then the research methodology and key findings of this exploratory study are presented, before recommendations for future studies and the conclusions are given.
In recent years the customer (or client) has received attention in literature in various disciplines (Ellegaard, Johansen, & Drejer, 2003; Huang & Lin, 2002). Most of the studies have argued for paying attention to customers and their requirements, with the aim to either fulfill or exceed them, so as to create customer satisfaction (Huang & Lin, 2002; Winters, 2003). Recent perspectives on the customer appear to differ from traditional management perceptions, where there may be the orientation to focus on the internal transformation processes of the supplier.
In the construction industry the important role or needs of the construction client has also been directly or indirectly studied by scholars over the years (Briscoe, Dainty, Millett, & Neale, 2004; Hui, 2005; Kaya, 2004; Pries, Doree, Van Der Veen, & Vrijhoef, 2004; Shen & Liu, 2004; Winters, 2003). For example, Pries et al. (2004) have argued for client orientation in the construction industry. Briscoe et al. (2004) also suggested that construction clients are the influential drivers for innovation and performance improvement in the industry. According to a study by Pries et al. (2004) in spite of the arguments by scholars for client and market orientation in the construction industry, major industry leaders are still technology or project oriented.
Recent developments in the ICT sector in addition to changing perceptions have led to paradigm changes in the way businesses are executed (Barima, 2003). Varied management concepts have emerged, and one of these is the virtual concept in the construction industry, where actors may rely on modern ICT to operate independent of time and space to support the delivery of common goals (Barima, 2003). This model differs from traditional construction works delivery, which use physical delivery systems like face-to-face interactions, traditional mail delivery, and so forth.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Construction Paradigms Shift: Construction paradigms shift refers to the change in the traditional methods of thinking and execution of construction works.
Virtual Construction Project: This is a construction project which is supported by the virtual concept.
Virtual Concept: Virtual concept refers to the reliance by actors on ICT tools to mimic the real world and operate independent of time and space to attain common goals.
Parties in a Construction Process: Various stakeholders who may have an interest in either the construction process or its product. Usually they may include construction contractors, consulting professionals (architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, etc.), the construction client, governments (if not the client), public or society, and so forth.
Corporate Value Delivery Metrics: Corporate value delivery metrics are the collectively evolved measurable targets which may be used by the various parties of the construction value delivery process. They may be used to improve the construction delivery process.
Client Value Expectations: Client value expectations refer to the potential characteristics of value which are expected to be delivered to the construction client.
Client Orientation: Client orientation relates to the mental positioning matched by behavioral evidence of actors to deliver value to the client.