1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The construction industry is so hierarchical and fragmented in nature that some of the major participants do not consider themselves to be part of the same industry (Hindle, 2000). This requires close coordination among a large number of specialized but interdependent organizations and individual to achieve the cost, time and quality goals of a construction project (Toole, 2003). Hence, according to Maqsood, (2004), a major construction process demands heavy exchange of data and information between project participants on a daily basis.
Rivard (2004) has identified, the two vital roles information plays in all construction projects as the specification of the resulting product (design information) and the initiation and control of the activities required for constructing the facility (management information). Design consultants, (architects, engineers and quantity surveyors), acting as professional advisers to the client, are largely responsible for the production and dissemination of both the design and management information among the various project participants. According to Mohammed & Steward (2003), the majority of construction process information is heavily based upon traditional means of communication such as face – to – face meetings and the exchange of paper documents in the form of technical drawings, specifications and site instructions. This is why the construction industry has for many years suffered from difficult - to – access, out – of –date and incomplete information (Shoesmith, 1995). As the management of construction, like most other industries, requires accurate information, the need to increase the efficiency of information management by exchanging massive volumes of information at high speed and at relatively low cost has been long recognized by the industry. (Deng, 2001).
According to Nkado (2000), the effectiveness of consultants in meeting the needs of clients in the built environment is influenced
by their recognition and application of context – relevant competencies. Architectural, engineering and quantity surveying professionals are the consultants traditionally responsible for the production and management of most of the project information and documents required by such other project participants as contractors, subcontractors and suppliers for the execution of construction projects. The complex and uncertain nature of construction projects demands the appointment of capable consultants, to realize the client’s interests in a project (Ng & Chow, 2004). A common competency required of these, consultants is the ability to manage and communicate project information and documents. In fact, a core issue in the driver for increased productivity in the construction industry is the effective management of information, both in the form of information flows that permit rapid inter-organizational transaction between project participants, and in the form of information accumulated, Coded and stored in firm database structures (Mohammed & Stewart, 2003). Thus from quantity surveyors, a basic competency in data, information and information technology is required (RICS, 1998), while from engineers, the availability of computer facilities in a measure of technical capacity (Ng & Chow, 2004). In the case of architects, the effective communication of design information to contractors is a key performance criterion (Oyedele & Tham, 2005). It has become a tactical necessity for these consultants and other project participants to integrate their information systems with each other to improve the flow of information between them and enhance the effectiveness of decision –making (Li 2000).the adoption and use of ICT facilitates this much-needed integration in the construction industry (Li et al., 2000; Liston et a.,, 2000; Mohammed Stewart, 2003).
Unfortunately, however, while there are reports of the use of ICT in the construction industries of industrialized countries like the US (Issa et al., 2003; Toole, 2003; Canada (Rivard, 2000; Rivard et al., 2004); Sweden, Denmark and Finland (Samuelson, 2002) and New Zealand (Doherty, 1997), among others, comparatively few (if any) exist for a developing country like Nigeria. Indeed, according to Pamulu & Bhuta (2004), very few reports exist of research in ICT in developing countries. While It is not surprising that findings are similar in many respects for these industries countries, the results, according to Austin (1990), might not be applicable to a developing country (like Nigeria) due to differences in the cultural, socio-economic and regulatory environments (Jarvenpaa et al., 1998); Dewan 2000; Seyal (2000). This study is therefore an attempt to evaluate the impact of ICT on professional practice in the Nigerian construction industry in the context of a developing economy to provide the true picture of the use of ICT in a typical non-industrialized country. Thus, it is believed, will extend the frontiers of knowledge on the subject beyond the North American and European experiences. It is against this background that the paper presents an empirical analysis of the impact of ICT on the practices of 107 professional consulting firms in Nigeria, comprising 29 architectural, 38 engineering and 40 quantity surveying practices.