An introduction to construction product specification influencers

An introduction to construction product specification influencers

Throughout 2017, Chris Ashworth looked in more detail at 10 of the key decision makers who influence product selection:

Feb - The Client
Mar - The Architect
Apr - The Contractor
May - The Interior Designer
Jun - The Engineer
Jul - The Quantity Surveyor
Aug - The Specialist Sub-Contractor
Sep - The Public Sector Client
Oct - The Facilities Manager
Nov - The Civil Engineer

Guest post provided by Chris Ashworth

It is almost always the case that construction products are selected by a group of influencers, known as the Decision Making Unit or DMU. With the adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM) we can expect this to increase even further. In fact, one of the purposes of BIM is to enable and encourage a culture of greater cooperation across the project team.

Rarely does the DMU meet as a group, and some members of the project team might not be decision makers for particular types of product. Historically it has functioned in stages. These are conveniently defined in the RIBA Plan of Works.

Stage 0 - Strategic Definition
Stage 0 of the RIBA Plan of Works is the point where the Architect will work with the Client to understand what the business case is for the building, what its purpose is, how it will be used and possible locations.

Stage 1 – Preparing the Brief
The Architect will take the information from Stage 0 and move onto Stage 1, Preparing the Brief and assembling the project team – many of whom will form part of the DMU.

Stage 2 – Concept Design
The process then moves onto Stage 2, Concept Design. At this point various strategies will be developed linked to Planning Approval, Sustainability, Building Operation and Maintenance. Here is where the DMU starts to become important. Consultants will be defining requirements, very often these can be conflicting.

If the project is Design & Build then ease of construction will be another factor (BIM is likely to extend this beyond Design & Build). Funding will also be an issue, can all the requirements be paid for and if not, what will be compromised? Having made the broad decisions a final project brief is issued.

Stage 3 – Developed Design
Stage 3 sees the Developed Design evolving. Now is the time when the detail is added. It is also the point when specialist sub-contractors start to contribute to the design. As members of the DMU they may bring a different perspective and initiate a re-think of some product choices.

Stage 4 – Technical Design
During Technical Design further design refinement will be made. By the end of this stage all aspects of design should be complete. In theory, all product choices should have been made, although this is often not the case.

Stage 5 – Construction
Historically design has continued through this stage and specialist sub-contractors often make product substitutions, requiring careful monitoring by the product manufacturer sales teams. This is also the stage with greatest uncertainty leading to cost over-runs. The benefit of BIM is that it can increase the certainty of outcome. Not just in terms of cost for the contractor, but in terms of performance for the building client. I also believe that with time the product manufacturer will enjoy greater certainty that their original specification will become an order.

Stage 6 Handover and Stage 7 Building Use
Stages 6 and 7 of the Plan of Works are Handover and then Building Use. By now the specification sales process is complete. However as BIM starts to be used to record performance there will be more accountability with measures in place to see if the building actually performs as was defined in the brief. This must be good for manufacturers of high performance building products offering cost savings over their life, as there will be increasing evidence to support this and discourage switching to lower cost alternatives.

As you can see, for the product manufacturer it is important to understand which members of the DMU influence the selection of your products and when, i.e. the timing when decisions are made. This will vary for each product category. It is then a matter of developing a specification strategy to influence these decision makers - at the right time.

Further Information
Promoting your company and building products with Barbour Product Search can help to increase your visibility to the full specification audience. Email for more information.

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Chris is a specialist in specification strategy and founder of Competitive Advantage Consultancy which specialises in market research and training for the construction industry. He is a member of the BIM4M2 steering group and Deputy Chair of the organising committee for CIMCIG, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group.

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