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Paper info: How to make use of interdependencies in a fragmented business landscape: information gathering in construction projects

Title


How to make use of interdependencies in a fragmented business landscape: information gathering in construction projects

Authors


Malena Ingemansson Havenvid
Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm
Sweden
Malena Ingemansson Havenvid ,
Tim Torvatn
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Norway
Tim Torvatn and Sigrid Dalheim

Place of Publication


The paper was published at the 35th IMP-conference in Paris, France in 2019.

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Abstract


The construction industry presents itself as the extreme case of a fragmented business network in terms of representing a high degree of specialisation with the major part of all activities being confined to temporary projects. The high degree of subcontracting implies that firms need to mobilise a number of others to acquire the resource base needed to carry out a construction project. However, while firms in this way are highly dependent on each other, business interaction is often confined to short and intense periods. As such, the construction industry has been referred to as a “loosely coupled system”. There is also a tradition of using competitive tendering rather than collaborative procurement strategies, which further contributes to the competitive and short-term perspective on interorganisational dealings. While there have been indications that relationships across projects can function as carriers of knowledge, to date, few studies have systematically traced how construction firms and managers go about gathering information and knowledge that is available in the internal and external networks of project actors. To trace patterns of information gathering of construction firms in such projects, the authors have studied two innovative construction projects in Norway. Through a total of 26 semi-structured interviews across the two sequential projects, the authors have mapped how key actors have been gathering information and developed specially adapted solutions for the sake of the specific projects. A resulting model revealing the project actors’ pattern of information gathering shows that there is a central public actor (the advising developer) coordinating both research-based knowledge and knowledge in the external and internal network of actors. However, the other actors have their own ways of extracting and developing knowledge and solutions through their own internal and external networks. Some actors rely solely on their internal networks while the external network is crucial for others. This brings interesting insights on information gathering practices by construction firms, as an example of how interdependencies are and need to be used also in such fragmented type of business networks.