Information And Communication Technology (ICT) Deployment In Architectural Firms In Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material for Architecture

Information And Communication Technology (ICT) Deployment In Architectural Firms In Nigeria


Abstract


Architectural practice has been in existence in Nigeria for more than fifty years and the earliest introduction of computers by firms for operations began in the early 1980s. Information and communication technology (ICT) usage is inevitable in all fields of endeavours and for professionals in the present era. The study of ICT usage and deployment therefore becomes imperative. This study aims at providing an understanding of the deployment of ICT in architectural firms in Nigeria. It specifically examines organizational and ICT characteristics of the firms; the measure of fit between ICT tools deployed and tasks engaged; the effect of training programmes on the availability of ICT proficient personnel; and the level of acceptance of Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW) in
architectural firms in Nigeria.

The Task-Technology Fit model (TTF) and an Extended Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) were employed to test deployment of four design technologies (AutoCAD, ArchiCAD, Revit Architecture and SketchUp) and the acceptance of CSCW. The multistage sampling technique was used to derive the sample drawn from six cities: Abuja, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Enugu, Lagos and Portharcourt were selected based on documented evidence of having the largest number of firms in their zones. A total of 118 questionnaires were returned from a total of 159 distributed. This represents a 74.21% return rate. The data collected were analysed using descriptive statistics, crosstabulations, Chi-Square tests, exploratory factor analysis, Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) and multiple regression analysis.

The study revealed improvements in the quality and availability of ICT systems in architectural firms in Nigeria as from 2001. Internet connectivity and Website ownership is on the increase in architectural firms. Annual turnover of the architectural firms has is positively correlated to the quality of installed systems. The study also found a relationship between ownership of websites and the date of ICT introduction. The integrated TTF/TAM test showed levels of fit between tasks engaged in architectural firms and the design technologies deployed. The model tests explain between 41.4% – 52.1% of the residual variation in the production of detailed system product. The coefficients of determination and beta coefficients are significant to predict model fit of deployment.

Reasonable proficiency levels of the staff in the deployment of the available software and technologies were confirmed. Furthermore firms are getting increasingly involved in outsourcing as a service delivery strategy. The study revealed that few firms fund training programmes within their organizations. Most of those that fund training programs commit lower than a million naira to it annually. The study revealed that there is no significant relationship between the availability of CAD/BIM proficient staff and the existence of training programmes within the firms. It was also confirmed that there was no significant relationship between the availability of CAD/BIM proficient staff and the training methods employed by the firms. It was found that there was a significant relationship between the availability of CAD/BIM proficient staff and the CAD/BIM proficient staff needed.

The interview responses suggest that the schools of architecture have done much towards achieving the availability of CAD/BIM proficient staff. CSCW has been adopted by only 37.3% of the firms and the study revealed that perceived ease-of-use, security and the quality of installed systems were predictors of the extended TAM model. In conclusion, the study recommends that concerted efforts towards developing network infrastructure especially broadband access can improve the practice of outsourcing and also have impact on CSCW. Quality investment and commitment by technology companies and vendors, firms, the government and other stakeholders in the area of ICT acquisitions, network security and the development of user-friendly technologies will surely improve adoption and deployment of ICT in architectural firms in Nigeria.


Chapter One


General Introduction

1.1 Introduction

This chapter provides an overview of the research. It begins by discussing the background of the study and highlighted the main issue under exploration in the problem statement. The next section addresses the aim and objectives of the research followed by the key research questions which guided the inquiry. Subsequently, a summary of the research methodology and the scope for the study was described. The chapter ended with highlights of the organisation of the research.


1.2 Background to Research

The architectural firms have often been criticized with issues concerning efficiency, productivity and quality in the delivery of its products. Architects among the major players of the industry have often been blamed for this situation. In recent times, it has been reported that one of the fundamental issues contributing to the architecture industries poor performance is ineffective communication and exchange of information and data amongst the project team (Dainty et.al, 2006).

As observed in Lofgren (2006), a greater part of the production difficulties in the architectural firms has strong relation to the communication and information exchange between the parties involve in the architectural project.
Interestingly, the level of technologies available in today‟s marketplace is enormous, and the architecture sector should be aware of the benefits from using these technologies to enhance their business and collaboration solutions. Information and communication technology (ICT) among these technology solutions is often regarded as an enabler to facilitate productivity and enhances quality of output.

Indeed, it is widely reported that the use of information and communication technology (ICT) with properly defined structures and communication interfaces has in the manufacturing industry, proved to be an efficient tool that supports the integration of processes for product development, production, materials supply, communication and maintenance processes. As a result, the technology (ICT) has been widely applied across many sectors to increase competitiveness and reduce cost and is widely seen today as a vehicle to gain competitive advantage ((Marsh et al.2000; Earl, 1993).

Incidentally, the architectural firms which has been described as adversarial and information intensive (Cox and Townsend, 1998), seems to have most of its problems attributed to the quality and complexity of shared information (Ng T et al, 2001). Unlike other economic sectors, the architectural firms is characterized by activities which are discontinuous, dispersed, diverse and distinct. Obviously, this could make the implementation of ICT in the architectural firms more difficult than other industries. Yet, the sector is in grave need of innovation and process improvement in order to remain competitive in today‟s digital economy.

In recent past, the architectural firms has recognized the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as essential tool for improving data and communication in architecture processes and for creating new architecture business opportunities (Doherty 1997; Peansupap, 2005). Indeed, this recognition have motivated several architecture organisations around the world to adopt and invest in this technology; and many recent survey results suggest an increasing trend of firms using ICT in the architectural firms (Rivard, 2000; Peansupap,2005).

Of course several reasons have been reported on why the use of ICT on architectural projects is vital. According to Gunasekaran et al (2001), through the use of ICT on architectural projects, architects can benefits from improved operational efficiency, improved quality, reduced project time and cost and increase profit levels. Similarly, Brown et al, (1996) cited that, downward cost pressures, time specific nature of architectural projects, increased specialization and technical complexity of projects are major reasons that create demand for ICT usage in the architectural firms. This trend was also recounted in Ozumba et al (2008) and hinted that, the use of ICT has the potential to enhance both intra and extra site communication including benefits such as enhanced data and material management and in essence enhance overall site management processes.

Again, it is commonplace that parties to a architectural project such as the owner, the consultants, architect and subarchitects, come in with a set of interrelated and interconnect relationships requiring cooperation and collaboration to coordinate time, resources, and communication. Hence, the strategic use of Information and
Communication Technologies (ICT) on projects has become vital to enable this goal to be achieved more effectively and to a large extent (Hassan et al, 2003). Common standards for information and data exchange in the architectural firms can also be enhanced through the use of proper ICT based business systems, communication tools and other shared storage servers (Farag, 1999; Lofgren, 2006).

This notwithstanding, several innovations in ICT technologies have provided new opportunities for enhancing communication, collaboration and information management in architecture (Stewart, 2007). For instance, advanced applications of ICT such asModelling and Visualization technologies, Mobile Computing and internet based data exchange such as project webs, Electronic Document Management Systems, Teleconferencing and E-commerce including integrated software such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) have been used to some success in many other countries (Lofgren,2006;Ozumba et al 2008).

Given this significant role and the rising interest of ICT in the architectural firms today, the Nigerian architectural firms cannot be left out in this great marketplace.


1.3 Problem Statement

the traditional architecture sector all over the world including that of Nigeria are required to move towards innovation of their products including the production processes improvement to achieve more efficient process with products and production methods. Furthermore, current issues of competition as well as increasing client awareness are creating demand for urgent improvement in productivity and competitiveness in the architecture sector. In effect, this suggest that as architecture is becoming more complex today, a more sophisticated approach is necessary to deal with issues of initiating, planning, financing, designing, approving, implementing and completing a project, an area in which ICT have proved its greatest impact and enormous application potential (Wang, 1994).
Though, Sarshar et al(2004) have hinted that architects can employ ICTs as an enabler for integration, collaboration, knowledge management, procurement, site management and process improvement; Mak(2001) had reported that the use of ICTs in architecture firms continues to be „piecemeal‟ and that; only few architects are fully able to integrate ICTs with their core business processes. Issues such as computer illiteracy, inadequate knowledge of ICT among others has been cited as the most frequently reported shortcomings of architects in many countries (Samuelson, 2002). Again the fact that architects‟ core business activities are mainly performed on architecture sites and applications that support actual work on site are hard to find has also been referred among others.

For this reason, the vast benefits offered by ICT in the architectural firms though seems recognized, its adoption and use as normal part of the architecture process is still low; and architects among the major players, have been often been cited as those who use ICT least of all (Peansupap and Walker, 2004).

While this situation could probably be true for the Nigerian architectural firms, specific details regarding the extent of application and problems facing the use of ICT in the Nigerian architectural firms still remain unclear. This study seeks to assess the situation in building architecture firms in Nigeria.


1.4 Aim of Study

The aimed of the study is to identify the reasons hindering the use of ICT by Architect in Nigeria.


1.5 Objectives of Study

The specific objectives of this study are;

  1. To assess the ICT infrastructure platforms of Architect in Nigeria.
  2. To explore the level ICT usage among architect
  3. To identify and evaluate the factors hindering the use of ICT by architect in Nigeria

1.6 Research Questions

To answer the main research problem above, three research questions will be addressed

  1. What is the state of ICT infrastructure in Building architecture firms in Nigeria?
  2. To what is extent is ICT being used by building architecture firms in Nigeria?
  3. What significant factors hinder the use of ICT by Architect in Nigeria?

1.7 Research Methodology

The research was conducted through survey questionnaires. Survey is one of the most cost effective ways to obtain information from large pool of people given better results more specific, accurate, faster and most cost effective ways (McQueen and Knussen,2002; Farag et al,2009). The companies surveyed were building and civil engineering architecture firms in financial class D1K1 and D2K2.

At first, the study commenced with a thorough literature exploration of both the electronic and hard copy media. This proved helpful in having a better understanding of recent developments of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) aspects in the architectural firms. It further provided insight into the research questions, hypotheses and objectives within the theoretical framework for the study. The relevant aspects of the literature search were reviewed to include areas applicable for the study. Subsequently, structured questionnaire was developed and conducted among top management officials and professionals in the architect organizations who are involved in the architecture process and administration. A number of comments and suggestions from an initial pilot study were used to amend the questionnaire before final distribution. The data received will be analyzed using One Sample T-test statistical tools with the help of Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) Software.


1.8 Scope of the Study

The research focuses on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and its applications in the Nigerian architectural firms. For the purposes of this research, the study focused on ICT usage in the perspective of architecture architects in the financial class D1KI and D2K2 according to the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing classification guidelines in Nigeria. This is because such companies usually undertake large volumes of works employ qualified professionals and hence, have the capacity to engage and appreciate technology (ICT) in their operations.

The study areas to be covered are Lagos and Abuja. This is because, the distribution of these architect in Nigeria are largely biased towards the city capitals with more than 70% of the registered firms, particularly the large organisations, tend to operate officially in the Abuja and Lagos .


Chapter Five


Conclusions and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

This chapter summarizes the results from the research and draws conclusions from the collated data. It begins by summing up all the core issues discussed earlier in previous chapters including a recap of the key research questions. Afterward, a review of how the key objectives were satisfied and a summary of the results are described. Finally, conclusions are drawn and recommendations for action are also included.


5.2 Summary of the Research

The research so far has presented the aim, objectives and the background problems that induced the formation of the theoretical framework as well as the research questions. Following this, a research methodology was sequentially adopted to answer the key objectives of the study as presented in the research analysis and findings.

In addressing the aim and the objectives of the research, the main approach used was to review the current state of affairs in architecture ICT literature. This was then trailed by investigating the use and relevance of these findings in Nigeria through survey questionnaire. At the end of the empirical study, the level of ICT infrastructure in the firms, the extent of ICT usage and a set of reasons hindering the use of ICT reflecting the different perspectives of the architects were appropriately established. The research came out with key findings some of which addressed the main aim and objectives.

As mentioned earlier in chapter one, this research was set out to identify the factors hindering the use of ICT by Architect in Nigeria. To achieve this, three research objectives were adopted in order to collectively satisfy this aim.


5.3 Conclusion

The following conclusions can be drawn from the study:

  1. Notwithstanding the many challenges of the Nigerian architectural firms, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is well recognized by architect in Nigeria as a significant technological spotlight that can help increase the effectiveness of communication and data during the architecture process. The study has indeed revealed that, there is a significant level of awareness among the architects about the potential benefits ICT could offer to their operations. Whilethe use of some selected ICT hardware, notably Desktop PCs, Laptops, digital cameras and mobile phones appears high, more advanced and potable mobile ICT hardware such as Personal Digital assistance (PDA) and Tablet PCs were found deficient. Again, general attitude by the firms towards ICT is positive and this approach may have influenced their confidence to use the technology to various extents. However, current level of ICT usage in general appears to be at a more rudimentary stage consisting of basic hardware and software applications. Though more advanced technical applications of ICT seem to be lacking, most of the firms‟ perceived their current usage of ICT as average.
  2. Overall usage of commercially available software applications for specific work tasks such as general office administration, planning and scheduling, architectural and engineering are encouraging and well recognized within current practice. Most common software applications in use included Microsoft word and excel for general office applications, Ms Project for Planning and scheduling and CAD for Engineering and architectural drawings. Surprisingly, commercially available software for project cost estimating and quantity surveying works are not adequately developed. Most software in use for estimating are self developed and mostly based on Microsoft excel spreadsheets. Although respondents were not aware of any industry specific software developers locally, most firms appear very confident to support such ventures in the future.
  3. The use of Network infrastructure such as Local and Wide Area Networks (LAN/WAN) by the firms for internal and external communication and data exchanges is generally a less mature field. However, Internet access and use of computer-supported communications such as E-mail and the web is very prevalent through the use of wireless network connections and individual modem. Most ICT related works within the architect‟s organisations are handled by technical and administrative staff at both the company offices and
    project sites.
  4. Digitization of business activities associated with resource planning and scheduling, Bookkeeping and accounting, payroll, communication and distribution of documents (e-mail), Technical calculations, Costing and Budgeting; Resource management (labour, Plant and Materials), Project Cost Control by the architect were very encouraging. Though majority of firms were deficient in the use of most advanced ICT tools and applications, the trend is that mobile internet applications and Short Message Services (SMS) through the use of mobile phones were significantly gaining adequate level of usage. As a whole, there appears to be a high level of optimism among the firms that more advanced ICT applications such as Electronic Purchasing, Modeling and visualization (eg.3D-Cad), Project Specific Websites, Electronic Tendering, Videoconferencing and intranets applications could gain some patronage in the near future if the necessary awareness is created.
  5. Finally, it is notable to recognize from this survey that, the most significant factors affecting the use of ICT by architect are: Budget constraints for ICT investments, Lack of commitment by firm’s management towards ICT, Lack of training and technical support for architecture professionals in ICT, Inadequate ICT content of architecture education and the fact that majority of client not interested in firms ICT base.

These factors should explain the main reason behind current level of ICT usage by among architect in Nigeria. It is therefore plausible to acknowledge that, whilst the posture and interest towards ICT by architect in Nigeria seems promising, these factors continue to be a major issue that stakeholders and individual organisations need to address in order to increase usage and derive the full benefit of ICT.


5.4 Recommendations

On the basis of findings and conclusions drawn from the study, the following recommendations are proposed.

Financial support for ICT investment in building firms.

Investing in ICT is no longer primarily buying a piece of hardware or software. It is now more of a potential long term investment in the process of change itself (Cleveland 1999). Due to obvious tight margins for funding ICT within most architecture the firms as revealed in this study, there is the need for some internal policies towards ICT investments in building architecture firms. It is therefore recommended that, architecture firms should be motivated by the direct benefits of ICT and draw deliberate policies that provide some proportion of their internal budget for ICT investments. This will aim to improve both productivity and profitability for their benefit. Again, based on the understanding on the returns on ICT investment, financial institutions can assist architect in Nigeria to finance their ICT investment by offering flexible credit facilities to firms seeking to invest in ICT. This will support their operations to improve efficiency and payback the facility. Furthermore, architecture client may support architects upon request, to procure ICT equipments for their contracts as a means to support efficiency and collaboration on their projects. This will be deducted on installments from their progress payments.

Training and management support for ICT in building architecture firms. As observed from the study, the management of architecture activities is gradually moving from the traditional paper based format to more digital processes. It is therefore recommended that adequate ICT training and technical support for professionals in building architecture firms should be vigorously promoted by employers and other stakeholders such as various professional bodies and associations of the industry in Nigeria. This should aim at providing the necessary awareness and build capacity to meet future challenges in this marketplace. Again, there should be a closer cooperation between Nigerian ICT technology developers and architects to train professional and also develop ICT systems that will address the specific operational needs of Nigerian architects.

Client interest in architects ICT capacity

The need to promote the use of ICT through increased external requirement is very much recommended. This will require architecture customers/clients take into account the architects ICT technological capabilities as a criterion for selection. Furthermore, clients could often mandate the use of specific ICT technologies on their project, for instance, tendering on-line, specifying project control technologies such as scheduling tools, cost control systems, and communication systems such as email and project webs. This could boost the potential for competitive advantage through the use of ICT technology in the building firms.

Increase ICT content in architecture education at all level

As explained by Foresight 2000, the advent of computer and ICT integration in the architecture processes creates the need for „cross disciplinary education‟. By recognizing the importance of ICT education in architecture, it is recommended that a robust content of ICT education which will generate adequate architecture ICT skill acquisition should be incorporated in architecture courses as a supplement to technical knowledge and expertise in various fields of architecture study. A re-think‟ in this respect will help to deliver the require ICT skills for the Nigerian architectural firms. This will also be significant to develop and support the understanding of how ICT could be use to support architecture process at all levels to facilitate the necessary change and innovation.


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