Sharing intelligence means that business improvement is no longer the exclusive preserve of big companies

From the point of view of a small business like Pole Associates, the benefits of getting involved with Constructing Excellence are many. From the outset, as a small team of ten structural designers, the firm would simply not otherwise have had access to the pool of information that the agenda provides. Since it is a discussion led by larger companies, who have the means to invest in in-depth research, it provides SMEs with a way of learning from the experience of other companies.

One of the most important things to come out of CE is an emphasized need for teamwork among construction professionals. One of the benefits of a supply chain consisting of firms who have formed close relationships is the potential to provide a better-combined service for clients. In encouraging all sectors to work together, the initiative helps businesses to measure and improve their performance. This in turn provides focus for each section of the supply chain, and an idea of their context in the structure of the industry.

From a small-business perspective, CE also provides a very useful tool for structuring staff training. All too often, SMEs are guilty of failing to participate in training to the same extent as larger companies and, as a result, forego the benefits for strengthening their business. Pole Associates holds a weekly training session whose agenda often parallels that of CE.

The CE crusade advocates a need for businesses to strive towards best practise and best value for clients. This is a dramatic shift from a decade ago, when the industry was based on minimum price, regardless of the best interests of the public. In urging firms to work towards best value, CE is working towards raising the benchmark of quality within the industry in the long-term. This is achieved in part by the emphasis on Key Performance Indicators as a tool for forcing business to take stock of what they want to achieve, whether it is profit, client satisfaction, or a balance of a number of factors.

CE supports this focus on continuous improvement by emphasizing a need for self-monitoring and review of practise. In encouraging businesses to question their client needs and their own practise performance, the agenda seeks to create a new culture of working practice within an industry that has been particularly slow to change in previous years.

The Institution of Structural Engineers is one of the most pro-active bodies in the industry in promoting Constructing Excellence, partly as a means of raising the profile of the profession within the industry. Among other things, the Institution has formed its own in-house CE committee in order to provide a task force dedicated to the agenda, organising a number of initiatives for continuous improvement, including graduate toolkits and open-house seminars, the latter providing an opportunity for professionals from other sectors of the industry to integrate and share ideas.

Simon Pole, of Pole Associates, a small structural design firm in London, sits on the CE committee at the Institute of Structural Engineers