David Bentley of NetConstruct explains why firms should be more worried than they are about their internet strategies
For an industry that achieves so much through innovation, construction is surprisingly hesitant about e-business.

Of course, there are notable successes. Collaboration extranets are reducing the time and cost of projects, and websites have become the primary tool for delivering product information. Indeed, without such sites, today's building materials manufacturer is just asking to be relegated to the sidelines.

These applications may create a rosy glow of progress, but there remains a void in the general direction of e-business. The internet is at the heart of business life. The signs are all around us. Media, banking and retail all rely on it. Through the web, they carry out myriad transactions with their customers and suppliers.

One advantage for most sectors is their relative stability of operation and relationships. Construction does not have this luxury. We are, by the nature of what we do, working in a fragmented, project-driven environment, and can be reluctant to embrace some aspects of change.

Many construction organisations still position web responsibility some way down the management pecking order. The very diversity of where you may find it is a clue to the problem – marketing, IT, planning, finance and even the enthusiast who took it on alongside the day job.

Crucially, do those with responsibility for the web have sufficient access to their organisation's business plan? After all, that is what the web is meant to support. In the other direction, are mechanisms in place to keep the board fully up to speed? Six months in e-business is like two years anywhere else.

To add to the dilemma, the web story has now taken a twist. Do not look to media or banking for a lead, but towards the government and the latest standards for implementing e-business in the public sector. High on the agenda is more collaboration across all central and local government and better engagement with partners, service providers and the general public. The impact will be operational and technical, and will spread far beyond government bodies.

The message seems clear. Wherever you sit within construction, firm up your web strategies to be well positioned for the future.