Why has the QS profession been so slow to adopt electronic tendering, asks BCIS executive director?

“It is inconceivable that in five years time we will still be sending printed documents by post to get tenders.”

When I said that, or something like it, at the RICS IT conference back in 2002, it didn’t seem too bold a statement. Yet here we are five years later, and the BCIS research (admittedly carried out last year) suggests that over three-quarters of tender documents are still sent to and fro as hardcopy in boxes.

The amount of re-keying of information within the industry must be phenomenal! The role of the scribe, thought to have died out within 100 years of the invention of printing in the 15th Century is alive and well in construction in the 21st Century.

Currently, nearly half the contract documents seen by the BCIS are priced by hand – all of the numbers will have been calculated on a computer.

Surveyors say that they are concerned about lack of standard systems, legal issues, technological requirements and costs. Personally I think that the first three are excuses to do nothing.

Cost was an issue but that has been removed by the introduction of RICS eTendering which offers a pay-per-tender access to a fully developed e-tendering service at £500 per tender. Use of the system is free to contractors (suppliers) who are invited to tender.

Currently RICS members ‘own’ the procurement process for construction. Unless the profession can offer modern tendering practice it may well find its pre-eminent position as the advisers on construction procurement under threat.