1 in 10 subcontractors still using paper for tenders

One in ten subcontractors are still using paper for tenders, according to a survey conducted for Autodesk.

The report, Connected Procurement: The Foundation of Construction Success, reveals that 13% of subcontractors said most of their tenders were paper-based. Nearly 400 clients, contractors and subcontractors were surveyed for the report.

Beyond the stark figures that the report details, it’s the verbatim quotes that highlight the continuing challenges to the adoption of technology.

Of construction software, one client said: “It’s not used enough. At the end of the week, there’s lots of data missing, but everyone’s asking for overtime by then.”

Some aren’t comfortable enough with technology to use it. “My secretary sends my bids via email. I’ll help with the costing, but I’m no good with computers,” said a subcontractor.

Developing custom Excel sheets is a common approach. “I have a comprehensive Excel sheet that I’ve built up over 20 years,” said one main contractor. “It’s a monster – it covers everything.”

One main contractor hires a surveyor to come into the business twice a week: “He helps to check over the figures and the legal bits, and he helps me put it into the right format.”

Light at the end of the tunnel

But it’s not all bad news. There is some appetite for using technology in procurement; for example, one main contractor persuaded their client to adopt their construction management tool: “Once it was in place, they wanted to use it more and more. It’s got us noticed with them and they see us as more innovative. It’ll hopefully help us win more work.”

But there are barriers to adopting new digital tools. Reluctance in the leadership team can be a significant hurdle; one business owner confirmed: “I’m all up for it, but the directors are stuck in their ways. They wouldn’t be interested.”

Another said: “There was an IT guy who was driving the adoption of our software, but when he left people stopped using it.”

Digital confidence is also important, but those that have persevered have seen the benefits. “I was quite nervous using software at the beginning,” recalled a subcontractor. “It took a while for me to accept it and feel comfortable with it.”

Autodesk’s report concluded: “It’s time to reconsider legacy procurement processes, and look at how technology tailored to the construction industry can support vital decisions during preconstruction. Digital tools are available, such as: networks of construction professionals, for finding both qualified collaborators with proven track records and new projects to bid on; digital tools to support the tender management process, centralising bids in one place and streamlining administrative tasks; and in-built data analytics, to help spot mistakes in tenders and mitigate risks.

“Preconstruction can make or break a project. The right procurement processes can set businesses up for a successful and profitable project.”

Download the report here:

Image: 11552496 © Joanne Zhe |

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  1. This is probably a fair snapshot of the industry’s understanding of IT, not just procurement software. Some companies are still unaware of the security and protection to both parties that is offered by procurement systems: but underlying a lot of the problems are company’s failures to design a comprehensive electronic filing system for their business. Far too much business is kept on individual’s email accounts.
    Just as in the paper world when a company would have a filing system, so it needs an electronic system where information can be filed in a secure manner i.e. files that cannot be edited, and with folders that have appropriate levels of access, and in a readily retrievable manner – which is actually the whole point of filing.
    Our industry is ‘document heavy’ which pushes it towards IT, but the drive for more digital solutions in the field, both in design and in exchange of information will mean that those companies that do not fully engage in IT will, inevitably, be left behind.

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