The construction sector’s Decision Making Unit (DMU) is far more complex than many business-to-business markets. This is because the team responsible for designing, selecting, purchasing and installing products is usually created for a single project, employed by different organisations and then disbanded.
To further complicate matters, the nature of the relationship between the members of the project team will depend on the type of contract used (Traditional, Design & Build, Management, PF2).
For an effective specification strategy it is necessary to understand the type of contract being used, then identify the organisations and decision makers in the project team. In this blog we take a look at the key players within the DMU, reviewing their influence on the decision making process.
In construction the end customer, or Client, will have varying levels of influence on product selection.
Large property portfolio Client’s wish to ensure that the products selected will project the right image for their company and meet their safety and performance standards, which may be higher than National Standards. They may insist on Prescriptive Specifications for products which might impact upon the operating costs of their buildings.
Property Developers also understand construction and will have in-house expertise and work closely with independent specifiers to develop properties which are economical to build and marketable.
Very often the Architect is the starting point in the process of specification selling.
The Architect distils the requirements and advice of the other members of the DMU. He starts with the Client’s needs in terms of how the building is to be used and the image the Client wishes to project. This then has to be developed to meet the requirements of a range of performance criteria, including the Building Regulations, insurance demands, operational needs and increasingly sustainability.
He has the potential to act as the node between the Client, Main Contractor, Specialist Contractor and many others to ensure the right products are selected and installed correctly. The introduction of BIM is further encouraging this culture.
Although the Architects remains important remember he is not the exclusive decision maker.
Engineers play an important role in building design, often providing evidence on new forms of technology. They have a variety of disciplines including Civil, Structural, Electrical, Mechanical, Acoustics and Building Services. There are also specialisms within these categories.
Their approach is information based, wanting to know both technical data and the background behind it. Like architects they want good quality technical advice.
The Quantity Surveyor
The Quantity Surveyor can be found in many different roles on the construction project: representing the Client, acting as Project Manager, writing specifications, giving advice on sustainability. Occasionally he makes product recommendations but more often he is overseeing choices to ensure the Client gets value.
The Main Contractor
When specification selling there is the tendency to focus on just the Architect or Engineer forgetting about the Contractor. Perhaps this is because when we think Contractor it is often the Buyer, Estimator, or Project Manager of a Sub-contractor. An often forgotten specifier works for the Main Contractor and will be responsible for many product decisions.
If a project is Design & Build or PF2, the Contractor will be directing the Engineer and Architect’s product selection. They will have in-house decision makers interpreting the Client’s needs and briefing the specifiers.
In the Traditional form of contract the Contractor should have limited influence over product selection. However this could change with the adoption of Building Information Modelling.
“The Contractor adding a BIM object, following a performance specification by the Architect I see as being the norm. With earlier engagement from Contractors, there will be earlier procurement, with greater activity at the front end of the construction process.” David Philp, Head of BIM Implementation, Cabinet Office
As the name suggests these sub-contractors are specialist and have a good understanding of the products they install. The larger players, particularly for larger systems such as facades will often advise the Client and Architect on design. With a trend for performance specifications final decision on product selection with often rest with the specialist Contractor. Sales people often talk to the buyer in these organisations and it is hardly surprising that the conversation is about price, try to build relationships with other decision makers who are more interested in the value proposition.
The Facilities Manager
Facilities Managers have previously been most influential with PFI, where their experience will influence product selection, however with the Clients growing realisation that operating costs during the life of a building can exceed its construction costs we expect the Facilities Manager to have an increasing influence on product selection.
It is important for the Specification Salesperson to build relationships with as many key players in the DMU, getting to know the inter-relations on each project. The Architect and Engineer are no longer the primary influencers. The Main Contractor, Specialist Contractor, Facilities Manager and Quantity Surveyor can all influence product selection. And then of course there is the Client, for whom the building is being constructed.
BIM is affecting the influence of the key players in the DMU. BIM will become an important sales tool and the Specification Salesman needs to ensure that they’re using it to its maximum advantage, in the same way that they use other items in their toolkit, such as literature or CPD seminars.