It is widely acknowledged that work undertaken later in any product development process costs relatively more than that conducted early in the process (Gause and Weinbery, 1989).
Research currently underway at the University of Salford in the development of a generic design and construction process protocol has highlighted the need for greater "front-end" activity in the process.
Many of the potential benefits associated with an improved process can only be realised with significant IT support. Indeed, the IT will only achieve profound change if its introduction and use is linked to changes in the overall conduct of the design and construction process.
This paper looks to present a "vision for the future" regarding IT in construction. Much work has taken place in recent years looking to exploit the advantages of IT to the benefit of the design and construction process. However, too much of the work that currently exists is inappropriately focused upon the latter stages of the design and construction process. This is mainly attributed to the fact that the mechanistic approach to producing the building (product) at the construction stage has always
been a major concern to the client and his team. An apparent lack of process thinking in the construction sector is also another major factor. In addition, the existence of IT rapid prototyping tools has been lacking in the last few years. This is now being remedied as the industry is now
embarking on new ways of doing business, and the technology in terms of VR and 3D modelling which can support rapid prototyping is being progressively developed. This will ultimately result in a better structure of the overall process through the capabilities of IT.
This mis-alignment of research does not only occur between academia and industry. Within industry itself, the many participants common to the design and construction process also have distinct differences of opinion when asked to prioritise their IT needs. The results from a recent questionnaire survey of a broad spectrum of industrial and academic representatives will support this claim, and
will demonstrate the need for a common, agreed process upon which design and construction work is based. Within a process oriented context this paper will therefore discuss the future IT needs of the industry, and will propose priority areas and an IT map for both industry and academia.
KEYWORDS: construction, process, IT, strategy, future.