The increase of global competition in today’s business environment has created a web of interconnectedness and interdependency between nations. This interconnectedness has induced competitiveness among nations, industries, and firms within the industries. The construction industry, in particular, appears to be facing a wide range of challenges and difficulties in its attempt to preserve the current level (or to improve its current level) of competitiveness for its survival and growth and to stay invincible in the market. These difficulties have significantly caused the construction industry to be criticised for its low profit-margins and relatively poor performance. The exploitation of digital technologies is expected to be one of the most reasonable methods, especially at the individual organisation level, of finding feasible pathways to enhance competitiveness in construction. There is evidence that shows digital data-driven approaches have a positive impact on organisational competitiveness and this provided the motivation to undertake this study.
The study is concerned with the exploitation of Building Information Modelling, Big Data Analytics, and the Internet of Things (BBI) for the competitive advantage of the construction industry. The methodology employed in this study is a combination of both semi-structured interviews and web-based questionnaire surveys, where the quantitative data was elaborated and expanded by the qualitative information. The study expands its boundaries to present a comparative study across four sectors: Construction, Retail, Finance, and Manufacturing within the UK.
The study first investigates the current level of exploitation in the above technologies as ‘strategic tools’ across four sectors, in the United Kingdom. The investigations established that the more firms exploit the technologies, the more chance they get to enhance their competitive edge. The relative level of exploitation for BDA and IoT was highest in the Retail sector. In Construction, the most exploited area in BIM was the ‘effectiveness of the performance in daily tasks’. The highest exploited area for BDA in the construction industry was ‘strategic leadership’, while the ‘efficacy of daily tasks’ was the highest exploited area in Construction by using IOT. The investigations also revealed that BBI exploitation not only impacts individual organisational competitive advantage but also causes it. The role of synergistic exploitation of BBI in the enhancement of competitive advantage was a highlight in this study. It was revealed that these synergies enhance competitive advantages in higher levels than they are exploited individually. The study established a connection between the level of BBI exploitation and competitive advantage enhancements by highlighting their individual benefits and challenges. In the exploration of possible lessons learned from RFM sectors for the construction industry, ‘Development of an organisational strategy’ to exploit the technologies for organisational competitive advantage was prominent.
In the investigation of factors impacting BBI exploitation, and competitive advantage enhancement, the study demonstrates that there is not only a significant positive correlation but also causation from specific cultural and structural factors. For example, low power distance not only significantly impacts, but also significantly causes the ability to exploit technologies. Interestingly, organisation size had a bilateral correlation with exploitation. The quantitative data retrieved from statistical analysis predominantly aided establishing these correlations while more insights were received from qualitative data analysis. The findings lead to the development of an interactive strategic framework (https://bit.ly/366mZlc).
Management skills/ knowledge dimensions which managers at different levels need to possess to varying stages of the exploitation life cycle was a vital consideration of this study. The level of importance and the need for training in the skills/ knowledge dimensions indicate that the majority of senior managers believe that ‘information management’ and ‘innovation management’ are the two most important skills/knowledge dimensions that require the most training now and for the future. The findings lead to the development of an interactive skills- and-knowledge inventory (https://bit.ly/3mPg32q) for all three levels of managers. While these research outputs address the gaps in the literature, they make original contribution to the wider research discipline by emphasising ‘how best to enhance individual organisational competitive advantage’ by exploiting the above technologies.
The study recommends that the areas indicating the lowest level of exploitation need more efforts for improvement. BIM exploitation, for example, embracing new routines and processes, is an area that must be improved. The study also recommends that the synergistic exploitation of BIM, BDA, and IOT (BBI exploitation) gives a higher level of enhancement in competitive advantage than when they are exploited alone, and thus encourages such synergies. The strategic framework and the skills knowledge inventory together advocate ‘how best’ to enhance a firm’s competitive edge by exploiting BIM, BDA, and IoT. Research to establish factors, other than culture and structure, that may impact on BBI exploitation is recommended. Devising a method to establish measurable outcomes of BBI synergistic exploitations is another area for future research. More comprehensive research is recommended on the impact organisation size has on BBI exploitation.