Revisiting client roles and capabilities in construction procurement

The need to improve performance of procurement in construction has resulted in several structural changes and re-arrangements for the acquisition of the client’s development scheme. Much of these changes have focused on the contribution and roles played by parties other than the client to the delivery of projects. The role of the client during these changes has evolved from one of a passive fund provider to an increasingly active participant and hands-on management in some of the procurement arrangements. However, there is little evidence that these evolving roles have been met with a commensurate progress in project delivery performance for client organisations. There is evidence that lack of progress is hindering project performance. Simultaneously, research has so far given less attention to the changes in client’s roles over time. This does not only call for a clarification of contribution the client makes in delivery of projects, but also highlights the need to re-visit the client roles under different procurement systems, and at different project phases, including pre-construction, construction and operational. This paper presents a review of common procurement arrangements in the construction industry and the changing roles of the client’s organisation. The paper also explores the client’s role in each of these arrangements to establish what capabilities enable effective project delivery and performance. The identification of the capabilities is achieved by mapping client roles against procurement arrangements. The analysis of mapping exercise shows that the client has two types of capabilities for the delivery of every project: a primary capability required by all clients; and secondary one that is specific to a particular procurement case. The primary capability could serve as the minimum threshold for self-evaluation by client organisations.