The roots of a fragmented UK construction industry perhaps lie in our historical social class system. Times change however and so do culture and values. In the construction industry we now want to work as one team to a common equitable set of terms.

In 1994 Latham effectively said: not good enough, here’s how we should do business. Latham singled out NEC for high praise and set out targets for UK public sector use. Though there are many users outside this group, there are now over 500 NEC Users’ Group member organisations. Take a look at the diversification, influence and expertise of our users on NEC is used in at least 21 countries, there are leads in at least 27 more and more than 65 countries have downloaded NEC information packs. There is OGC and South African Government endorsement. NEC is the contract of choice for many organisations.

The NEC Panel exists to provide the best contracting system available. 2008 will see the launch of the NEC3 Supply Contract and the NEC3 Term Service Short Contract, among other initiatives.

So what does 2008 hold for NEC users? My advice is to use NEC for the right reasons. Use it because:

  • it reflects the behaviour you expect from project participants;
  • you believe in project management principles; 
  • you wish to have a hands on approach to managing risk and change in real time; and
  • you are prepared to make decisions.

NEC is not a panacea for all the ills of our industry, regard it as a toolbox to help you manage a contract.

  • Start by understanding what NEC is about – get some training.
  • Let’s then learn to manage risk – emphasise mitigating, reducing or avoiding risk. Let’s try and use NEC3 contracts unamended if possible – beware the z clause salesperson.
  • Put the project first. Let’s write clear, comprehensive tender documents, responsibility lying with those preparing such. How about a senior director of the document compiler’s organisation signing a tender document off by saying “I am proud of this tender document – it is clear, comprehensive, professionally written and reflects our client’s needs”?

So, that’s my wish for 2008. When we’ve sorted that lot out, maybe in 2009 we can turn to behaviour, communication and contract administration!