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Why Do 75% of Construction Projects Fail to Meet Deadlines? I UK

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Construction is complex business but even so, three-quarters of projects failing to meet the agreed construction timeline should give everyone in the industry pause for thought.

“Climbing the Curve”, KPMG’s global construction survey for 2015 uncovered a shocking fact. Shocking, that is, to those not already inured to it – only a quarter of projects were completed within or close to their originally agreed construction deadline.

There are often good reasons for this, but they need to be properly understood if there is any chance of improving the statistic.

Why so late?

All businesses are subject to deadlines – even if projects don’t always hit them – but the complexity of construction projects means not only that timelines can be seen as elastic, but also that they are subject to problems that don’t trouble other businesses, such as major disputes, and even the weather.

Project planning is a major issue in construction. A plan must be flexible enough to take account of the difficulties that will inevitably occur. At the same time, it can’t be too elastic – it needs to offer a reasonable construction timeframe that suits the client, the architect, the main contractor and all subcontractors.

Then there’s the issue of paperwork. Even the simplest construction project may involve multiple suppliers and subcontractors, so even the basic elements, such as contracts, can be difficult to manage effectively. Disputes often arise due to poorly communication between stakeholders, and slow reconciliations can rapidly blow up into full-on disputes.

Endless processing of paperwork, including the complex area of applications for payment, can quickly bog a project down, with arguments breaking out over materials, payments, time on site, delivery and more. So all parties need to be sure of both their rights and their responsibilities – and, naturally, how, when and how much they will be paid for their work.

2015 survey by Arcadis found that poor contract administration is the single most common cause of the disputes that occur in the construction industry. Given that disputes can bring work grinding to a halt, it makes sense to streamline as much of the administration as much as possible. A collaborative platform based in the cloud can really help alleviate the burden.

Not business as usual

That doesn’t mean there won’t be problems on site though.

When combined with skill shortages – KPMG reports 44% of businesses struggle to attract qualified craft labour, and 45% lack planners and project managers – it is easy to see how things can get so far behind, even when conditions are good.

The weather, of course, is something that is not under anyone’s control, and yet it can have a tremendous impact on construction deadlines. As the UK Met Office notes, planning is necessary as bad weather can cause major downtime on a building site.

Given these complexities, construction is unlike many other industries, particularly office- or factory-based ones, but with careful planning and improved communication, efficiency and order can be brought to a potentially troublesome area of business.


  • The majority of construction projects fail to meet their agreed timeline.
  • The most common cause of delays is disputes, many of which are administrative in nature and can be avoided.
  • Complexities unique to construction, such as weather problems, can at least be planned for.

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