The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Threats and Opportunities with Customer Relationships in Construction Projects

Jukka Pekkanen

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering for public examination and debate in Auditorium R1 at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 16th of December, 2005, at 12 noon.

Dissertation in PDF format (ISBN 951-22-7933-9)   [741 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 951-22-7932-0)

Note: The language of the dissertation is Finnish.


A sound customer relationship is a prerequisite for profitable business operations and the establishment of long-term cooperation. A special feature of construction projects is that a customer relationship is typically characterized by multi-party involvement. The required service is provided by an extensive network of suppliers, and the developer and end-user of the premises are often different parties. Another distinctive feature of construction is that it consists of projects where the parties and final products keep changing.

The present study was carried out to identify the factors that may, on one hand, promote and, on the other, undermine the establishment of a good customer relationship in a building project, including the required changes in the operating procedures that could contribute to the formation of such a relationship. Methodologically, the approach employed in the study was qualitative consisting of thematic interviews and workshops. When the data was gathered, the target group consisted of developers' and contractors' experts with extensive experience of office and business space projects. The interviews and workshops were conducted during the spring of 2005.

The most important single finding of the study is the identification of the threats to, and opportunities for, the establishment of a good customer relationship. The results provide information about the factors that support or undermine the formation of a good customer relationship in the course of a construction project. The key issues affecting the quality of the customer relationship are the coordination of the sub-processes included in the project, attainment of the objectives in terms of costs, completion times, and quality, consideration of the needs of end-customer, i.e., the actual user of the premises, as well as mutual trust, interaction and the clarity with which the responsibilities between the individual parties are allocated. The findings suggest that the efforts to improve the potential for establishing a good customer relationship in a building project require better management of the total process. In order to enhance performance, a number of recommendations are made associated with the management of the project-related contractual framework, coordination of sub-processes according to the type of project involved, and improvement of cooperative procedures and the exchange of information between the parties.

The approach used in the study offers a new perspective for developing the building process in the construction industry. The study can play an important role in the efforts to improve customer-orientation in building projects, and use can be made of the findings to support the creation of a good customer relationship. The recommendations for improvement are tangible and many of them relate to the same threats or opportunities associated with the enhancement of the customer relationship, and so they can have a mutually reinforcing effect. The suggested measures target all the organisational levels involved in a construction project.

Keywords: customer relationships, construction project, threats and opportunities, delivery methods

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© 2005 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26