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Public procurement of engineering services

Task characteristics, control modes and effects on adaptability

Time: Mon 2022-05-23 13.00

Location: Bora Bora, Teknikringen 10B, Campus, Videolänk

Video link:

Language: Swedish

Subject area: Real Estate and Construction Management

Doctoral student: Klara Granheimer , Ledning och organisering i byggande och förvaltning, Trafikverket

Opponent: Professor Göran Lindahl, Chalmers tekniska högskola

Supervisor: Professor Tina Karrbom Gustavsson, Ledning och organisering i byggande och förvaltning; Professor Per-Erik Eriksson, Luleå tekniska universitet

QC 20220425


Previous research has emphasized the importance of engineering services and adaptability in the early stages of construction projects. Public clients usually procure engineering services from private companies, which makes their procurement strategies important in creating incentives for adaptability and innovation for the service providers. Due to the high uncertainty and clients’ lack of understanding of the tasks they procure, the procurement of services is argued to be challenging – especially for public clients. Despite this, studies on the procurement of engineering services are scarce, as is research on the effects on adaptability. The purpose of this thesis, therefore, is to increase the understanding of organizational control in the public procurement of engineering services, by focusing on task characteristics, control modes and their effects on adaptability.

A single case study of the Swedish Transport Administration was analyzed using the three models developed in the appended papers, i.e., the expanded control model, the procurement model for services and the classification model. The empirical data, consisting of interviews, observations and documents, were analyzed using visual mapping and flexible pattern matching.

The findings illustrate that uncertainty is the task characteristic that differs between the early phase of construction (i.e., physical planning) and subsequent stages (i.e., tender document), while knowledge of the transformation process is the task characteristic that differs between a standard contract and an environmentally sustainable contract. Thus, when procuring engineering services including carbon reduction goals where new solutions are needed, new procurement strategies are necessary. In order to cope with the high uncertainty and low knowledge of the transformation process, social control is preferable. In addition, using social control will enhance the service providers’ willingness to adapt. These findings are important in the procurement of engineering services because uncertainty and the client’s understanding of the tasks are two of the main aspects that make engineering services difficult to procure.

By combining task characteristics, control modes and their effects on adaptability, this thesis illustrates the importance of focusing on the entirety of organizational control. For example, even though process control and social control both incentivize the service provider to adapt to change, process control is less suitable for a public client when uncertainties are high. In addition, when choosing control modes related to the specification and reward system, it seems more efficient to provide the same incentives (i.e., process control may be combined with social control), whereas output control should not be combined with any other control mode. This shows the importance of combining the three variables and that the three main models of this thesis can be important tools. This knowledge and the models may therefore be useful to academics as well as practitioners. The results contribute to the scarce research on the procurement of engineering services for construction projects, as well as to the control literature.