Effective stakeholder engagement in variation order management at the design stage of public sector construction projects in Saudi Arabia
Alsuliman, Jawad Ali
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Variation orders affect the progress of any construction project and can be one of the main factors which may cause failure in delivering a project successfully. It is relatively difficult to deliver a project without any variation orders, which are most likely to occur at the design stage. Variation orders are complex in nature, as they involve the key stakeholders, together with a lot of information that needs to be requested, sent, checked, corrected, approved, clarified, transmitted or submitted, among many other processe. This research aims to develop a model that better manages variation orders in Saudi public construction projects in the design stage by engaging the stakeholders effectively in the process of the variation order management, to save the management time for the variation, improve the communication and relationships among stakeholders and avoid disputes and conflicts. The methodology used to achieve the research aim, influenced by the pragmatic views of the researcher, combined several methods. A series of exploratory interviews investigated the current practice of variation order management in Saudi public construction projects, with its strengths and weaknesses. Then, a questionnaire survey measured the level of power and interest of the different stakeholders in order to develop a model for best practice. Finally, focus group sessions validated the performance and concept of the developed model. The findings indicate that there are currently no formalised approaches to the management of variation orders at the design stage. In addition, there is a general lack of knowledge about managing variation orders. However, the conceptual model of common practice, based on these responses, can be divided into six main stages: identifying the variation order, analysing and evaluating variation orders, estimation, approval, implementation and documentation. Furthermore, the findings reveal a need to develop an appropriate variation order management system in the Saudi construction industry, due to the present lack of stakeholder engagement. A model for best practice of variation order management was then developed. The developed model determines the levels of power and interest, location and position for each stakeholder involved in the process of variation order management. The outcomes of the validation workshop were very positive from the participants. However, the participants put forward some recommendations, which were applied in the final version of the model.