In order for the construction industry to connect fragmented players and close the data loop, there is a need for industrywide standards for Internet technologies, according to Chip D'Angelo, vice president/business development for the McGraw-Hill Construction Information Group and spokesman for construction.com, an industry marketplace.

In order for the construction industry to connect fragmented players and close the data loop, there is a need for industrywide standards for Internet technologies, according to Chip D'Angelo, vice president/business development for the McGraw-Hill Construction Information Group and spokesman for construction.com, an industry marketplace.

"Automating the construction industry means first understanding the business process and proceeding with a systematic transition of traditional processes and systems to electronic platforms," he said. "It is critical to solve the interoperability between applications and connections to a company's in-house enterprise resource planning and financial systems. Without such a movement, the construction industry will continue to lag behind most other major industries."

Such interoperability across a proliferation of software applications and few standards results in inefficient communications between systems, he added.

While a construction project consists of five major phases -- design, procurement, construction, commission and operations -- current Web applications commonly focus on just one independent area. Each phase of the project involves a new team and the data developed in one phase frequently is unavailable to the next.

"Although this convergence (of technologies) has already begun, greater strides must be made to reach an acceptable level of standardization," he stated.

This philosophy is also embraced by a group of 26 major software vendors who recently formed the Business Technology Group to promote education and standardization and reduce marketplace complexity in the distribution industry.

"It was obvious that something had to be done in order to move e-business forward with greater simplicity," said Steve Epner, a principal consultant at BSW Consulting who helped establish the group.

The Business Technology Group will educate end users in the value of technology, yielding market feedback to influence the development of industrywide standards.