Are you integrating resilience into programme delivery?

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For many years the mantra for projects has been to manage the balance between time, cost and quality. More recently there has been additional focus, particularly in programmes, on the balance of cost and benefits through management of value and longer-term activities that realise the benefits from the investment in the programme. Programme managers are taking a wider view to consider what scenarios will play out and how resilient their programme outputs are to change, shocks and stresses over the life of the deliverables created by the programme. And, how the cost of future adaptation can be minimised when change occurs.

Programme managers responsible for the creation or upgrade of critical infrastructure are accountable for the creation of assets that will be around for many decades. The UK Government Cabinet Office Public Summary of Sector Security and Resilience Plans 2018 defines Critical Infrastructure as: ‘Those critical elements of Infrastructure (facilities, systems, sites, property, information, people, networks and processes), the loss or compromise of which would result in major detrimental impact on the availability, delivery or integrity of essential services, leading to severe economic or social consequences or to loss of life'. In the UK there are 13 Critical National Infrastructure Sectors: chemicals, civil nuclear, communications, defence, emergency services, energy, finance, food, government, health, space, transport and water.

The investment in capital cost of the construction of assets for major and critical infrastructure may not be the major cost in the longer-term. Costs associated with the operation, maintenance and adaptation of the assets for future needs may be significantly higher than the initial costs. Hence making decisions focused on driving down capital cost can have unintended and expensive consequences in the future.

Assets can be assessed through four dimensions to determine their measure of resilience (based on the Sector Security and Resilience Plans 2018):

Resistance concerns direct physical protection (e.g. the erection of flood defences). Resistance is ensured by preventing damage or disruption through the protection of Infrastructure against threats and hazards. This includes reducing vulnerability through physical, personnel and cyber security measures.

Reliability: The capability of Infrastructure to maintain operations under a range of conditions to mitigate against damage from an event (e.g. by ensuring that electrical cabling is able to operate in extremes heat and cold).

Redundancy: The adaptability of an asset or network to ensure the availability of backup installations, systems or processes, or spare capacity (e.g. backup data centres).

Response and recovery: An asset’s ability to rapidly and effectively respond to and recover from disruptive events.

Decisions made in the early stages of the programme or project life cycle can have a significant impact on the long-term resilience of assets. Often when a project budget is under pressure, functions that provide long-term resilience can be some of those that are first to be removed to reduce cost without a full consideration of the longer-term impacts. To prevent this some key questions to be considered throughout the project life cycle include:

Initiation – Do we understand resilience value for the project?

Concept – Do we understand the options to maximise resilience value?

Definition – Do we have the right selection criteria to select the most resilient option? Have we selected the best option to maximise resilience value?

Development – Is resilience built into delivery and protected if change occurs?

Programmes should integrate resilience assessments into the project life cycle to ensure the issue is considered at key decision points.

Globally the focus on resilience is increasing as well. The work initiated by the 100 Resilient Cities initiative has created the impetus behind developing resilience in major cities around the world. In the UK the five cities of Belfast, Bristol, Glasgow, Greater Manchester and London are participants. Each city has created the role of chief resilience officer within Mayor’s offices to assure that resilience is part of their infrastructure programmes. This is supported by the recently published City Resilience Guide that provides the framework to assess, plan, deliver and evaluate the maturity of a city’s resilience.

Additionally, The Resilience Shift was set up in 2016 to address recommendations set out in the Lloyd's Register Foundation’s Foresight review of resilience engineering to improve the resilience of critical infrastructure with a focus to promote two key impacts:

  • Decisions made along the value chain will account for how critical infrastructure contributes to the resilience of the larger socio-technical-ecological system.
  • Critical infrastructure will be planned, designed, delivered and operated to serve communities (protect, connect, provide) under ordinary and extraordinary circumstances.

Increasingly investors and insurers are seeking assurance from those developing or upgrading infrastructure that the assets will be resilient and requiring this as a condition for funding or insuring the assets. The Urban Resilience Fund (TURF) has been established to create a private equity fund that will invest in resilience infrastructure projects or large-scale infrastructure assets that provide support to a community’s economy and/or way of life.

As programme managers we have an accountability to not only deliver the benefits associated with the investments of the programme sponsors/owners but also to consider the future beyond the completion of the programme considering how our decisions or advice will affect the assets many years or decades after we have moved to our next challenge. How resilient is your programme and are you considering how your decisions will play out in the long-term?

Chris Beach

Posted by Chris Beach on 25th Jul 2019

About the Author

Chris Beach is a Director at Wood Plc and leads the Programme and Project Solutions Services to customers.  He is a Chartered Engineer and experienced Programme and Project Manager across Infrastructure and buildings sectors.  He is also a committee member of the APM Programme Management Specific Interest Group.

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