On 12th May 2011, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in conjuction with the South Wales and West of England branch hosted an event where Sue Kershaw for the Olympic Delivery Team (ODT) gave a presentation on "Client Best Practice Guide".
As well as her role with the ODT, Sue was a core member of the team that developed the Institution of Civil Engineers Client Best Practice Guide. This is, as far as is known, the first time such a guide has been drafted and collates over 200 nuggets of best practice for the delivery focused client. Initial research had shown that the skill base amongst project clients is not good, with up to 50% not believed to have the skills to deliver their projects. This suggested a significant need for the guide as a tool to help individuals identify where they may need further training and development.
Sue noted that the guide was a collaborative effort utilising a wide range of experts and specialists, and that peer reviews had maximised the input from the teams experience.
Few will be surprised that the document saw the clients role as critical to delivery and that best practice includes taking responsibility for the outcomes, developing a collaborative culture, pro-active relationships between partners and the appropriate use of process - for procurement and other areas where statutory or other requirements exist. Whilst the guide is available in hard copy, ICE has developed an on-line client maturity profiling tool that allows clients to test themselves against the guide: http://clientmap.ice.org.uk/.
Presentation of the guide would have been a good event on its own, but Sue went on to show how many of the features in the guide have been used in practice to successfully deliver the largest peace time transport projects in the UK, valued at around 1bn. The programme is UK wide transport for spectators, 203 heads of state (with their entourages and the associated security), the site workforce and supplies, linkages to all the UK training and competitive facilities and in particular to ensure that the athletes would get to their events on time.
The programme naturally has a wide range of interested stakeholders and we heard how each seemed to have their own agenda so the management of expectations, with an eye on reality, was essential to offer the best experience for all whilst leaving a lasting and useful legacy for the now regenerated parts of London.
Key elements of the programme management include; the development of collaborative relationships alongside the co-ordination of multiple infrastructure projects; developing positive can do relationships with stakeholders and optimising their wishes; excellent communications that are open and honest; clear and active governance arrangements that offer real time change control, risk management and reassurance to Ministers (and others) that it will be ready on time. This is underwritten by an equally active reporting / governance system that is kept as light as possible to minimise the administrative burden whilst retaining a real overview. Many client organisations may have much to learn from this feature.
Perhaps the overriding message is that whilst excellent processes and systems are essential, its the relationships between people that ensures that things are delivered for this international showcase event for the UK.