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Why Infrastructure Project Costs And Timings Are Becoming More Certain

February 19, 2024
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Predictability is a stubborn issue in infrastructure project delivery. You certainly don’t have to look far in the press for high profile projects where budgets and timings have ballooned.

The reality is that out-turn costs and timings have always been uncertain across a large percentage of projects, not just in the UK but across the globe. It’s an issue the sector must bring under control, and there are reasons to be optimistic.

Step one is to believe that predictability is a problem with a solution. Yes, there are inherent uncertainties and complexities in any significant infrastructure project. But rather than accept them, the priority is to understand and find better ways to manage them.

Not All Complexity Is Inevitable

How much project complexity is inevitable? And how much could be reduced by making simplification a priority: limiting the number of processes and movements of people, equipment and materials? As our Lean implementation matures we’re seeing measurable improvements in all these areas.

Unexpected events and sometimes unexpected geology throw projects off-course. It takes a very honest post-project analysis to explore whether these were unexpected simply because the right questions weren’t asked up-front. That level of honesty is essential if we want to alter the reality for future projects.

Applying project learning is an area where embedding Lean principles makes a real difference. Building in time to reflect and share is an investment in future success. Becoming comfortable with complex data analytics will also help.

Devoting effort to looking, in detail, at how similar projects have performed in the past is essential. The traditional tendency has been to take an internal view of each project, considering each challenge as unique and frequently being over-optimistic about how easy they’ll be to overcome.

The internal-view approach is great for generating the answers that everyone wants to hear at project inception. But reality always has the last word – and has probably already spoken multiple times.

The Environment For Success

Finding solutions to the predictability conundrum is a shared responsibility. It’s not just a question of contractors and supply chains ‘doing better.’

There’s a delicate balance between precise project specifications and allowing room for innovation, and between ambition and optimism bias. This is the space Project 13 (also referenced in our earlier blog ) is exploring: moving away from rigid transactional relationships towards the Project Enterprise that fully engages all partners behind common objectives.

This approach helps overcome issues surrounding scope clarity and multiple stakeholder voices that lead to inconsistent and sometimes conflicting priorities. It engages specialist supply chain partners in a meaningful way and fosters digital transformation.

Octavius is committed to an open and collaborative approach to project planning and delivery. This is the foundation on which we’re building preemptive identification of potential issues along with more effective mitigation and management. All of this feeds into much more predictable project outcomes.

For more information contact Mike Todd (mike.todd@octavius.co.uk).

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