Blake Newport


Time is all that matters for Games Delivery

Construction News - 31/08/2006

The ODA needs to keep a close eye on its contracts, writes Greg Brownlee

Following the publication of the ODA’s procurement strategy, I could not help but ask myself which stakeholder has the most influence on the Olympics.

Is it the stakeholder who first provided the funds? Is it the stakeholder responsible for maintenance and repairs? Is it the user? Is it Ken? Is it Seb? Is it Gordon? Is it you, me?

Confused? You will be. The Olympics is the biggest challenge that has faced this industry, yet we are only now beginning to truly examine the risk and opportunities involved.
But the suggestion that the ODA plans to apply a sophisticated approach to managing risk and maximising opportunity chills me to the core. What better way, after all, to ensure that it is wholeheartedly avoided?

People do not like complexity. In fact they will do anything they can to escape it. The nature and size of the Olympics May he impressive but it is simplicity in approach and process that will pay dividends.

Contract management is not about paying lip service to a concept but about endorsing it at a practical, grass roots level. Let us look at the Olympics like a business with an overriding ethos. Just like a private organisation, what good is this ethos to them if it is not adopted and applied at every level of their team?

All those involved with the Olympics, especially the construction aspects, must be required to prove that they have a robust and correctly applied process of risk management already implemented within their organisation. Failure to do so should mean exclusion from the Olympic build programme, no matter what their remit.

Try coupling an immovable deadline with notions of “achieving a legacy”, “stimulating national long-term growth” and ‘fundamentally improving the environment” and you will find they ratchet up even further. But which of these elements takes precedence?

Implementing and managing the right contact for the Olympics is a big task but it is an essential part of a much bigger picture. Risk, opportunity, liability, responsibility and resource are all essential considerations but when it comes down to it the immovable deadline beats them all.

While cost is a major problem with any public project, especially one of this magnitude, time is by far the most critical and inflexible of all criteria. All the jobs in connection with the Olympics have immovable mile stones and completion dates. There is not the luxury of ‘flexibility’ that has allowed other major public funded projects to overrun.

It is all too clear that the most important aspect in terms of delivering the Olympics on time is the development and pro-active management of a detailed, integrated programme of work that is analysed at every stage.

What is the best contract for all this? Partnering? PFI? PPP? Major Project? Traditional? Bespoke? You can pick any of them. It does not matter.

To be successful, all contracts must be entered into in a state of partnership, trust and knowledge and with the acceptance of risk. But without clarity and clear contract management they are all equally subject to fallout, mistrust and concealment.

My advice to the ODA is to make sure you have the best foundations in place when it comes to risk, opportunity and potential disputes, otherwise the Olympic Dream is likely to become increasingly unstable.

Greg Brownlee is Director of Blake Newport

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