The ICT industry is currently being subjected to a large amount of disruption. This disruption is coming from many fronts; we are seeing the emergence of Software as a Service, Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service. And of course, there’s digital disruption, one of the largest challenges facing business today, which is a separate topic entirely.

Many of the service providers offering these services are sharing high quality information and advice on how to deploy their services. We are also seeing end-clients becoming increasingly competent with technology projects through their own inhouse experience. Combine all of this with the vast amount of readily available content online that can help shape and inform opinion on the best approach for getting an ICT project underway.

We commonly encounter end-clients or System Integrators who have medium to large infrastructure projects to deploy. Quite often, the project team consists of extremely talented resources; so what is it that places them in a situation where they are faced with setbacks?

Why projects have scheduling delays and budget overruns

There are two common scenarios that create issues for projects.

Scenario 1: Lack of capability
Project team members may lack the specific skills and project experience to confirm the requirements and produce effective designs. This is generally an indicator of the maturity of an organisation. Figure 1 is a Network Maturity Model, this type of model is used to determine the capability and maturity level of an organisation.

Tech Update Cube

Capability is a challenge to many end-clients. Many of these businesses have an existing ICT team that gets tasked with developing the requirements and preliminary designs for projects that are outside of their core capabilities. There will be hesitation about hiring permanent staff as they are only needed for the duration of the project. This results in an informal approach (see Table 1) to the market as the business is not aware of all of its shortcomings. Key requirements are missed as the team simply has not had the experience with the solution in question.

Scenario 2: Lack of Capacity
This scenario occurs with many System Integrators. The SI may have an excellent track record in project delivery however due to the volume of concurrent projects the SI simply may not have the right people available at the right time. This could potentially affect quality as inadequately qualified team members attempt to ‘have a go’ or the schedule experiences delays until the right people do become available.

So why engage Engineering Consultants?

The objective of all projects is to deliver an outcome on time, within budget and to fit-for-purpose quality. However, there is often a trade-off between budget, schedule and quality.

Simon Zaiko - Time Quality Cost

It is imperative that all projects hit the ground running. In the event that there are gaps in either capability or capacity, using the right engineering consultant will keep the schedule and budget in the green.

A respectable Engineering Consultancy will have:

  • Defined Systems and Processes: a good test of this is to ask for a fixed price. A Consultant with a mature well-defined process will be able to deliver the required work at a fixed rate.
  • Independent viewpoint: A Consultant should bring an unbiased perspective and objectivity to the challenges faced by the business.
  • Qualified People: Do you need a degree qualified engineer? Do you need a Chartered Engineer? Is there specific industry qualifications required to complete the project? Working with a Consultant you will gain access to specific skills and project experience not available inhouse
  • Experience: Be specific. Ask for a reference where the Consultant has done this work previously. Ask them to define their methodology and approach upfront. Does the Consultant have specific industry experience (do you want a really experienced Corporate IT Specialist deploying an ICT project on an Oil Rig?)
  • Quality Systems: Is your business ISO 9001 accredited? Do you have a well-defined quality system? You should expect a similar level of quality systems and commitment to continuous improvement from your Consultant.
  • Short-term Resource: Consultants an excellent short-term asset as they can be engaged on a temporary basis, allowing your inhouse team access to additional skills, and even training through the transfer of skills.

Case Study
Titan ICT was recently engaged to provide engineering consulting for a large road infrastructure project. The engagement commenced at the end of the design phase just as construction was ramping up.

The primary construction contractor (a large electrical contractor) had concerns that the ICT elements with an approximate value of $50-million were going to result in long delays to the practical completion of the project. They were concerned about the Liquidated Damages (LD) to the Project potentially running into the millions of dollars as well as damage to their reputation.

The cost benefit analysis outlined below provides insight into the value, as an external Consultant, Titan ICT was able to provide the client at a critical phase of the project rollout.

DesignConstructCommissionTotalImpact
Capability not Present – No engagement0000The ICT Elements of the project were on schedule to fail the Independent Verification.Due to the long lead time of equipment this would have resulted in 6 week delay and resulted in LD’s of approximately $10-12M
Engaged at Construction1500 Hours1500 Hours3000 HoursThe actual effort profile was approx. $450K.Delivery and Commissioning risk was minimised and managed. There was a significant amount of re-work.
If engaged at Design1000 Hours500 Hours500 Hours2000 Hours – $300KThe overall effort profile will be lower resulting in less cost, it is estimated that early engagement would have cost $300K.Delivery and Commissioning risks could be managed if caught early. This could have helped ensure the project was delivered on time with minimum LD’s due to the ICT systems.

By engaging appropriately experienced Engineering Consultants early in the project, the Principal Electrical Contractor was able to augment its own engineering team with qualified, experienced ICT personnel. Titan ICT provided a significant amount of project engineering (over 3,000 hours), with the majority of the work focused on rectifying defects with the design that had flowed into construction.

Conclusion
Large-scale projects are inherently complex. Only by precisely understanding the required capabilities, experience and effort profile can you hope to deliver on time and on budget. By engaging the right Consultant you not only add people to your team, you should also gain access to an entire back office of knowledge, systems and processes. This is what makes an Engineering Consultancy a good project partner.