Setting projects up for success
In Australia, infrastructure projects generally have very strong governance frameworks in place. For example, assurance reviews (where an independent team of experts assess a project’s progress) provide a key mechanism for ensuring initiatives meet their objectives and manage key risks.
But while gateway reviews are important for assurance, their formality and the frequency with which they take place—at the end of each stage, every twelve months or so—can slow project development down.
Adopting a more iterative approach where reviews happen regularly would allow the vital feedback generated to be incorporated more readily and reduce delays at the same time. Ensuring that reviewers adhere to the scope of assessment is also critical.
By having more regular reviews, independent assessors could focus on the assessment scope rather than other details outside it (such as design elements that are likely to change in later stages), while giving them assurance that the project won’t veer off track in between review gates.
Another important element of setting projects up for success is stakeholder engagement.
Major infrastructure projects interface with many stakeholders, so a clear framework that guides responsibilities and engagement is vital to ensuring projects progress successfully towards investment decision and beyond.
There are many government agencies involved in infrastructure projects in one way or another, but not all stakeholders are equal when it comes to project development. In the same way that a clear scope must be provided and adhered to for assurance reviews, successful projects require clear delineation between the governance forums with decision-making responsibilities and forums for engaging with government stakeholders. Clear terms of reference for stakeholder forums that define the rules of engagement can help keep things moving.
In our considerable experience, another major delay in the development of major projects is the time it takes to recruit a project team and procure the expert planning, technical and commercial advisors. This time is compounded when the team needs to be separately procured at every stage of the project lifecycle.
Focusing efforts from the outset to recruit and procure a high performing project team and retaining them through the various stages of project development is an effective strategy to reduce the time brought about by government procurement processes (which can be many months). It also ensures project knowledge is retained, and team dynamics and relationships with stakeholders are maintained across the project lifecycle.