Effective supply chain engagement, progressive procurement and collaborative forms of contract can bring real added value in the delivery of an infrastructure project, and the commercial manager in Infrastructure is perfectly placed to make it happen, says Stephen Blakey FRICS, Commercial Projects Director, Network Rail.
What are the key challenges facing infrastructure investment?
Across the various infrastructure sectors, the key challenges are familiar; the safe, consistent, predictable and timely delivery of ‘more for less’, fault and dispute free, in a way that is sustainable to our supply chain and instils stakeholder confidence in the capability of our people, process and systems.
What is the role of the Commercial Manager in meeting these challenges?
They are the ‘Commercial Stewards’ of infrastructure investment; informing procurement strategies, assessing market sentiment and capability, mitigating risks, managing supplier relationships as well as performance and entitlements, influencing and predicting costs and pursing value for money.
What attributes do clients look for in an infrastructure Commercial Manager?
There are many but I would pick two aspects which I think are particularly significant. Firstly, the capability to address for key questions; what should it cost, what will it cost, what did it cost and why. Being able to answer these questions is a key aspect of commercial stewardship in infrastructure. Secondly I believe that in addition to meeting ethical and professional expectations, todays infrastructure commercial manager has to role model collaborative behaviors, which are increasingly relevant in our pursuit of value for money.
You mention collaboration and the pursuit of value for money, tell us more…
In 2011 Network Rail committed to making collaboration the platform from which we would deliver our multi-billion investment programme and to lead the rail sector’s supply chain in developing its collaborative capability. We secured BS11000 accreditation in 2012 and in March 2017 became the first UK client to achieve ISO44001, the international standard for collaborative working.
In addition, we created the role of Head of Collaboration and developed effective process and systems to support the cultural change needed to establish collaboration as the norm. And of course we employed progressive contract forms and established Alliances to deliver our major projects and national programmes, all of which are designed to create an effective collaboration between client and supply chain, bring added value and meet those key challenges.
For the rail sector and broader infrastructure industry, collaboration is now a recognised and credible approach that when properly employed can deliver real added value. For the infrastructure commercial manager, I see it as an increasingly important dimension of their professional capability and in turn, the capability of our profession.
RICS Commercial Management in Infrastructure Programme - gain a competitive edge in infrastructure and meet the growing skills demand by developing your commercial management proficiency and knowledge. View course details