Road programmes: routes to long term success

In times of increasing change and uncertainty, it is agile infrastructure programmes that drive better value, adapting and evolving quickly to new realities.

By Mark Dyson, Director and Richie Hales, Director

The roads sector is critical for local, national and international transportation of goods and services. Now more than ever, roads are essential in supporting economic growth, enabling ‘socially distant’ travel and connecting communities.

So what are the steps for success that will enable roads programmes to be agile when faced with a changing landscape? The answer lies in the following three tried and tested stages of good programme setup and management.

1. Organisational structure and governance 

A clear structure and governance approach is the foundation for programme success – our global survey reaffirms this with the top reasons why programmes fail identified as poor governance (41 percent), lack of clarity on the decision-making process (34 percent) and late decisions (46 percent).

We have set out two test scenarios for you to check if your governance and delegation of authority are robust.

Scenario 1: Government imposed budgetary constraints are brought into effect and you need to prioritise the delivery of certain road schemes.

  • Are your programme objectives clear?
  • Do your priorities align with the key stakeholders in your programme?
  • Who are the right people involved in your decision-making process?
  • Who is empowered to take the necessary decisions?
  • Do you have a delegation of authority in place?
  • Can you make decisions quickly?

Scenario 2: There is a major utility clash onsite as part of a roads project. The project team have the information and capability to make a decision. Delays will result in additional indirect costs which are likely to exceed the direct change costs. Do they have the authority to make the decision and avoid time and money delay risks?

Programme setup and management stages

A) Have clear governance by establishing steering committees to involve stakeholders in key decisions from the outset. This will build trust in stakeholders’ ability to make decisions.

B) Set out a lean governance structure that makes clear the layers of delegation/escalation and determines who can make the decisions and how quickly.

C) Have outcome-focused project prioritisation criteria to ensure business cases are robust and there is a clear understanding of outcomes by all stakeholders from development to completion. Prioritise projects that align with your key objectives and outcomes:

2. Data-driven approach and supply chain engagement

The building blocks of data and collaborative supply chain relationships provide solutions that save cost and enable a faster, collective pivot if or when a change is required.

  • What data do you need to collect and how will it be made consistent? 
    Consider what data is required to inform decision making from the outset. Do you have the right economic data to support the prioritisation of projects if more trade and creating jobs is your primary concern? Establish the data collection protocols to ensure information is interpreted correctly.
  • Develop a robust baseline programme that identifies risk and pinch-points.
    Understand what you need and when you need it – this will allow you to plan effectively with the supply chain. Do you have any pinch-points where supply shortages could impact the programme? Consider whether or not local and regional supply chains will have the capacity to meet demand.
  • Engage the supply chain to drive efficiency through collaborative procurement.
    Set up collaborative procurement supply chains by encouraging the members to work together across programmes to drive efficiencies. Encourage contractors to share resources, jointly develop maintenance and delivery programmes and develop joint manufacturing facilities.
  • Keep your baseline programmes and data relevant to avoid surprises.
    Consistently update your baselines and ensure that programming requirements are clearly understood by the supply chain. Don’t be afraid of conversations about time. Problem solve and innovate together – joint solutions will make a positive change faster, reducing cost and delays.

Some suppliers may not be able to meet your resource demands where others can – active supply chain engagement will allow you to truly understand this. Roads programme clients must make sure that programmes are providing the most up to date and accurate information consistently to give confidence in decision making.

3. Future proof design and delivery for long term value

Demographic changes, reliance on different modes of transport, and unpredictable natural events can all impact transport programmes. Combined with the adoption of new technologies in transport programmes, projects and designs must also be future-proofed to embrace or incorporate planned or live changes in delivery schemes. We have outlined two examples:

Scenario 1: A once in a lifetime major storm event causes severe flooding and surface water drainage systems cannot take the water away as they are not designed for that level of damage. The impact this has on design changes resulting from the need to upgrade an existing underground system will disrupt routes and create much greater expense at a later date.

Scenario 2: Movement towards more smart motorways to reduce congestion and enable more consistent passenger journey times. This will require dedicated teams in roads organisations to manage pavement technologies, build using smart materials and technologies and procure specialist providers for maintenance works at additional cost.

Key actions for future-proofing assets:

  • Engage independent design reviewers to ensure that delivery agents are not conflicted between the need to deliver a programme quickly and if there are increases in the cost
  • Focus on designs that deliver long term value and embrace new technologies that enable you to do that
  • Think about the long term environmental impact and robustness of your asset. Future regulatory changes could render some assets unusable soon.

Mitigating risk on road programmes

The logistical challenges faced during COVID-19 related lockdowns have put pressure on major programmes everywhere. Restrictions on the movement of people, materials, plant and equipment have lead programmes to be short of resources, resulting in serious risk of time and cost increases.

Keeping programmes relevant and understanding outcomes, priorities and supply chain capacity will help roads programmes to mitigate and manage risk and make agile decisions for the benefit of the programme.

For further information contact:

Mark Dyson

t: 00974 5590 7238