Sir John Armitt & Royal Academy of Engineering report calls for more innovation in infrastructure procurement

The report presents the findings of series of workshops that drew together civil servants and senior figures from a wide range of industry sectors. The report recommends that each project is overseen by strong and consistent leadership that adopts a systems approach, an especially important safeguard where a contract is disaggregated to allow several smaller contractors to take part. It also highlights that having a clear vision and understanding of the purpose of the procurement is vital not just for commissioners, but for all engaged, and that both the client and the supplier communities need the right skills to understand the vision and purpose. The report’s recommendations include:

  • Leadership and vision must be stable for the life of the project. The implementation of a systems architect or design authority to oversee the entire project is an important component in this process.
  • Procurement should be treated as part of a wider project, with distinct contracts each contributing to the overall project objectives and a systems approach being taken throughout.
  • Steering away from monolithic IT contracts and infrastructures towards more agile and modular systems and commissions.
  • Process alone is not enough. All players need to be motivated to engage in the right behaviours.
  • More trust in innovation. Although it carries risk, it can also deliver big wins in the long term.

Sir John Armitt CBE FREng, former Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority and member of the expert panel behind the report, said:

“The report highlights that having a holistic approach or, in terms more familiar to engineers, a systems view of procurement projects, is the basis for success. Procurement needs to be included within the whole project planning process and not left to last once budgetary decisions have already been made.

The success of the Olympic Delivery Authority, for example, was due to the extensive planning, faultless execution and commissioning. The project timeline of seven years included two years of planning, four years of construction and one year of commissioning trials and final logistics.

Although it might not always be possible to work on such timelines, including procurement in the planning stages of any project is likely to bring benefits.”

The full press release is available at the Royal Academy of Engineering website.

The report launch is also the lead article in this week’s NCE magazine.