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Client Guide

Infrastructure is foundational to a better life for all

Communities are surrounded by infrastructure (the basic physical and organisational structures and facilities needed for the operation of a society or an enterprise) including the homes in which they live, the offices and factories in which they work, schools which are essential for the education of their children, and hospitals and clinics which are fundamental for their health and wellbeing. They are also surrounded by economic infrastructure which supports the economy in its totality. Road and railway infrastructure not only enable travel between homes and places of work, schools and hospitals but also distribute goods and services to communities. Border posts, harbours and airports are the physical links with neighbouring countries and the world. Dams provide water not only for human consumption but also for agricultural and industrial purposes. Power stations generate electricity. Networks deliver water and electricity to homes, places of work, schools and hospitals and convey industrial effluent and waste water to treatment works. Infrastructure is foundational to a better life for all.

About the Client Guide

The Client Guide, authored by Dr Ron Watermeyer, visiting adjunct professor at Wits, draws from a long and shared history of developmental experience with infrastructure provision.

The Guide looks at all aspects of infrastructure development, from the role of client and procurement strategy, to delivery management, project governance and value for money.

Download the complete Guide here.

Chapter 1: Introduction

All too often the gap between what was planned for and what was achieved in an infrastructure project is significantly different. There is a direct linkage between the role played by a client and the outcomes of an infrastructure project, regardless of its size, complexity and location. The root causes of infrastructure project failure can frequently be attributed to the lack of governance and poor procurement and delivery management practices, all of which are under the control of the client.

There is a dearth of literature on the role of the client which explains how a client can positively influence the success of a project. Several national and international standards covering aspects of governance, management and procurement have been published in recent years. This Guide draws on these standards to provide a guide on the role of the client and how a client can positively influence the outcomes of a project, regardless of its size, complexity and location.

Chapter 2: Client functions and practices

The principal role players in the delivery of infrastructure are the client team, the delivery team and stakeholders.

The client team needs to provide effective leadership and direction to the delivery team (project managers, designers, specialist professional service providers, manufacturers and constructors) and meaningfully engage with internal and external stakeholders. The client team performs a “buying function” whereas the delivery team performs a “selling” or “supplying function.” Both of these teams are driven by different objectives in the “buying” and “selling” exchange.

The principal role of the client is to ensure that a solution to the business case for a project is achieved. The client owns the business case of the project and is accountable for project outcomes. The client needs to provide effective leadership of the project throughout the project life cycle, commencing at a strategic level and ending at the close out of a project after the beneficiary of the project has accepted or operates the infrastructure that is delivered.

The activities directly related to the provision of infrastructure take place within product controls (budget, schedule, function, quality, conflict, health and safety and the environment). Such activities are informed by delivery constraints which in turn are shaped by an underlying context. One of the key tasks of the client team is to provide leadership in boundary-spanning actions and flows between the underlying context and the delivery constraints as well as between the product controls and the delivery constraints to achieve an optimal balance of the project benefits, risks and costs.

The client needs to establish a client team to own the business case, procure and pay resources to deliver the project, lead the project, manage relationships, oversee aspects of delivery and provide client direction. A client delivery manager (named individual) needs to be appointed to lead the client team and be held accountable for project outcomes. A client also needs to put in place project governance arrangements to provide the framework within which decisions are made in the delivery of infrastructure projects and for securing the buy-in of key players.

This Guide identifies the principal role players in the delivery of infrastructure projects and outlines their basic functions. It describes the pivotal role that the client plays in the delivery of infrastructure and what a client ought to do in doing so. It also offers guidance on how to go about establishing the client team and structuring project governance arrangements.

Chapter 3: Critical knowledge areas for effective delivery

The client team needs to have an understanding of delivery management, procurement, portfolio, programme and project management and governance in order to effectively delivery infrastructure projects. This Guide maps out the supply chain associated with infrastructure delivery management. Each of the tasks in the supply chain are linked to the next in sequence tasks via a decision gate. The supply chain represents the flow of information from one set of tasks to the next while the decision gates which form the link between tasks provides the opportunity for ensuring that the proposed project remains within agreed mandates, aligns with the purpose for which it was conceived, and can progress successfully.

The Guide also outlines the thrust of a number of recently published standards which cover the knowledge areas which client teams need to get to grips with to effectively perform its delivery management role. These standards address construction procurement (ISO 10845), project, portfolio and programme management (ISO 21500, ISO 21503 and ISO 21504), risk management (ISO 3100) and governance (BS 13500 and ISO 21505).

Chapter 4: Controlling work flows

Control systems are necessary to regulate work in relation to its context which may change from time to time.

Control systems accordingly involve the comparing of progress against requirements, objectives or targets and where necessary taking some corrective action such as taking steps to change the performance of the activity to bring it closer to what was planned or changing the plan so that it more closely reflects the changed situation brought about by the departure from the plan.

The Guide describes a control framework for the delivery of infrastructure projects which deals with the generic work flow associated with the planning, design and execution of infrastructure projects. This control framework is structured in such a manner that the viability of a project may be tested, monitored and controlled by the client team as it progresses. It generates information which informs decisions at particular points in the process. It links governance activities to the milestones in the delivery process. The Guide also provides a control framework for procurement which links milestones in the procurement process to governance activities.

Chapter 5: Procurement strategy and tactics

Procurement outcomes in infrastructure projects are sensitive to the decisions made during the planning, design and execution of such projects as well as during procurement processes. Procurement strategy is all about the choices made in determining what is to be delivered through a particular contract, the contracting arrangements, how secondary procurement objectives are to be promoted and which selection method will be employed to solicit tender offers. Procurement tactics on the other hand typically relate to the selection of the other party to a contract who is most likely to deliver best value or a cost-effective solution through the performance of the contract. They also relate to the setting up of contracts to not only allocate specific risks but also to incentivise performance to achieve best results.

Clients and their agents need to understand the range of options, tools and techniques that are available and what criteria need to be considered in order to make informed choices. The Guide establishes a generic framework within which procurement strategy and tactics can be developed.

Chapter 6: Improving project outcomes

Value for money can be regarded as the effective and efficient use of resources or the optimal use of resources to achieve intended outcomes. The Guide outlines and discusses the concept of value for money. It also discusses inhibiters and enablers associated with the improvements in project outcomes (and hence value for money) including optimism bias, strategic misrepresentation, collaborative working and digital technologies. This Guide also outlines the culture and mindset which may be required to embrace new and emerging practices.

Chapter 7: Designing an effective delivery management system

This Guide concludes with the outlining of steps associated with best-value procurement to reduce waste and error. It also outlines what clients can do to improve project outcomes in addition to adopting and embracing the practices contained in Chapters 2 to 6. It also briefly looks to the future direction that clients may take in making further improvements in infrastructure project outcomes.