Technical Interview

A conversation with Middle East Consultant & Amanda Clack, Partner, Regional CEO, EMEA

First published in Middle East Consultant – April 2023 Edition

What are the factors driving dispute resolution in an increasingly complex, multi-stakeholder market? What is the growing impact of technology and how can it analyse, correlate and simplify the data terabytes that client organisations present?

How can an incoming sector champion launch and integrate ‘touchstone’ initiatives for the EMEA territories? Paul Godfrey spoke to Amanda Clack, Dr. (hc) HKA’s Partner, Regional CEO, EMEA, in a quest for the answers…

Amanda, you have an extraordinary background of both leading on strategy and delivery, working with ‘process-driven’ organisations; is there a Golden Rule for the processes of dispute resolution?

“I’ve spent nearly 35 years working within the Built Environment. My experience throughout has shown me that the Golden Rule is working with the right team and bringing in the best experts that can provide effective solutions, recognising that every project and situation is unique. Getting the best possible people around you to tackle the most complex matters is essential. Then, having comprehensively analysed every stage of a project, you need to be able to clearly communicate the complexity of the findings so all stakeholders can easily understand the technical issues. That really is a skill.”

“Whether you’re talking about a nuclear power station, a stadium, or a hotel, at HKA, utilising our global reach, we pride ourselves that we can bring in the most experienced subject-matter experts from around our global business to assess any aspect of the work.”

“How well and cogently do we do this? Our clients tell me why they choose to work with and become clients of HKA. They say that whenever they see the HKA brand whether on a report for them or on the other side of a dispute case, they feel a thorough due diligence has been done and that there is a robust process at the core of the findings for the project. That for me is ‘job done’.”

We increasingly see high technology making inroads into professional decision-making: to what extent do you plan to heighten the technology commitment of the EMEA division, particularly in terms of digital dashboards and client interface?

“Technology isn’t an option in our business. We must continue to be at the forefront of technology and be experts in handling data. Sometimes, for example, a client will give us a terabyte of data in a one-off ‘datadump’.”

“We utilise e-discovery to provide an initial analysis. We can then scrutinise that data and documents quickly, efficiently and effectively, making sense of it and really picking out the essentials. If we didn’t have this capability, it could take months to wade through all the documentation before we could even start the work! So, we use advanced sets of expert data analytics that give replicable results and ensure there’s a robust, objective framework for our people to work within – we call it Delivery Excellence. Think of it like this: by using the right technology, we enable our experts to work efficiently and effectively for our clients. Technology is the key enabler for where the discerning expertise of professionals actually begins.”

“We also see the ever-expanding role of BIM and how BIM technologies are integrating data sets into the design process more and more; so, if you haven’t got the right analytics, how will you ever hone into understanding the priorities and issues buried in that mass of data? How will you ever single out the stakeholders, find out who did what, and whether they were in possession of data that should have informed them to act differently? It’s our job to understand this.”

“Another good example is the fact that we are also involved in a great deal of Forensic Accounting and Investigation, and this is a territory where your digital and data analytical skills must really be front and centre. It could potentially take years if you didn’t have the precise tools and mindset for identifying and locating what you need when you need it.”

“Complex data retrieval and analysis might be the result of technology, but in essence, you’re doing it to empower and facilitate your people and teams to do their job professionally and efficiently. It’s also vital to train people to understand exactly what part of the process they’re in and ensure they’ve got all the tools they need to feel comfortable and be effective – and that should be the case at any stage of the client journey. Through our Delivery Excellence process, they can come in from outside and immediately know exactly what to do and how to use the data they have – and for us, that’s essential.”

As an ‘in-coming leader’, what do you see as your main priorities in 2023?

“Firstly, it’s been about bringing together the strengths and capabilities of the newly combined EMEA Region; thereby strengthening the HKA service line capabilities across the regions.”

“My main priorities are twofold: Our Clients and Our people.”

“We are putting our clients at the heart of everything we do to better service and continue to anticipate their needs in better managing risks, disputes and uncertainty on their complex contracts and challenging projects throughout the region. Our clients will always be a key priority for me as Head of EMEA, and I am really enjoying getting to meet many of our fabulous clients and listen to what they are telling me about HKA, our people, their projects, and the market.”   

“But we are effectively a people-focused business. So, what is also key is investing in great people by attracting new and diverse talent to complement our existing team of experts, consultants and advisors.”  

“It would be easy to say that it’s all about the growth opportunity, but the reality is that really doesn’t exist without delivering a great service to our clients and having the strongest, most talented expert people in the right roles and locations to be able to do that.”

“I love meeting our clients and our people. Certainly, being here in the Middle East, I am reminded of why I joined the built environment sector in the first place.  Just looking out of the window it is palatable to see and feel the ambition and the clear pace of change that is transpiring.  What is also apparent is how we can make a difference to our clients, but also in helping shape people’s lives through the projects we help deliver. That vision must be what drives us as professionals.”

Do you see HKA as potentially becoming a natural ally of Government and the public sector here in the region?

“The first thing I should say is that I understand the importance of having that influence and ‘access’ from my time as Global President of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). There, we regularly interacted and interfaced with governments given our purpose of acting in the public interest.  Notably, my themes as President were: Cities; Infrastructure; and the War for Talent.”

“Here at HKA, do we have an open door to the Government? Yes, we have. Do we have exclusive relationships in the public sector? No. But throughout, our primary focus – and what HKA is essentially about – is bringing the best possible skillsets, and solutions to our clients in both the public and private sectors alike.”

“Perhaps the best proof of this is that, sometimes, when we have resolved a particular dispute in our client’s favour, the party who lost then comes to us and says next time, they want us to represent them! They recognise how important it is that they get the best expertise and quality service – and that, of course, is how you build a business.”

Tell us about how you see the CRUX Insight Report and its impact in the market.

“The CRUX Insight Report provides unique insights on capital programmes from around the world, drawing on data from over 1,600 projects in 100 countries, having a combined CAPEX of more than US $2.13 trillion. The data and findings allow us to provide a unique insight for our stakeholders across the globe.”

“The CRUX report means a lot to me because it was through this that led me to join HKA! I was asked to write anexpert commentary introduction to CRUX in 2021, and this is not something I ever do lightly. I really believe in investigating what I am putting my name to. So, I asked to read through the previous CRUX report, and I also wanted to see the draft of the one I’d be writing for. When I saw the quality of the report and the significance of its findings, of course, I was happy to endorse the report.”

“CRUX is so important because it assimilates a wealth of experience with clients and projects, puts it in the context of data from markets and economies, and then presents it in a digestible form. We can also use that same data as a prompt to take a deeper dive, creating a digital dashboard that we can present to clients and discuss particular areas of concern, and look at where their priorities should be.”

This region probably has a greater number of more complex, multi-stakeholder projects (the Saudi ‘giga-projects’ are a good example) than anywhere in the world. Do you believe these call for a unique and distinctive style of dispute resolution?

“In this respect, one of the advantages we have is that we’re not newcomers to the region, we have over 40 years of working with clients and creating bespoke solutions across every scale of a project. Our team bring specialist technical expertise and have a profound knowledge of the region. They are problem solvers that decode complexity and always strive to make the possible outcomes a reality for our clients.”

“But remember, the key question you need to ask with ‘giga-projects’ is how do you set them up for success when there are so many unknowns and complexities? One recommendation may be, for example, to create a Dispute Advisory Board (DAB) from day one, so that if things go wrong, rather than have an adversarial approach, you bring people together to develop solutions for the right outcomes whilst allowing the project to continue in the background.  Getting projects of this scale off the ground is not easy, so it makes sense to minimise the risks from the outset. So, I say, let’s have a conversation – rather than everyone getting entrenched, tying up huge sums of money, and as a result the project just gets further behind schedule. As our CRUX Insight Report tells us; taking time to properly plan projects is far more cost effective when compared to fixing the problems later, which undoubtedly can be disproportionately expensive!”

“I’d like to mention another angle that is so often overlooked and that is the question of how you’re going to get the very best people engaged on these projects from the outset. This is where the pandemic was, ironically, very helpful. When it comes to the use of technology to bring people together, in some respects, we probably moved forward a decade in our use of remote working over just a couple of years. This is especially true when it comes to trusting individuals and teams to work off-site and believing in the high quality of what they are doing remotely, removing the necessity to physically be present to see what’s being produced. Technology is a great enabler here. It enables you to bring the best minds together, wherever they may be in the world – which is precisely what the new generation of giga-projects absolutely demands.”

“Technology is undoubtedly a key enabler in giga project delivery effectiveness, and unquestionably helps the environmental agenda too. is It’s absolutely at the heart of what we do at HKA and is how we empower our people to deliver excellence for our clients anywhere in the world.”

This publication presents the views, thoughts or opinions of the author and not necessarily those of HKA. Whilst we take every care to ensure the accuracy of this information at the time of publication, the content is not intended to deal with all aspects of the subject referred to, should not be relied upon and does not constitute advice of any kind. This publication is protected by copyright © 2024 HKA Global Ltd.


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