Technical Interview

From brand building to bridging the professional divide – different perspectives from Andy Quincey

Rather than fixating on risk when setting out contracts, clients can benefit from thinking more about their values and how they are perceived as an organisation, according to Andy Quincey.

If this and other views of the HKA Principal seem somewhat heretical to some professionals involved in contracting, it is because they are informed by experience beyond the mainstream.

Andy’s highly successful track record in procurement spans more than 25 years in a variety of sectors such as automotive, retail, property, and not least, Europe’s biggest construction project, London’s Crossrail.

It was at Transport for London (TfL) – as Group Procurement Director, and then Director of Commercial until 2016 – that Andy bought into its vision of ‘the informed client’.

“Clients need to have a really clear view of what they stand for and how to translate their vision and values into contracting – rather than seeing contracting as something completely separate from the business,” he said. “It’s about understanding not just the client’s requirements, but also those of the market.”

At TfL, Andy led the transition onto NEC as a contract form and around the time a number of public sector clients moved to NEC on infrastructure projects, including the London Olympics. He believes there are lessons that are apt for Australia, especially amid a construction boom when suppliers can pick and choose.

“Clients should think about the contract form and what it represents. NEC says a lot about a client in terms of its plain English, a much more collaborative approach, and consistency. It sends a lot of signals to the marketplace,” he explained.

“I’m not saying it’s the solution to every contracting situation in Australia, but it’s important to recognise your contract is the biggest representation to your supply chain of what you’re like as a client, and what you want to achieve. The risk balance is vitally important, but some people get bogged down and focus on individual clauses.”

This is a plea to see the bigger picture, not a dogmatic view, he stressed. “I’m an advocate, not a zealot.” When a client does write a bespoke contract, he’d urge that, having agreed the risks allocation, liquidated damages and other terms, they review the contract as a whole and put themselves in the boots of the contractor or supplier.

Andy, who specialises in commercial / procurement transformation, made the move to Sydney last year. “The opportunity was really great timing as my children have left home and I was free to take on a fresh challenge. Australia is in a good place economically, with exciting work going on here.”

In return, he brings what he acknowledges is “a slightly different perspective”. With an MBA from Oxford (with distinction), Andy embodies the ethos that you need more than just traditional business skills to be successful.

His early career – following a teenage apprenticeship in a steel factory – was steeped in the Total Quality Management culture of the motor industry with Rover and later, Honda, where he managed relationships with capital equipment suppliers. He has also worked for British Aerospace and in fast-moving consumer goods and retail, mainly in procurement roles, with responsibility for a variety of projects from IT to building programmes.

During his nine years at TfL, Andy managed some of Europe’s most complex projects, including London’s congestion charging scheme, and was part of the executive team that delivered the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. Leaving behind its £4 billion annual procurement budget, he directed a major estate re-organisation for a major UK Government Department, before acting as chief executive of a county council, stabilising this financially distressed local authority.

This diverse experience colours Andy’s opinions on infrastructure projects, innovation and productivity, and what he sees as a limiting professional divide in many organisations.

A fellow of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply, he believes that knowledge gained in manufacturing, asset management and production services can inject greater commercial awareness into projects, complementing the expertise of colleagues who have followed the more traditional chartered surveyor route.

“I’m not advocating replacing QSs, but to have more of a mix in terms of commercial outlook is really important. And the same on the other side – QS skills are needed in asset management and for long-term issues,” he added.

Professionals will need to open up to innovation to close the productivity gap in construction. “The configuration of the supply chain is very rigid, with segregated roles, whereas in other industries they’ve become more blurred and flexible.”

“Although we are seeing some really good work now, the industry needs to look much harder at the whole value chain – not just the client side or supply chain, or individual bits of innovation.”

Andy cites the UK, where the government dropped the PPP build, maintain and operate contract model just as contractors had painfully developed that capability. “The market takes ages to reconfigure itself. There’s not enough thinking about the whole value chain in infrastructure and how it can be configured to best deliver outcomes.”

He believes there are lessons to be learnt from the way the automotive sector analyses process time required to develop something, delivery times, and how parts are configured on site. “There’s much more that can be done in infrastructure, such as the use of Lean and off-site manufacturing.”

The barriers in construction and heavy engineering to fresh perspectives take various forms, and questioning them may be controversial. “In the infrastructure sector, and rail in particular, there’s too much made of the safety case,” he said. Safety is critical in food manufacturing too, yet the sector has greater space for innovation and new thinking.

Contract forms can encourage innovation through collaboration, and the consistency of a standard form can reduce risk, he added. Variability is avoided in a manufacturing environment because it imports risks. Conversely, an organisation introduces variability by using different contract forms. “A standard approach means a much more consistent approach, less variability and less chance of dropping the ball – and less risk of contractor disputes. These troubles in contracts suck out huge amounts of time that you can save by having a consistent, more collaborative approach.”

The HKA Principal refers back to TfL’s contracting approach and the six-pillar model of procurement endorsed by the UK’s Institution of Civil Engineers. Contracting needs to be consistent with the organisation’s values too, and it builds the brand.

“You need to be able to tell the story – both internally and externally – about why infrastructure is required,” he said. “This becomes even more important when projects compete for funds from the public purse.”

Although we are seeing some really good work now, the industry needs to look much harder at the whole value chain – not just the client side or supply chain, or individual bits of innovation

Andrew Quincey, Principal

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