Covid-19 and the requirement to work from home is creating many challenges for infrastructure delivery agencies and their supply chain partners. Many infrastructure delivery agencies are dealing with the immediate requirements of the crisis which is redirecting many Government resources as well as trying to transition their staff to working from home to ensure they are safe during these challenging times.
It would be tempting to put all upcoming procurements and current projects on hold to release pressure on Government agencies. Unfortunately though, one of the indirect impacts of Covid-19 is rapidly rising levels of unemployment due to the fear and uncertainty the private and public sector organisations have in terms of their current and future work prospects. If we delay procurements, there will be a ripple effect in delaying infrastructure projects which will lose further jobs in the construction sector in late 2020 and early 2021 and other associated industries and communities that rely upon them. Industry desperately needs Government procurement to continue throughout the current period which means we need to continue to work on designs, transport plans, procurements and other activities that will keep infrastructure procurements moving through to award and delivery.
This will require the Infrastructure Delivery Agencies to change how they go about procurement and look for more agile ways of maintaining momentum in a virtual world and supporting bid teams who are also struggling to work themselves. This confidence and certainty is critical to building the confidence and economy post the Covid-19 crisis back to “normal” levels.
To highlight the good work that is being undertaken, I am currently working on ten different bids/ procurements across Australia and NZ and to the credit of most of my clients they are finding a way of keeping things moving. These good news stories need to be highlighted in demonstrating to all Infrastructure Delivery Agencies and their supply chain partners we can find a week to keep progressing and moving in a very different way. To highlight these examples, some of the things we have learnt through this virtual procurement and bid work in the last three weeks are:
- Training, workshops and other similar activities can continue during this period but need to be structured as smaller shorter sessions over a week (i.e. 4 x 90 min sessions) rather than full day workshops or training. In fact, this can be a great way of keeping people connected during Covid 19 and a very good way to keep investing in people and projects through virtual collaboration;
- Procurements and bids can continue during Covid 19, but it is likely teams will be more task orientated which may impact on innovation, understanding of risk and group alignment towards building high performing teams;
- Face to face interactives between principal and bid teams are being done via video conference with great success. However the trick is to reduce the length of the interactives (90 to 120 mins), limit interactives to max of 10 people and only cover 1 topic per interactive (which may require more interactives but at less duration per meeting);
- Agencies need to be more direct around what they do and don’t like during interactives, as it becomes more difficult for bidders to ‘read between the lines’ when they don’t have face to face and physical connection with people which limits reading body language and other non-verbal cues;
- Contractors need to be more streamlined and focused on where they spend their time and dollars winning budgets. This means being more selective around which projects they bid for and reducing bid costs through efficiency. Government agencies should be supportive of this and not waste resources of bidders through bureaucratic or non-urgent procurement activities. This may mean moving towards agile procurement approaches which speed up selection and reduce the work required in a bid to get the market and their supply chain partners moving;
- Consultants will be under pressure to demonstrate value and operate efficiently as budgets are squeezed. Fit for purpose outcomes and deliverables need to be focus along with being agile to change and moving targets which can change weekly;
- Tender and bid teams need to be more intentional around communication with each other particularly around expectations, priorities, what is important and what is not;
- We all need to be less perfectionistic in these times and accept that everything won’t be as polished from suppliers and service providers during this time. Measure of success should not be perfectionism but the ability to maintain momentum, be adaptable to change and understand that we need to work as one team to deliver community infrastructure outcomes during challenging times.
I encourage all people in professional roles within our infrastructure industries on both client and supply chain side to work around this Covid-19 challenges and keep projects progressing. It may be inconvenient and less perfect than before, but if we allow delays and inaction it will be jobs and communities downstream that will be impacted through potential economic downturn, social and well-being challenges and other potential impacts of Covid-19. Focussing on progress not perfection should be the priority for all of us as we pull together to ensure our community does not just survive Covid-19 but thrives post the experience.