Summary of Research Activities
The key research contributed to date includes:
1. HM Treasury Benchmarking and Government Client Improvement Reports
Launched in 1998 by the Paymaster General, these reports, written by Agile team, form the key driver for the Government's initiative to improve its role as a Client, providing a critical supplement to the conclusions and recommendations of the Egan report.
- The Pilot Benchmarking Report demonstrates that cost adherence and programme output across a range of key government clients is unpredictable, with two thirds of projects exceeding their cost estimates and three quarters experiencing delayed completion.
- The Client Improvement Report utilised these Agile benchmark metrics as the basis for further research with industry client and supply representatives to examine how public sector procurement was performing. The study revealed that the government sector needs to manage construction procurement more consistently and effectively, and that this process should be facilitated through effective measurement and identification/eradication of obstructions to the process flow. It also concluded that an integrated project culture should be pursued, supported by an increased availability of standardised components and designs and more widespread application of IT solutions.
- The Second Stage Benchmarking Report reveals that, because of communication failures, short tendering periods and lack of strategic partnering, findings similar to the First Stage Study persist. Coupled with this was a culture of low expectation for service quality. The study introduced Risk Identification and Control Maps as a mechanism for measuring client performance against a range of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
2. Ministerial Initiative Achieving Excellence
Launched by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and ACI in 1999, the Government Client Construction Panel (GCCP) Achieving Excellence action plan represents the Government's intent to apply the lessons learnt from the Agile reports. Agile continues to provide a strategic focus for the overhaul and improvement of construction procurement across the entire government under the direction of HM Treasury.
3. Productivity Benchmarking Software and User Manual
A site productivity benchmarking method has been piloted and utilised on 25 major projects with a total value of £1,100 million. Initially develop for benchmarking major road project, its scope has now been broadened to include other types of civil engineering and building projects. The method is supported by interpretative database software that allows for the comparison of performance of a particular activity against performance elsewhere on the project, within the organization as a whole, and across all the database contributors. Integral to the development and administration of the database is Agile's independent data collation and analysis role acting as an honest broker between industry partners. The site productivity benchmarking provides a rational system for measuring successful output that allows good practice to be identified and disseminated to the industrial participants. The data collected to date, demonstrates that a 28% improvement in productivity is not unrealistic.
4. Widening the Partner Base
There are now seven major partners within Agile Construction Initiative, representing the entire construction industry supply network. This has enabled Agile to make significant research findings. These include:
- Cases studies of road projects that have demonstrated the positive impact of changes to the management structure, in particular introducing teamworking and empowering the workforce, to supplant traditional line management.
- Other road project case studies that have investigated the use of new control techniques including buffered programming, theory of constraints and value management; and shown that these techniques lead to improvements in quality, cost and delivery.
- Some client research has shown that the application of different contract forms e.g. Design and Build, do not lead to more predictable project outcomes.
- Agile is the first research organization, anywhere in the world, to successfully conduct a complete Cost of Quality analysis within the construction sector. The COQ research has shown that between 15-23% of contract value is attributable to quality issues. The majority of these costs are indirect. However, the client pays for them through inflated tender prices. COQ has now been extended to encompass building projects.
- Using a Delphi technique it has been established that the key supply network issues for effective project strategies are: mutual assessment between supplier and customer; development of a common language; the adoption of broad strategic vision using methods like scenario planning.
- Consideration of the project life cycle has shown that there are fundamental problems with the definition of what is needed to genuinely support assessment for the project's life. The evaluation techniques used apply cost and service life information to discounted cash flow models and so link decisions to probability. Whilst the knowledge of costs and service life can be improved still further, the resources required are considerable and the distant returns do not necessarily justify improvement. This has led to the important conclusion that a new evaluation model is required that can address the wider issues that have been shown to lead to poor investment decisions