There’s an old joke about a man in the middle of nowhere trying to get to the big city. When he asks for directions, he’s told; “If that’s where you’re going, I wouldn’t start from here.”
The joke, which is occasionally funny, highlights one of the biggest and consistent value destroyers for our clients that we encounter at LCTS and that is when the engineering expertise isn’t in the room from the very beginning. If critical engineering choices aren’t made for sound engineering reasons on day one, the engineering team inherits a sub-optimal project foundation: “If that’s where you’re going, I wouldn’t start from here.”
It may seem obvious to have technical expertise and input available from the start but there are certain project dynamics, often financial, which can make it tempting to defer engaging with the experts until the project has a reasonable level of development and momentum. This article will briefly explain why that’s a false economy.
The first point is that nobody knows what they don’t know. Without informed professional engineering input to review the full spectrum of alternatives, the development team will be limited to the engineering solutions that they’re aware of and that they understand. There may well be a better way but, if the team doesn’t know what that is, it may as well not exist. The project management will be making choices and decisions based on an unnecessarily limited set of options, which may or may not include the best solution. Given the often tight margins in project economics, this could mean the difference between ‘go’ and ‘no go’.
Even if the engineering solution is workable, bringing the engineering team in later will continue to cause unnecessary problems and expense for the project since the first thing that the engineering team has to do before it can deliver further progress is to get comfortable with someone else’s plan and make sure that they understand it and that there aren’t any holes in it. If there are any problems, the team then has to enter and understand the original logic stream and technical approach in order to develop an effective solution. This is a time-consuming requirement and essentially involves duplicating work, which is not cost-efficient. This is entirely avoidable if the engineering team is in the room from the start and, like anything, the best results are most likely to be achieved by allowing the experts to use the full range of their expertise.
Allowing experts to use the full range of their expertise seems to be a statement of the obvious but it is surprising how often this doesn’t happen, not least because a client may not fully understand what the range of available expertise actually is and how it can be applied. That’s why at LCTS we take care at the beginning of the journey with our clients to spell out exactly what we can do and the many ways that we add value. It’s a consultancy’s responsibility to make itself as client-friendly as it can and we are very much in the camp that believes that the challenge is to see how much you can deliver for a dollar, not how little. It’s worth taking a moment to consider exactly what that means in practical terms and how it converts into client value.
The first point to make is the general point that experts cover the ground faster. We understand the options in broad terms so our focus is on understanding the specific proposal and the organisation putting it together. With this approach, everyone’s working efficiently from the start, which saves time and which invariably means saving money too.
In addition to the knowledge, we also have the networks and we’re able to tap into them at speed. This means that we know exactly who to talk to if there is some additional specialist knowledge required and we know who to trust. Again, this saves time and removes risk from the process.
The risk factor is particularly important because it is a critical element of whether a project can attract the necessary support, particularly with regard to financing. By having an engineering consultancy as part of the package, would-be investors can be confident in the technical aspects of a proposal and the consultancy is in the best position to manage any technical aspects of a due diligence. At LCTS we see ourselves as a fundamental component of any project financing effort with specific responsibility for explaining our technical solutions. This is of particular importance to our clients in the renewables sector where the technology is not as commercially established and where the technology risk is therefore perceived as being higher. It is also the case that the profile of many innovators in the renewables sector is one of considerable resource constraint, particularly with regard to finance. It’s a clear example of our clients being able to help us to help them.
The case for bringing in your engineering expertise at the earliest possible opportunity is unanswerable. You can be confident that you have access to the widest range of engineering solutions, you save time and money and you avoid having to do the same work twice. Your engineer has ownership of the engineering aspects of the project and is best-placed to explain them to others during the inevitable due diligence obstacle course that any project inevitably faces. The reputation and track record of the engineering team can also do a great deal to reassure stakeholders about the management of technical risk to a degree that is beyond the capabilities of any other business discipline on the project team. At LCTS, based on our long experience of multiple approaches, we are in no doubt that the earlier we join the process, the more we can deliver in terms of saving you time and money and reducing your overall project risk.
To re-work an old joke; if project success is where you’re going, start with LCTS