Redefining best value, industry collaboration and the environment topped the agenda at the fourth Infrastructure Intelligence "Coming Out of Covid" webinar on Friday 19 June, writes Rob O'Connor.
The webinar, “Changing business models in a post-virus world”, looked at what a post-Covid-19 world could mean for the way that construction businesses deliver their services and work with clients and other stakeholders.
Infrastructure Intelligence editor Andy Walker hosted a typically strong line-up of guest speakers from across the industry, including Ann Bentley, global board director at Rider Levett Bucknall and business models lead at the Construction Leadership Council, Sarah Wilkes, global solutions lead business advisory at Arcadis, Margot Day, global director for risk and commercial law at BuroHappold and Ron Lang, value impact director at the Construction Innovation Hub.
Ann Bentley began by outlining how business models can be vastly misunderstood within the industry, with the current pandemic acting as an eye-opener for main contractors who perhaps previously didn’t fully appreciate the models used by their respective supply chains.
Referring to her work on the CLC’s 2017 report on business models and the supply chain, she outlined how a lack of alignment, understanding and long-term planning across the industry had all been brought into sharp focus – but that a post-Covid future presented a strong opportunity for the industry to change.
Procurement was also under the spotlight, with Bentley highlighting that more could be done to help clients achieve their goals, with a stronger emphasis on redefining what exactly was meant by best value. “Cheapest is not always best,” she said.
Ron Lang outlined that, as the country starts to emerge from the pandemic, there would never be a better opportunity to leave the current business models behind and change the way the industry works for the better. Reinforcing Bentley’s views on the vital importance of redefining what best value meant, he stressed the need to build a more sustainable future for both the industry and society itself by helping clients make informed choices on best value and called for an industry-wide definition of best value to be developed.
Crucially, Lang also stressed the importance of focussing on the right projects at the right time and getting the right people in the right rooms to make the best possible project decisions.
Margot Day confidently outlined how the industry should use Covid-19 to press the reset button and concentrate on best value and long-term sustainability of future projects. “There’s a real push for a green recovery,” she said. “And that will be much easier to sell to the public than maybe it was six-months ago.”
Achieving best value was also on Day’s radar, as she pointed out that redefining best value should allow the industry to collaborate much more effectively and positively than had previously been the case. “We have to move away from a blame culture to a collaborative model,” she said, pointing out that collaboration encourages innovation and that successful alliancing models across the world had already proved that collaboration can work well.
Sarah Wilkes said that although the industry had already been changing, the pandemic had sharpened the focus and presented a great opportunity to change the way the industry works for good. Changing the perception of best value, with the emphasis on sustainability, local economies and the environment were all key to building a successful future, she said, while helping clients choose from different options rather than relying on off-the-peg procurement options was also high on the list of a more innovative future.
Infrastructure Intelligence editor Andy Walker said: “This webinar highlighted the crucial importance of collaboration, discussion and getting the right people in the room when decisions are made about projects, as these all have an impact on the way that our industry does business. It is clear that the whole industry needs to change the way it works, not only to deliver better and more socially valuable projects to society, but also so that we ‘build back better’ as the sector recovers from the Covid-19 crisis.”
The first four Coming Out of Covid webinars have already attracted hundreds of industry professionals, and hundreds more have already registered for a combination of the next event on Friday 26 June and also the newly announced series of Friday morning ‘Covid recovery’ webinars throughout July.
The next free webinar in the series, “Communications in a new digital landscape”, is on Friday 26 June at 11am and is being delivered in association with specialist communications agency for the built environment, BECG.