SITUATION

Following its acquisition, WSP New Zealand performed an engagement survey which found that while it had world-class systems, the march of time meant some were outdated and in need of attention. As a company constantly seeking improvement – and within the broader context of digital improvements taking place in organisations of all kinds – it set out on a transformation agenda called 'ReimagineNZ'.

“As part of this agenda, Assurity came in and trained a cohort of our people on change management as part of a Process Optimisation Training exercise,” says John Leatherbarrow, Manager – Commercial at WSP Global (right). “As a result of this initial engagement, and as one of the initiatives where we appreciated that change was necessary, was in delegations.”

The issue, explains John, is that Project Management delegations, known as DLAs (Delegation Level Authority) are complex and can be difficult for WSP staff to navigate easily. In fact, while personally working with DLAs daily, he describes them as ‘near impenetrable’.

“This is a major issue because the DLAs sit at the very front end of project engagement and relate directly to risk management. The DLA effectively determines who in the organisation should be approached for advice, insight and approval prior to a contract being entered into. If the DLA isn’t followed accurately at the outset, it can imperil entire projects and even put our organisation at risk.”

Beset with what John calls ‘a lot of contractual small print’, he further adds “They don’t invite you to look in. That means they might not be referenced when necessary or they might be misinterpreted. In turn, that means our consultants might not be getting delegations from the right level and so might miss commercial risks by failing to engage appropriately experienced people.”

A further factor is that executing DLAs isn’t considered a particularly exciting or rewarding component of tendering for a project; any improvement, particularly if it's automated or any part of the process is accelerated, would be highly desirable – alleviating a cumbersome task.

SOLUTION

To simplify and accelerate the process, WSP requested the support of Assurity to analyse the current DLA policy documentation and, in collaboration with key stakeholders, create a decision tree model to better enable WSP staff understand and apply the correct Project Management DLAs to their contracts and projects.

John's colleague, Ben Holland, GM Transformation, Commercial and Major Project Governance (left), explains that the organisation had an idea of what that might look like. “We’d conceptualised a solution but hadn’t put it into practice. With the success of the Process Optimisation Training, we got Assurity in, put forward our idea and said ‘over to you’.”

That idea was to automate the process as far as possible by using online tools which would rapidly guide the company’s consultants in the right direction. “We wanted an automated process where the consultant would need to respond to the fewest number of questions possible which would drive them to an answer,” Ben adds.

To this end, WSP handed its DLAs to Assurity for analysis. Delivery took place over the course of six weeks using Agile and Lean delivery methods, commencing with a discovery and analysis process. The second phase saw initial and then further development of the Decision Tree, including project DLA model analysis with design sessions alongside WSP stakeholders; demonstrations provided ample opportunity for feedback and advancement of the Decision Tree structure. By the final week, the model was completed and delivered with supporting documentation.

Ben says the initial Process Optimisation training engagement proved an ideal introduction to Assurity’s methods and approach. “This brought a lot of thinking processes to light and established the right mindset for looking at our delegations. After all, the delegations are about logic; Assurity hasn’t changed the delegations, which stay as they are, but has rather guided the thinking around them to get our organisation away from waste.”

It was, he stresses, a complex engagement. “The flexibility and rational approach taken has stood out in the delivery,” he adds.

RESULTS

The work delivered by Assurity has substantially simplified the way in which WSP consultants engage with the previously ‘impenetrable’ DLAs as John explains. “A consultant now asks four or five questions and the vast majority get the answer of who the delegated authority is or they are directed to the appropriate Subject Matter Expert.” The questions effectively activate the Decision Tree, delivering either a name or a position from whom the consultant should seek further input or approval.

The benefit however, goes far beyond speed and alleviation of a cumbersome task. “Commercial delegations are there for good reasons as they help manage risk for both parties when we commence a bidding process or enter into a new contract,” John points out. “Poor decisions at the bidding phase affect the entire project; getting the DLAs right is foundational. Getting them right fast is highly advantageous.”

While asserting that it is ‘early days’ for the work done by Assurity and that the passage of time will more fully expose the value, John says an immediate benefit is greater clarity on how WSP can fully automate the DLA.

“It can be codified. We know the minimum number of questions which make it easier for our people to navigate a complex but foundational document. That feeds into a long-term view to increase the commerciality of people, improve the robustness of bids and delivery outcomes to client and help our people spend more time with clients which improves relationships with them.”

Ben adds that, since engaging with Assurity and through its own sustained effort over an extended period focusing on all aspects of delivery, WSP New Zealand has seen improvements in how it runs projects. “The outcomes of paying attention to client centricity, behaviours, systems and tools are legion. They include financial benefits and productivity improvements with WSP now in the top quarter of consulting companies.”

These results, Ben and John assert, are the fruits of a focus on front-end due diligence with the right people involved. “And Assurity has played an important part in that.”

As part of this ‘transformation’ agenda, Assurity came in and trained a cohort of our people on change management as part of a Process Optimisation Training exercise. As a result of this initial engagement, and as
one of the initiatives where we appreciated that change was necessary, was in delegations"

John Leatherbarrow

Manager – Commercial, WSP Global