The countdown to the 2022 Commonwealth Games is well underway, and the West Midlands Combined Authority has already pledged significant improvements to the region’s transport links and other vital services in time for the event.
However, in order to ensure cross Midlands initiatives are delivered on time and on budget, those involved must ensure that they choose partnerships carefully and implement strong business relationships.
Peter Marsden, managing director at business change consultancy, Entec Si, discusses how businesses can implement processes and practices for effective communication throughout projects such as Birmingham 2022.
Entec Si has a long history of working in Birmingham and played a leading programme management role on the iconic Library of Birmingham Project from 2008 to 2014.
Preparing for large projects
When working on large projects, it is important not only to consider the project’s scale, but also consider its wider implications.
Whilst the Birmingham 2022 event itself is enormous, the event will also significantly impact the broader regional agenda, bringing huge opportunities to the Midlands.
Businesses should therefore be mindful of the wider impact on the local area and consider how they can best manage this extra layer of complexity.
For instance, the 11-day event is expected to attract between 500,000 and one million additional visitors to the West Midlands.
With this opportunity comes many logistical challenges, therefore key elements and solutions will need to be in place well ahead of time.
This covers everything from setting up communications with partners and providers early in the process, to considering visitors’ end-to-end journeys when visiting the area, and anticipating the knock-on effects this may have on businesses in the region.
While 2022 may seem like a lifetime away, in project management years, time is flying by.
Therefore, it is vital that many of these key decisions are being made now, and well-considered plans put in place - this is one of those projects where any delay is not an option!
Before choosing partners, it is necessary to define the partnership’s overall aims.
Once this is clear, it becomes possible to define the objectives that need to be delivered, and in turn, the support needed in order to make the project a reality.
These clear, high-level requirements then allow the business to work through appropriate procurement routes including local and national frameworks to identify providers and contract partners that best suit the needs of the business and the individual projects.
However, it is also important to ensure that the provider has the right cultural fit for the initiative and its aims.
Especially when taking on large and complex projects, securing a provider with the same cultural values can vastly improve productivity and increase morale across the board, often with the added bonus of saving the business money.
Implementing strong business relationships
In order to ensure that strong business relationships are established, and last long after the project has ended, it is important to ensure that everyone is on the same page:
Communications – When developing a relationship, partners should be encouraged to work as an extension of the business’ team.
With that in mind, it is important to make sure that everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet!
To achieve this, guidelines around what can and cannot be shared in relation to the project ought to be shared at the very start of the relationship, to avoid potential issues occurring further down the line.
Budgets - During large projects with multiple providers, it can be easy for costs to spiral out of control.
Therefore, communicating a tight financial budget, with management controls and a clear risk framework, will limit the chance of misunderstandings.
Logistics – During large projects it is increasingly important to consider the implications for all stakeholders.
For instance, councils and the health sector will be stretched by this venture in terms of everything from increased bin collections to having a greater number of emergency services staff on call.
In turn, it is important to communicate the necessary requirements in good time across all partners involved.
Blended teams - Making use of blended teams, which involve drawing on different levels of skills and resources at different points in a project, can help to ensure harmony between public and private sectors and ensure budgets are used effectively.
Ultimately, the Commonwealth Games offers a huge opportunity for Birmingham, and while the project is likely to bring challenges, the city’s people should learn from its previous successes.
Birmingham has a history of delivering ambitious projects, from the infamous Spaghetti Junction, to the Library of Birmingham, one of the largest and most important public libraries in Europe.
With collaboration at its heart, it seems there is nothing this city cannot achieve.