Overspending EF Blog

The curse of mega projects

For contractors it’s a feather in their cap to say that they’ve worked on a particular mega project, perhaps it’s ego, or optimism, but is seems that there’s a distinct disconnect with the reality of what it takes to make a mega project succeed. No one denies that big projects are complex, so why aren’t these complexities mitigated early on? What kind of risk assessments are being done that they overlook so many factors that cause project delays?

Related article: Profits, projects and people – are main contractors dropping the ball?

HS2 and Crossrail are two prime examples of mega projects gone wrong. What started out as a concept applauded by many, is now under constant criticism. There have been project cost overruns and endless delays, blamed on the complexities of the project and resulting in changes in management and contractors. It’s no wonder people are unhappy, the big dream has fallen short. And it’s happening too often in the industry.

Is management to blame?

Among the reasons cited for mega projects not delivering on time or on budget are inadequate levels of experience when it comes to project management. Add to this a high attrition rate due to project pressures and it ends up as a jar of toffee – a sticky mess that no-one really want to handle. Could this be avoided?

Conceptualising mega projects is exciting work and in an effort to sell the ideas to investors, project managers have a tendency to be overly optimistic. At that point it’s a project they believe in immensely and they don’t really want to hear from the people doing the risk assessments all the reasons why it might not work. But perhaps if they were to take the time to do that, and carefully consider the cost implications, there’s a possibility these risks could be avoided?

Are contractors using the wrong tools?

It’s a well-known fact that the construction industry has been slow to embrace digital transformation. It seems a bit backward with the struggles the industry is experiencing that they would not look to technology to do the number crunching and hard analysis that could help them mitigate costly risk factors.  BIM has already proven to be a massive enabler in terms of project management and collaboration. There are many other technology tools including drones and scanners that can help identify problems early on before they become a massive cost.

One thing is clear, if mega projects want to escape the curse of over spending, they need people who are digitally savvy, willing to collaborate with key expertise, and smart enough to work with clear facts and figures, more representative of reality.

Related article: More major projects in the pipeline than on the ground