Framework Lead, Ian Hall: the journey to the new normal
It’s been a long and arduous time for a lot of people this last year or so but thankfully, there is light at the end of the tunnel which will hopefully help a lot of people and businesses alike.
Throughout the multiple lockdowns and the pandemic, the Hub has continued business as usual with a lot more focus on taking things virtual, which has been the same for many of course. We have had regular weekly touch-points with contractors to see how COVID was affecting them and their live jobs and how we could work together to achieve the best possible outcomes for all stakeholders.
In some respects, moving virtual has made meetings easier because people aren’t having to travel to a specified location; though the downside can be that you find yourself in back-to-back meetings. Switching off from one subject straight to another without preparation time to get into the zone about a completely different topic certainly has had its challenges. I think that moving forward, we will return to having a cross-section of both face-to-face meetings supplemented with meetings taking place via Microsoft Teams which will make overall communication a lot quicker and smoother.
The Hub hold a lot of business critical meetings and this cross section of face to face and virtual meetings going forward will allow us to get the very best out of of them. Some meetings like the Framework Management meetings (FMG), work smoother and more efficiently by having people in a room to have those important discussions. This approach has been very valuable to us in the past and will be again going forward. However, some meetings such as Board meetings, we have seen great success in running virtually as it is a lot easier to get everyone together for a 2-hour meeting, removing the need to travel across the country to get to the meeting point. In this respect, the move to virtual has been highly beneficial and time efficient.
One of the trends we are seeing coming out of the COVID situation is that a lot of public sector clients have greater financial challenges with less money to spend on building works so the signing of contracts and getting projects mobilised is becoming a more protracted process. It is taking more time now to complete the pre-construction phase of projects and agreement of the contract sum between all parties. We are also seeing protracted approval processes in local authorities because finance is a precious commodity and more signatures are required to justify a scheme being signed off and moving into contract. This however, is to be expected and something all project stakeholders are adapting to.
Now as we slowly make progress on the journey back to normality, we are seeing that there seems to be a drive to spend more money in the public sector. As a whole, our frameworks are very healthy with a substantial amount of enquiries and many schemes coming to fruition. Long may this continue.