By Andrew Horsfield (General Manager, Operations, AusGroup)
I’d heard of AusGroup’s reputation as a highly client-focused organisation even before I joined the team three years ago. AusGroup is known within the industry for the way it takes a genuine partnership approach with its clients – working closely with them and communicating with them at all stages of project execution, with a model that in many ways treats clients more as partners than as customers.
It was this reputation that attracted me to the company, and I relocated from Victoria to Western Australia for the opportunity to do so.
My background is in quantity surveying, which is a specialist industry that instills a disciplined approach to managing construction projects. I’ve worked for many years in the profession and over this time I’ve worked on a number of large oil, gas and mining projects. For me, the focus on detailed planning and on tracking performance against those plans at all stages of a project is key.
I’ve also worked in the area of commercial management, and this is a field that complements surveying, particularly when large projects are being managed. Combined, these two skills create a framework that focuses on metrics and measurement but on implementation, reflection and review. This means opportunities for continuous improvement can be identified, and the value that this brings to projects is significant.
AusGroup has a best practice approach to performance and productivity management with a framework that supports the tracking and reporting of project costs and milestones, and also improvement identification. Our best practice model includes the following elements:
1. The use of online / automated tracking tools
We have a suite of powerful tools that we use as part of our data capture and reporting process, and these tools are complemented by a mindset within the team that getting this aspect of our work right is a top priority.
AusGroup designed and rolled out a tracking tool, a cloud-based platform designed to capture and report on materials, costs and progress for mining, oil and gas industry projects. Better data capture really enables much better decisions to be made and gives us meaningful information to communicate to our clients using real-time information at individual task level. It means we can be more efficient with the planning and execution of projects and we can better manage all aspects of implementation. It keeps costs under control, projects tracking as expected, and reduces wastage of materials.
Importantly it also means we can identify and measure the true value associated with activities, tasks and projects and can share this information with clients, and we can pass on efficiency benefits to them.
2. Our approach to task identification and estimation
Our estimating process at AusGroup is based on identifying discrete tasks and quantifying those tasks themselves as the first level of estimation, rather than being based purely on full time equivalent labour hour estimations.
By breaking down projects into discrete identifiable tasks and focusing on the elements associated with those tasks we find that we have a much more flexible and realistic approach to project management that provides the most cost-effective outcomes to our clients.
This is quite different to the way in which other firms complete their estimating functions compared to AusGroup.
Our approach to cost estimation (and also the way we use tools to manage the process) apply across all areas of our business. We are a multi-disciplinary organisation with different service lines and work with clients across the country. We apply our data tracking and reporting tools to all of our clients across all of our service lines. This includes mechanical, electrical, industrial, construction, fabrication and fireproofing, just to name a few.
For me personally this approach sits very comfortably – as a quantity surveyor I like to take a disciplined approach to managing construction projects and I am very focused on metrics management and reporting.
3. Our focus on continuous improvement
Data capture – regardless of what that data is – really comes in to its own when it can be analysed, interpreted and applied in ways that might not immediately be obvious, and the step beyond this – making meaningful change to improve – is truly where we at AusGroup stand apart from our peers. We have an approach that supports and encourages a mindset of continuous improvement and a team who have the experience, the ability and the confidence to make changes that improve both efficiency and effectiveness. Sometimes these changes are large, sometimes small, but we do not shy away from identifying ways to do things better.
I’m always looking for opportunities to improve results and the AusGroup approach allows me to leverage my background and experience as both a quantity surveyor and as a commercial manager. It allows me to bring the best of my expertise to my clients – this is what I am most passionate about.
4. Our highly talented and experienced team
I can’t let this discussion pass without mentioning the amazing people that make up the AusGroup team. We are genuinely a highly experienced, high calibre group of likeminded people who are proud to work for AusGroup and who are focused on fulfilling the AusGroup vision to be the leading integrated services provider.
We pride ourselves on our transparency and openness and do genuinely believe we the partnerships we have built with our clients are based on a foundation of trust. Every employee throughout our organisation has a role to play in the building of trusted relationships, regardless of role or seniority.
To summarise, AusGroup has a clear framework which enables us to effectively manage projects for our clients and to focus on continuous improvement at all times. It’s a framework that suits my skills and experience, and it’s built on a desire to be genuinely transparent with our clients and the projects we undertake with them. Trust and transparency are characteristics that are consistent across our company and also the people within it, and that’s a big part of why AusGroup has such a strong reputation in the industry.