Quantitative risk assessment under utilised for infrastructure projects

Why is it that most of the high profile projects managed by the government in the UK all ultimately become beset by problems? A number of projects jump to mind – the Millennium Dome, Wembley Stadium and currently the NHS IT. All three have been plagued by developmental delays and financial mismanagement.

Recently, yet another worthy, but ambitious project has been announced – the North-South high speed rail line to connect London to Scotland. One wonders if the government undertakes detailed quantitative project risk analysis for its infrastructure initiatives?

A good example to highlight in this context is ENGCOMP, a Saskatchewan-based engineering consulting firm that has worked with the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) to help define budgets for the fourth phase of construction of its Fleet Maintenance Facility at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt in Victoria, British Columbia. Using @RISK, a Monte Carlo simulation tool, ENGCOMP helped the DND define and secure budget approval from the Federal Government’s Treasury Board. The consultancy firm was able to estimate the impact of the variability and uncertainties pertaining to risks, costs and scheduling. This assessment enabled it to estimate the project risk budget or the risk reserve and schedule contingency, which were both factored in when defining the total project cost of the infrastructure project.

The fact is, in the world of business, risk is inherent and unavoidable. Whilst one cannot completely control risk, one can certainly help reduce uncertainty, greatly increasing the chances of project success. For instance, a key finding of the project risk analysis conducted by ENGCOMP was that, taking into account all the risk and uncertainties on the project, there is an 85 per cent chance that the Fleet Maintenance Facility project will be completed in January 2014. A fairly positive result for the DND, given the scale and complexity of this project in question.

Craig Ferri
EMEA Managing Director of Risk & Decision Analysis

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