How HCP Consultancy works
A conversational breakdown of how the Consultancy teams work and communicate for success, future developments and how sustainability and social impact plays a vital part in their planning and operations. With Mike Thomas, Project Manager, Lucy Birch, Commercial Analyst and Mark O’Shea, Strategic Asset Manager. Interviewed by Ellie Rowland-Callanan, Marketing and Social Impact Lead.
Welcome and thanks for taking the time to chat. First, how did the Consultancy Services come to be, as it is now?
Lucy – There has always been individual parts to Consultancy, but it started to come together at the 2018 Annual Conference, when Paul Mas presented on the different elements; the 25% non-core business target at HCP was launched, stepping away from MSAs. There’s Ged Robinson as Head of Commercial, and that team has grown a lot in the last two years. You’ve got Strategic Asset Management, Project Management, Technical Services, headed by Mark Cade. And of course, Commercial Finance.
I’ll start with you Mike, what are the aims of your area of Consultancy?
Mike – The Project Management Team aim to support General Managers and Project Boards with the delivery of Lifecycle works and defect rectification, or with contractual issues, such as supporting transition between service providers. That can range from large scale lifecycle works; M&E projects for heating reworks, through to small scale fabric finishes. As in carpets, flooring, painting, decorating. It really depends on the project and risk associated.
Mark– Alongside is the Strategic Asset Management arm or SAM. We concern ourselves more with the planning side of the lifecycle equation. We have operational teams, working on internal PFI projects; healthcare, education. And then external clients, large retailers for example. We spend time working directly with the projects, delivering financial and technical oversight of the lifecycle planning, as well as elements of the delivery. Then we have the data side of SAM, using data analytics to accurately model and smooth expenditure. They cost lifecycle Variations too.
How easy do you find it working in teams which are geographically spread and diverse in the work undertaken?
Lucy – We have in the past been quite siloed but it’s now coming together as a fresh way of working. Looking for ways to use our expertise on a project for the best result. If there’s say, a Variation, there might need to be a deed of Variation that Commercial will handle, but there will need to be someone to deliver the Variation, from Project Management, and then that Variation has an impact on the maintenance, so SAM are involved in the Lifecycle profile.
How is that communicated within Consultancy to get the best possible person for the task?
Mike– If we use the example of Southmead, that we are currently working on. There was an initial callout from the client team needing help with an issue, a solution. The SAM, Commercial and PM Team got together to discuss the needs of the project and who would be best placed to be the key account manager; having the face to face meetings with the client, and who would be able to bring in the right specialist skills and expertise. Right person, right place, right solution. It’s about how we support the clients as best we can.
How do you add value to a project?
Mark– You don’t need to have just one element of the Consultancy- we come as a package. A symbiotic relationship that works increasingly closely together. When you are part of a project that needs a certain solution, you can instruct the Consultancy Team as a whole.
Lucy– It’s not taking away the project team from their operational day job, we go in and they don’t need to be pulled away from that to focus on the stuff that’s not their bread and butter, we’ve got the expertise. We go in and run that for them, becoming part of their team, but they are our client. We support as they require to move things forward.
Mark– We’re multidisciplinary. There’s an array of skills that we offer as a group, whether you need to call on the likes of building, fabric or M&E experts, we can get that within minutes if necessary.
Mike– Our team have been GMs, authority reps, lead engineers, architects, designers, quantity surveyors. Having been in their shoes we can give them the advice and guidance required as a standalone Consultancy Service. There’s a lot of skills and experience that goes back into the softer side, the unseen value that can’t be seen on the balance sheets.
Lucy– We have all worked on the project side and know the strains on the GMs and the team, so we understand where they’re coming from. Bringing both experience and specialist knowledge.
How do you think that your input is evolving HCP as an organisation?
Mark– We know there is an expiration date on the MSAs, and we need to adapt to something significantly different as the focus of the business changes over the coming years. We have skill in abundance, and that’s marketable.
Mike– The market is changing. FM Company stability, the capabilities delivered has changed drastically over the last 5-6 years. Their market offering has substantially reduced. We have a different layer of risk coming onto us now and so do project boards. The Consultancy business has grown hand in hand to offset the deficit presented. It’s a mix. We need to move away and understand the impact of a declining market from an MSA perspective, but also there’s a massive need growing where FM Companies aren’t capturing risk that way they used to.
Mark– As our estates age, the risks associated with them increase. From the client perspective, they want to mitigate that risk as much as possible. We’re increasingly in the position where FM Companies don’t have the skill set to deliver this, don’t fully understand contractual obligations, or the technical risks of complex projects with multiple moving parts. We as a joined-up consultancy can offer a seamless solution to an often-multi-layered problem.
Lucy– We know the models, they are our models, so if there’s a major variation the authority wants to put across, what actual impact is that going to have on the Project Company and investors. What impact will it have in say, 12 years’ time as it moves towards handback?
Mark– Agreed. Our experience with our projects makes us best placed compared to another consultancy off the street.
The future and visibility
What does the future hold over the next 12 months? If you can tell us and it’s not classified?
Lucy– It will be more joined up having one lead and working together as one team. The point of contact who communicates with the colleagues around them.
Mike– A more detailed and educated approach, pulling all the expertise together and using them as the starting point and mapping out the solution. Tailoring the right solution to the client needs from the beginning, which should work out better financially and operationally for the client team. A value-based approach.
Mark– Visibility will increase significantly. There’s a potential that a lot of our projects don’t know anything about us, what we look like or what we can offer.
Lucy– If we don’t have strong visibility, there’s a risk that potential clients might use one of our competitors if that’s what they’ve done in the past.
What are you doing to increase your visibility?
Mike– We are working with the Marketing team on an internal Business Development Roadshow. It’s to make sure the streams of consultancy are singing from the same hymn sheet; we know each other’s strengths and areas of development. Areas of niche specialism. We operate as one and present a value-based approach to our existing client teams.
How are people able to contact the Consultancy if they have related questions?
Mike– Internally we have the Consultancy forum on the HCP intranet, and a LinkedIn platform for external clients called #[email protected]
Social Impact in Consultancy
All three of you have either expressed interest or attended Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Meetings. How important are Social Impact topics in Consultancy as you develop?
Mike– It’s about understanding client needs on a granular level. In Swindon we have a special needs school that specialises with children on the ASD Spectrum. How we laid the vinyl flooring was a key factor. The fleck within the carpet was a factor based on the individual student needs. We had to then think differently.
A bright fleck in the carpet, from a maintenance perspective elongates the time period it’s in place, hiding cleaning issues. But, in this case it would create operational issues for the students. It took time to look through different colour charts and manufacturers, to see what we could provide that would still meet the lifecycle expectations but suit the end user. We were also unable to lay vinyl down corridors widthways as that would have created issues with students who physically wouldn’t be able to walk down them because of breaks in the vinyl. We had to minimise that as much as we could by laying it lengthways.
There are lots of small things like colour patterns, trim edges, door holds, access control systems that we need to take into consideration for end users. If we put in an industry standard solution in that setting it would be a nightmare, so considering that detail is a priority.
Lucy– There’s recently been a major London area hospital project to do with Alzheimer’s and how rooms are adapted for patients, such as colour of plates, walls and creation of memory boards. This creates a better environment for them.
Ellie, you’ve been in Royal Stoke, volunteering marketing services as they develop their children’s hospital as a stand-alone facility and charity. There it’s about making an experience for a child going through the worst thing in their life a nicer environment for them. They don’t want to walk into a white, very dull hospital room that they must spend the next six weeks in and neither do their parents. It’s depressing.
How important is it that your work creates positive end user experience?
Mark– It’s our duty, simply put. Concerning ourselves with the People, Planet, Profit triple bottom lines. Our business can exist very happily being fiscally successful, but also keeping an eye on the environment, looking at solutions as sustainably as possible. Also considering the people who are our end users. They are extremely diverse and often the most vulnerable in society.
Lucy– We get back what we put in. Think about schools, how we contribute now will benefit the generation that takes over our workforce, the succession plan.
Mike– We’ve used certain vinyl manufacturers that take the older vinyl and recycle it, it doesn’t go to landfill. How we source the right contractor for the right project, replacing M&E kit, what do we do with it afterwards? Is it broken now into usable parts or is it going to waste. How to we try to utilise all our components to get the most out of them in a sustainable way. Recycling or sweating an asset so we can source a next generation one that will have more renewable capabilities or be from renewable sources.
Mark– If we’re doing a big lifecycle piece for changing lighting in a portfolio. Should we look to replace with LED? And if so, should we put one in that lasts six years, or 12 years? Can we half the amount of assets we put in over a given time period?
Mike– It’s also considering the impact. If there’s an LED project with double the warranty, it reduces the maintenance uplift cost for that period and reduces energy consumption. You’ve replaced the asset, got a better environment for the end user, reduced maintenance cost and increased your lifecycle capability. It’s a win-win scenario.
Lucy– It’s food we put in too, thinking about if it’s locally sourced, whether the provider gives back, asking how they go above and beyond. A provider recently designed the menu and catering with the kids and that had a huge impact on how they felt about food in their school environment.
Can we talk about a sustainable project that the team are working on collaboratively?
Mark– We have an educational project in the south of England that has an FM Provider which is lacklustre to say the least. We’ve a lot of lifecycle work there that has failed to be carried out correctly. The project team often have issues with the FMs technical expertise which we can help with. Mike is also coming along on the PM side to deliver some quite significant lifecycle over the next 12 months. Mechanical and electrical work.
Mike– The decline in capabilities from an FM Company perspective and what they believe Lifecycle is and how it should be utilised, is that we’re finding a lot of the assets have got to their expected window of failure within the original lifecycle plan.
However, these solutions put forward have been poorly scoped, a band-aid as opposed to real change. If we are changing the asset type, what else do we need to factor in? We’re not just going to replace one boiler with another, we’re going to consider putting a bank of boilers in which reduce the energy consumption, have better usability they can ramp up or down, connect to a BMS system that controls the usage, which impacts on cost of running, cost of maintenance and then energy usage.
It’s about taking a step back and a more holistic approach. Big picture thinking to put the best solution in. Sometimes we sweat something when we know a better solution is due but we’re not quite ready for it. We do the best we can for 3-5 years so we can change it up for the ideal product at the ideal time. Other times we at the point in which the asset has run its course.
Mark– We’ve also got a suite of strategic partners, external contractors and suppliers we work closely with, providing beneficial warranties and help with designs, for example lighting. In terms of sustainability, if we replace something once with a long lasting, high quality product, better than the incumbent, it often offers the best of both worlds.