Dealing with Changes in Uncertain times
In the construction industry we have been witness to a number of changes from changing needs of the clients to changing technology. This being said, COVID-19 Pandemic has affected not just lives of people, but also the industries all over the world. The World came to a shut, and it seemed as though a lot of industries would not be able to sustain in such competitive times.
Consulting Engineers Association of India, has come up with “Dealing with change in uncertain times”, a topic highlighted in the webinar held by FIDIC (Fédération Internationale des Ingénieurs – Conseils). William Howard, FIDIC President, gives an introduction by showing us a peek into the 1980s, when he worked as an engineer and noticed 2 major events causing a change. One being, the use of computers to design and computer aided design tools, where it was anticipated that smaller firms would fade away since computers would not be affordable to smaller firms. What happened instead was, computers got much more affordable and engineers, designers and such small firms thrived. Second being, expecting to head into a paperless world. He points out that four decades later, still, a lot of documentation, data and information is in physical form. This is so because printing papers got much easier than what it was back then. He thus says that change cannot be predicted absolutely, and that change is inevitable.
Jeremy Glover, Partner at Fenwick Elliott, looks into legal issues and disputes in the field of Construction Industry. He explains that the FIDIC 2017 form adopts an approach to make sure the contracts are binding and not misused. He also gave a strong emphasis on the importance and the dialogue. By “dialogue” he refers to talking the old-fashioned way, and not the rigid and formal communication carried out on emails. He recollects what he was taught during his training, it was to pick up the phone and convey the message. Quoting Glover himself, “if there is a golden rule to dealing with chance in uncertain times it’s this – deal with change contemporaneously, address the issues as the project goes”. He also points out that the communication need not be restrictive to merely contracts, but instead, it’s necessary to consider the contracts and projects to be looked at with a bird’s eye view, that is, in its entirety. Look at the bigger picture and the end goal.
Emily McDonald, Partner – Buro Happold Engineering has shared her point of views based on the changes in the consulting of engineering practices. In the industry of consulting in engineering practices, the change and risk are not new concepts – it is something that is constant. With the pandemic in picture, the only thing that has been a challenge is the Scale of the change – such as the projects extended by 2 years, the operatives on site reduced to 120 from 1200 or completely shutting off the sites.
Working remotely has been put in place as the new normal and yet the projects have been carried out as impressively as they were during the pre-pandemic stage.
Through the new technological implications, virtual platforms for collaborative working have been an important platform during the COVID period.
Reduced carbon footprints:
There is a positive effect on the work-life balance where people can work at anytime from anywhere reducing the travel hassel – leading to a massive reduction in the carbon footprints within the operations.
Thinking out through the simplest things such as avoiding getting on a plane to handle certain projects has changed by working remotely has to be a great deal when it comes to the environment industry.
Liugi Mula, Legal Director at DLA Piper, on the other hand has contributed his views and opinions about change in the Legal section – on the corporate side.
Changes in the field of Infrastructure:
Dealing with infrastructure from the development as well as transactional side, it is equally important to deal with changes of these sides. The importance of discussions and communication between different parties is the real challenge for the lawyers during this time of change.
Resilience, flexibility and sustainability:
Trying to keep resilience and sustainability for the projects as well as the contracts, is a challenge. Parties need to be clear regarding their commitments with respect to the terms and conditions, financials and the time period set for them. Here trying to import flexibilities clauses, schemes from other areas of practice is the real challenge. This can give the parties dealing in the M&A the added benefit of modifying the set of arrangements and provisions first made.
To conclude, we know that pandemic is here to stay and also that such major events cannot be predicted. In such times it is necessary to adapt to the change. There will be some extra cost borne during this process, if appropriate steps are not implemented the businesses/contractors/industries will face even bigger losses.