Pioneering excellence in operational and project risk management

Simon van Wyk, Risk Management Expert at Aurecon
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Aurecon South Africa’s Operational and Project Risk Management team recently won the award for ‘Best Risk Consultancy’ at the 2014 annual Institute of Risk Management South Africa (IRMSA) Awards.

At the same event in 2013, Aurecon was also the category winner in the ‘Environmental Initiative’ category and runner-up in the ‘Mining, Resources, Construction, Engineering and Related Services’ category.

“These achievements highlight Aurecon’s aptitude for providing in-depth solutions to the complex project risks that our clients face,” says Simon van Wyk, an expert in risk management at Aurecon, who is also an Associate Member of IRMSA, a Corporate Member of the Disaster Management Institute of Southern Africa (DMISA), as well as a Professional Natural Scientist with the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP).

“While many companies understand that risk management brings value to a project, there’s often still a learning curve that needs to be overcome in order to get everyone on board with understanding the objectives and the true value add – especially the vital importance of including risk management during the design and execution phases of a project,” believes Van Wyk.

Holistic understanding 

There are a number of risks, including disaster risk, financial risk, environmental risk and operational risk, that need to be assessed and managed before a project can commence, and none of these risks should be viewed in a ‘silo’.

Several of Aurecon’s clients have been factoring risk assessment and management into their project costs during the concept phase of projects for many years, so working with these types of ‘risk mature’ clients gives risk consultants the advantage of not having to justify methodologies and what might appear to be ‘over-analysis’ of project risks. With clients who haven’t always been working with risk management consultants, tools and processes before, however, the risk assessment process is not always the easiest learning curve. The nature of risk management is in-depth analysis to inform decision-making, and ensuring our clients understand the outputs of these robust and detailed analysis methodologies is paramount.

“We align our risk management solutions with international best practices and, while some clients have embraced risk management as a part of their project design, there are still many clients who require additional edification in order to fully understand the value that risk management brings to a project – particularly large projects. There are a number of risk assessment methodologies available in the market, but determining the most appropriate methodology can be a complex process in itself,” explains Van Wyk.

Ultimately, it is imperative to use the correct application of risk management commensurate with the context and nature of the project to ensure the value added is immediate and accurate. Aurecon uses several methodologies and tools that are globally accepted to assess and evaluate potential risks. For sizeable CAPEX projects, this is centred on determining the potential likelihood, consequence and predicted cost that risk may pose to a project’s success viz. planning appropriate contingency within the allocated CAPEX budget.

“Ideally, all clients would appreciate the necessity of including risk assessment and management plans during the design phase of a project. Not only does this make a risk management consultant’s job easier, but it provides clients with the tools, insights and contingency plans they need to gain maximum benefit from our services,” adds Van Wyk.

Risk management 

An additional challenge is providing a comprehensive risk management solution to clients who operate in an ever-changing economic environment. Van Wyk explains that the complexity of large projects has skyrocketed over the past few years, leading Aurecon’s team to find ways of continually applying and adapting international best practices to new challenges that confront its clients.

“Many of our clients operate in environments that change at a quick pace and one of the key challenges that a risk management solution needs to address is the level of uncertainty that clients face. One of the core benefits of investing in risk management is that it brings forward a more accurate view on the level of uncertainty at a given time, which means decision- making is made easier in light of the information gleaned through robust assessment and evaluation,” says Van Wyk.

Clarifying expectations 

Aurecon’s unique approach to risk management ensures that cutting-edge solutions are applied to each client’s project. Besides using the latest tools and techniques, successful risk management solutions are ensured through the thorough analysis of each project’s risk management needs, as well as making sure that a client’s exposure to various risks are fully understood right from the outset of a project.

“Our initial sessions with our clients lay the vital foundation that is needed for successful risk management projects,” comments Van Wyk. “During this session, we are able to wrap our heads around what a client needs, clarify their expectations and match innovative risk management methodologies to their project. In order to close the gap between differing levels of risk maturity, we use international best practices coupled with building a solid relationship, based on understanding the client’s expectations, to ensure service delivery is appropriate to the nature and scale of the project.”.

No longer a ‘nice to have’

Instead of seeing risk management as a ‘nice to have’ on projects, an increasing number of clients realise that not only their projects, but their entire business philosophy, needs to be risk averse. In light of this, businesses are adopting a risk-centric business philosophy which entails proactive measures to harness opportunities through sound principles of risk management.

“Instead of hoping for the best, leading companies know that they need to measure their risks in each phase of the project life cycle. This type of preparation leads to progressive and informed decision-making,” adds Van Wyk.

As a company, Aurecon is exposed to some of the largest projects in the world, providing the experience that is needed to bring exceptional and complex lessons learned to new projects and teams. While the latest methodologies, models and tools are important, it is the intellectual property, engineering excellence and understanding of operational and project risk management that sets the company apart as leading risk consultants.

“All of the standards, systems and techniques can be in place, but without the years of experience in risk management, none of these will add the kind of value that a client needs from an internationally leading risk management team. Partnering with an experienced risk consultant is key to ensuring a project succeeds,” concludes Van Wyk.

Jody Boshoff

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