Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose? How can we learn from our mistakes?

Posted on November 23, 2016


Another week, another post of videos from conferences. Still from the 2016 CIfA conference.

The latest Archaeological Market survey1 undertaken by Landward Research Ltd on behalf of CIfA, FAME and Historic England reported an average increase in turnover for archaeological practices of 15% in 2014-15. Coupled with a significant increase in the size of the archaeological workforce and the highest levels of business confidence since 2008, the report presents a positive picture of the current market for historic environment services in the UK.
The increased demand for historic environment services presents some significant challenges to organisations responding to rapid growth, but also offers major opportunities to build better sustainable businesses capable of investment in people, new technologies and innovation. At last year’s conference the CIfA project Management SIG and FAME began to identify some of the issues around procurement, partnership and project management. The aim of this session is to further identify and discuss the ways we might develop our business practices, the mechanisms for sharing information and what we can learn from allied sectors. We have a series of short papers which illustrate new approaches including contributions from outside the sector, leading to a workshop style discussion and the identification of concrete actions which FAME, CIfA and individual businesses can take forward.

Kate Geary, Stephen Haynes, Mike Heaton and Nick Shepherd

Remodelling the market: improving professional practice, understanding value and risk
Tim Malim, Chair of FAME and Technical Director at SLR Consulting Ltd
Competitive tendering by lowest cost, cowboy operators, lack of regulation, under-valued design and skills, zero profit margins, these are all parts of a perceived malaise which effects the practice of commercial archaeology. This paper examines these types of issue, as well as reflecting on some benefits and successes that 25 years of commercial practice has introduced. We are now a mature profession, but we must act in a mature professional way in order to ensure a sustainable profession is established to serve the needs of clients, whilst also contributing to public benefit. This paper describes how we can learn from other professions, how we need to broaden our education, improve our project management and financial planning, and utilize the power of CPD to ensure that archaeologists are not just technically competent, but also become essential team members who collectively help to achieve the wider aims of any development project, increasing the value of archaeology to clients and the public. It also stresses the importance of the symbiotic relationship between commercial practice and regulation, and how important it is to have a proportionate understanding of archaeology as an element within a complex legislative and planning process.

On the right road from the start
Steve Haynes, ARUP
Within the commercial sector the procurement methodologies and submission requirements for archaeological service varies significantly. The reasons for this are equally varied and can, for example, be rooted in the client’s procurement methodologies or external factors such as EU procurement regulations. Whilst there are common threads throughout, not least the price for the work, there remains significant variation in the way in which costs are presented and associated information are provided, if at all. Lack of clarity can result in misunderstandings and disputes between the client and supplier. The use of structured approaches provides for transparency in the structure of project pricing and gives the basis for the costing of changes to the original scope of work when these arise. This is an approach that is extensively used in other industries and would, with minimal amendment, be a significant advance in commercial practice. The flexibility of the approach provides the basis on which the uncertainties and complexities of projects within our industry can be managed commercially.
This paper will draw on the speaker’s experience of compiling tender documentation and the subsequent management of the associated projects. These projects have used structured documentation across a range of project sizes and contexts. The benefits for the various parties will be explored as well as consideration of some lessons learnt.

What is a Professional? the view from the ground

Seamus Lefroy-Brooks. Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists
The geotechnical and geoenvironmental industry is immediately comparable to ours, both in terms of what they do and the risks they deal with, but it enjoys a higher professional and commercial status than archaeology and expects a higher degree of competence and training from its personnel than we do. This presentation, by a past chairman of the AGS – the trade body representing the industry – explains the function of professional and trade bodies and what the profession and the industry expects new entrants to possess and acquire, in terms of intellectual and technical skills.

The Building Cost Information Service and its applicability to commercial archaeology.
David Hardwick MRICS
This presentation explains one of the mechanisms through which the construction industry shares knowledge about project costs. The BCIS is maintained by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and allows users to estimate the cost of a proposed construction project by comparing it with similar projects already completed. The database of ‘past performance’ information is compiled by users on a ‘wiki’ basis and comprises details of site area, building type, etc. together with the costs for each element of the building (i.e. ground works, landscaping, structural frame, services, finishes etc.). Other then compare their proposed design with completed examples to get an estimate of likely costs.
It is immediately applicable to archaeological contracts. If operated intelligently, an ‘Archaeological Cost Information Service’ would allow prospective clients, their professional advisors and other archaeological contractors to estimate the likely cost and duration of an archaeological contract by comparing it with similar completed examples.

Posted in: Uncategorized