Many Client organisations will not have the skills and resources available in-house and will therefore use external consultants for delivery of stock condition surveys due to their scale and complexity. The choice of consultant is fundamentally important to the success of the survey and clients should be very thorough in their selection and procurement processes
If you are currently planning for a stock condition survey or maybe you already have one in progress, then there are many different things you need to consider in order to try to ensure that the data collected and indeed the outputs from these are actually what you intend. I can think of numerous examples where Clients encountered difficulty in managing/coping with the vast amount of data that was produced, and once received, they were not exactly sure what to do with it. This is why a successful stock survey requires many months of planning and organising. From a Client organisation perspective there needs to be a well organised strategic approach, establishing precisely what is required and importantly how this will be achieved. The information below identifies some key issues which should be considered:
What is the purpose of the stock survey?A very simple question which often produces a variety of different answers. The answer to this will actually set the scope of the survey and will decide what outputs are required, so if there is a lack of clarity at this point then the whole process becomes confused. Therefore, will the data be used to plan future work packages, if so, over what period of time? Will the data be used for strategic planning and be incorporated in a business plan? or maybe assessing current and future repairs and maintenance liabilities, or possibly consider statutory compliance or maybe a combination of these. These examples are not exhaustive, however demonstrate the wide range of possibilities that a stock condition survey could be used to achieve. It is only possible to move onto the next stage of the process once an Client/organisation can provide a clear answer to this question. Only then is it possible to start to look at the scope of the survey, the attributes to be recorded, the sample size (will this involve cloning?), the required outputs, deadlines and also the available budget (for the condition survey).
Choosing the right people
Many Client organisations will not have the skills and resources available in-house and will therefore use external consultants for delivery of stock condition surveys due to their scale and complexity. The choice of consultant is fundamentally important to the success of the survey and clients should be very thorough in their selection and procurement processes. Many consultants advertise their experience and skills in delivery of stock condition surveys, however there are some important factors that should be considered when selecting consultants for this type of work:
Resources – Based upon what you have detailed in your brief, what resources will the consultant provide to the project to ensure that the data collected will be appropriate and consistent and also achieve the deadline that you have set? It is important to find out precisely who will be carrying out the surveys (ask for CV’s), and who will be responsible for managing/overseeing the survey. Consultants will usually calculate their fee based upon the amount of time they are likely to spend on the project and the level of staff that will be needed. For large stock surveys what tends to happen is that less experienced staff (newly qualified, or those undertaking professional qualification such as APC or sometimes agency staff), are used for the bulk of the surveys and a more senior member of staff is used to oversee the project. This can work as long as the senior member of staff, undertakes robust quality assurance checks of the data being collected and undertakes continual training throughout the process with the surveyors in order to maintain consistency. The whole process can easily break down if a consultant does not manage the process in this way and will lead to incorrect/inconsistent data being collected. This should never be allowed to happen and is something that a Client should explore during the procurement process.
Consultant’s Fee – Always analyse precisely what the Consultant has included with their fee. If your tender documentation, including your survey brief are sufficiently detailed then the Consultant should have provided a fee to reflect what you have asked for. If not, and the consultant has included their own ‘inclusions or interpretations’ then this will make the fee very difficult to compare with other tenders. This should not happen, as this could invalidate a tender, depending upon the method in which tenders were issued. In any event there needs to be a detailed tender analysis in order for a Client to satisfy themselves that the Consultant can provide precisely what they want for the fee they have provided. Never be tempted to look at the headline fee alone, as without looking you cannot know what (or what is not) included within that fee.
In next week’s article I will consider stock condition surveys from a Consultant’s viewpoint and provide some examples of how I used to manage large stock surveys.
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