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Case study: the London Olympics

Mark Bryant (formerly of the Olympic Delivery Authority) talks about how large scale contracts can be operated successfully in the public sector.
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MARC BRYANT: Hi. I’m Marc Bryant. I’m currently Deputy Director of commercial for DCMS, the Department of Culture Media and Sport. I’ve recently come from the ODA. I was head of commercial there. You couldn’t deliver the 2012 Olympics in 2013. It had to be done in 2012. And, at that point, that was against the context, very much cultural background of, not failed, but very hard-fought kind of construction, infrastructure project. Commercial capability was making sure that everybody in the project team, not just the commercial function, had a common level commercial awareness. They understood that making decisions quickly was important, but making the right, informed decisions, because each one has commercial impact.
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So if you’re trying to build a velodrome and you need to make some quick decisions on the cladding that goes outside, that has a huge impact on the look and feel of the whole games. You’re bringing together, very much, high-level public sector and public servants with quite gritty private sector, but the best and the brightest, actually. And that’s I think what the ODA was, the best and brightest of both worlds. So commercial organisations for whom profit and loss actually matters, really matters, and public servants who are completely focused on making sure the deliverable is right and that the games happens.
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And one of the key elements, I think, of commercial capability that you can really see derived from the Olympics, is the idea of partnering, which has become quite a buzzword of late. It wasn’t, perhaps, back in 2006 or 2007 when we were really getting going, but we had a delivery partner. And the delivery partner model of the Olympics was to get 600 private-sector employees who were at the top of their game in commercial project management, and risk management, and programme management, to work with us to deliver the whole infrastructure across what is, effectively, a regeneration of the whole, of that area in Stratford in East London.
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Sometimes what we saw, sometimes the private sector did not quite see the same broad-scale picture the public sector brings to it. Because for the public sector, it’s all about social value. The real end goal of this, and had always been, was that the Olympics was almost a nice by-product of a successful regeneration of that area in Stratford. So that thought was kind of foremost in the ODA’s mind all the way through. It really is about culture. I suppose one of the things I often bang my drum about is it doesn’t matter whether the contract’s worth 100,000 pounds, 10,000 pounds, or 100 million pounds.
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The principles are still the same in the supplier engagement and the relationship you need to build, the things you need to look out for. Some things, buying paper clips, perhaps, there’s not a lot you can do about that, but if you’re delivering a service somewhere, or you’re engaged with the commercial world, I think there’s still a lot more that we need to do, as a public sector, to learn about the commercial sector. But vice versa, as well, I think there’s still more that the commercial sector can do to learn about doing business with us.
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You need to be adopting a commercial level of awareness in the decisions that you make, and an understanding about how they impact, not just the cost, but actually the risk profile, the contractor’s appetite, how the relationship with the contractor could be leveraged in something that you’re trying to do. And I think that’s quite critical.

In this video, Mark Bryant, former Deputy Director of Commercial for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and formerly of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), talks about how large scale contracts can be operated successfully in the public sector.

He uses the London Olympics (in 2012) as an example of how this can be achieved if all parties engage with the process and take responsibility for their activities to support it.

Read through this article:

This is an older case study, but still useful and relevant when considering contract management for a large-scale project.

Having watched Marc and read the article, what are your thoughts now?
What else do you think that the public and private sectors can learn from each other? Please share examples of your own experiences.
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