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Managing risk is to be embraced and not ignored

NEWS - 60 second interview

Phil Brown joined Mace as an operations director in October and specialises in risk management. He talks to Joanna Booth What is your background?

I'm an engineer by qualification and started out working on sites both in the UK and overseas. In 1999 I moved into management consultancy, specialising in risk analysis of construction, defence and health projects. Our clients included Network Rail, the Highways Agency, British Energy and Southern Water. I was managing director when I left to join Mace.

Does your previous experience with clients give you an edge?

It has given me an inside track on how organisations are looking at project delivery on a global scale and how the industry has changed. There is a risk-based focus now. With the transport companies, minimising disruption was a big focus, especially if they could only work in restricted engineering hours. Cost, time and health and safety are always important. We worked with Network Rail to build a strong internal risk team. They have become very knowledgeable on how much risk they can reasonably pass on and who is the best holder of it.

Is your appointment connected to Mace taking on more contracting work?

It's by no means the only reason. Mace sees it as part of offering the best service.

Clients like predictability, and if you combine risk and value management you have the best chance of getting a successful project. We don't want to be a purely risk-based business but you need to acknowledge risk to provide excellence. We work on complex projects with tight timescales and high expectations from the end-user, so you can't put your head in the sand about anything.

What will your new job involve?

We're tak ing a two -fold ap-proach with in-house risk management and a front-end service contracted out to developers. Within Mace, our project managers are the custodians of risk and that will continue. The idea is to introduce them to different aspects and levels of risk management and pull the existing work together. I hope to have this rolled out within six months.

I will also oversee the external service offering bespoke consultancy. We've done some recent work with a public sector client and they really took to it, so we see a bright future there.

What's the best way of dealing with risk?

It's important to recognise that risk and opportunity come together ? they are intrinsically linked. There's a danger at the moment that people see risk as a box-ticking exercise ? just make a register and put it on a shelf. Managing risk needs to be very proactive ? not just involving the contractor and the client but all the shareholders and the end-user, so all requirements and inf luences are documented. It's not always just construction risk.

In the public sector there can be political and funding risks to take into account. The key to risk management is making sure that whoever you transfer risk to is ably empowered to manage it.