NEC Contract Management: Creating Positive Relationships

Luisa Fernandez
At the start of any project it’s vital to establish a good relationship and effective communication between the client and contractor whether it relates to a commercial framework or a one off project, everyone starts out with a view of creating a reliable and professional partnership.

Whilst the main drivers for procuring specialist services will always be based around time, quality and cost, one of the most important front-end processes, the contract, is often over looked and considered to be an administrative activity with little value once the type of NEC contract and associated options have been selected. In reality the contract needs to be a well written document, which is used to manage expectations and establish the exact requirements for all parties. Everyone involved should feel that they are able to achieve the desired outcomes and deliver a successful project.

...the contract needs to be a well written document, which is used to manage expectations and establish the exact requirements for all parties.

At the early stages of the tender process the bid packages should contain a detailed scope of work; detailed to a level, which means they can be used to form part of the NEC Form of Agreement and the Works Information Part 1. The contractors tender return should be detailed enough to later become the Works Information Part 2, subject to minor changes post tender evaluation and any value engineering exercises.

Any scope of work should aim to avoid ambiguities, something which the NEC contract leans heavily toward, achieving a "no nonsense type of agreement". Post contract changes can be costly and this is often where issues arise.

Any scope of work should aim to avoid ambiguities, something which the NEC contract leans heavily toward...

Tender documents should avoid high volumes of generic/standard specifications. It is better to issue specific project information only and allow for standard specifications and generic documents to be viewed via a shared portal. At the outset of a project everyone is keen to get on and it is tempting to overlook discrepancies in exchanged information, with promises to rectify at a later date, however, this can lead to poorly written contracts that lack the precise scope of work and contain approximate costs.

At the start of the procurement process if time is spent working with the preferred bidder(s) and their project team to establish what the expectations are and review the more complex project specific activities in design workshops, any issues should be prevented. The inclusion of any site specific conditions and lines of responsibilities should be jointly established as this helps gain a better level of understanding of what the issues are, before starting any works.

Whilst it can often be seen as premature to involve the likes of operations and maintenance stakeholders at the beginning of a procurement process, it is important to spend time reviewing the proposed scope of work alongside the end users to establish a means of measuring performance, especially when it comes to agreeing what constitutes being "fit for purpose".

Spending time to develop a robust contract will save time and money over the duration of a project...

The contractor will also benefit from early stakeholder engagement; as a designer what could be better than to gain the understanding of how the end users will operate? These basic principles apply to all sub contracts. There should be no difference in the control, quality or clarity regardless of whatever tier of the supply chain you go to.

Clients benefit from having a better scope; better quality and better control of costs. For the contractor, the benefits are achieved by improved productivity, stakeholder approvals and easier-to-obatin accreditations. For both parties the benefits are shared where complex site activities are identified and methods of working are agreed in advance and this can only help improve overall safety.

Taking the time to develop a robust contract will save time and money over the duration of a project; it will lead to better working relationships, where everyone is aware of their responsibilities in advance of any activities. Whether it is a short or longer term arrangement, good preparation will enhance the overall experience of working in an open and trusted project environment.