Leading advances in Level 3 Self Certification
On High Speed Two (HS2), the contractor is responsible for ensuring that the Contract and Works Information requirements are followed. Part of these requirements is to deliver a completely self-assured product throughout the lifecycle stages of the project. The Level 3 (L3) certificate attests that the product delivered to the client is fully assured technically by the contractor and is used to close out a lifecycle stage of works.
Often when setting up a project, the project team are yet to understand the requirements before physical works start. Allowing sufficient time to understand and digest the Contract and Works Information, improving understanding about when and what information needs to be produced and tracked, and then getting teams’ buy-in to the completion strategy from the beginning are key to success.
This paper will present the use of and share a Technical Assurance Status Review (TASR) to streamline the efforts as early as possible, to avoid document fatigue and support progressive assurance as well as other learnings to improve the process for all involved. It will also show how this leads to successful, right first time L3 certificate production and review.
Background and industry context
The railway industry is used to the client and client subject matter experts ‘approving’ the works.
For the HS2 project, the contractor is responsible for ensuring that the Contract and Works Information requirements are followed. Part of these requirements is to deliver a completely self-assured product throughout the lifecycle stages of the project.
The L3 certificate is the pledge that the product delivered to the client is fully assured technically by the contractor and is used to close out a lifecycle stage of works.
This paper focuses on the Enabling Works Contract (EWC) on the southern section of High Speed Two (HS2) phase one which includes demolition of buildings within the wider Euston area, utility diversions, environmental and ecological monitoring and a programme of historic environment and archaeological activities, delivered by the Costain Skanska joint venture (CSjv). It demonstrates how the L3 certificate was delivered on this contract.
At the beginning of a project, everyone is very keen and eager to get started and get on with delivering the project, however a full understanding of the contract takes time. This affects both the contractor and the client organisations.
This rush to get started can make it very difficult (and also costly) to close out a contract or part of a contract. Critical records may not be created, decisions may not be captured properly, and work scope can be poorly instructed. Resources may change, so those with knowledge of the project beginnings are not there at the end. This issue is further discussed in Learning Legacy paper Managing leavers to mitigate the impact to project delivery .
This need to get going can be driven by many things. People (contractors and clients) like to see ‘real’ progress (e.g., a building demolition started) and don’t want to spend time understanding the complex whole of the task that has been given. The whole of the task includes all of the physical works as well as documentation, testing and other records that need to be produced. In addition, people have different strengths, so different people like to start things and others like to finish them. While it is valuable to have early consultation between the people setting up a project and those who might finish it, this is not always easy or possible.
There are many techniques available to improve the start of a project to ensure it can be completed effectively; consultation between the people setting up and completing projects is just one of them. The inclusion of technical specialists early in project set up and development, and the provision of enough time for planning and understanding of what needs to be done for the whole project contract, rather than just the physical scope, will improve not just the completion of the contract but the way it operates as whole.
On the EWC, the contractual requirement of self-assurance has driven some of these considerations. Although fully understood later in the programme (e.g., when closing out a work package), the self-assurance has generally improved the way packages of work are assured and closed out.
The L3 certificate is a way to drive completion of all elements of delivery, especially around record keeping and filing. The EWC has developed the use of a TASR, affectionately known as a BBT (Big Blue Table; named after the visual look of the table), to help delivery teams understand what deliverables are needed to complete an L3 certificate and what records and documents are needed to support those deliverables.
A set of TASR templates were created in Microsoft Excel with the content varied to suit the deliverables required for the different lifecycle stages.
Outcomes and learning
The use of a TASR combined with work package efforts as early as possible have led to successful L3 certificate production and sign off.
The TASR has worked well for EWC and helped the delivery teams:
- To understand which key integration and assurance deliverables they are required to produce for each lifecycle stage.
- To understand the significance of the activities and deliverables required to be produced.
- In regular meetings with Technical Assurance to track both L3 deliverable statuses, and also record actions required to complete and sign off these deliverables.
- To better plan completion of the assurance activities and deliverables.
- To better engage with the Client to prompt action on critical items.
The TASR also:
- Supports progressive assurance (as required by the Contract).
- Enables quick and easy production of the final L3 document.
A key learning is that it costs more time, money, and effort at the end of a project than to get it right from the beginning.
For example, the St James’s Gardens archaeology exhumations work package was one of the first to start and was focused on the physical works (exhumation of circa 40,000 human remains) when the understanding of assurance deliverables was immature by both EWC and HS2.
The work packages that commenced at an early stage of process maturity and understanding the full extent of HS2 assurance deliverables (by both EWC and HS2) took longer than those that started later in the EWC. Those that started later were targeted to improve upon the 21-week handover programme.
The following are our recommendations:
- Take time to understand the detail of the contract.
- Understand what information needs to be tracked and when from the beginning.
- Challenge client instructions: understand and communicate the real impact not only in the delivery but in the assurance of the instruction.
- Completion mind-set: work package teams need to buy-in to the completion strategy from the beginning, with a focus on documentation and not just the physical works.
- Use the correct tools (not just Excel, as used on the EWC) to monitor documentation progress, and display status via dashboards. Avoid duplicate tracking of information. Link the deliverables status management to the content of the Master Information Deliverables Plan (MIDP). Learning Legacy paper Super MIDP details this system.
- Ensure that the chosen document management system has the functionality to be configured (e.g. via metadata) to enable the automated reporting of the status of deliverables. Additionally, the chosen document management system should be able to link to suitable tools (e.g. Power BI) to enable data to be automatically drawn from the document management system for visualisations.
- There is the potential to expand the assurance tracker tool (beyond the TASR content) to incorporate other progress tracking requirements, e.g., completion and handover.
Additionally, creating a context per package to be assured, wrapping up key information like scope and location, and keeping it updated can save time and maintain consistency throughout the various work package deliverables. Reviewers are not as familiar with context as the delivery team, and the delivery team is not always the same throughout the whole lifecycle of a project.
The HS2 approach of self-assurance is the future of large or complex rail project work within the UK.
Allowing sufficient time to understand and digest the contract and works information, improving understanding about when and what information needs to be produced and tracked, then getting teams’ buy-in to the completion strategy from the beginning are key to success.
A document such as the TASR, providing it is implemented at the correct time, can assist in the successful delivery and right first time completion of a self-assured product and the L3.
Max Walker, Elizabeth Wright and Caroline Nesi all contributed to the production of this paper.
HS2 Ltd Technical Assurance Plan, HS2-HS2-SA-PLN-000-000003, 2019.
HS2 Technical Assurance Certification Process, HS2-HS2-SA-PRO-000-000025, 2019.