Q&A with new Project Strategy Director Ashley Admiraal

Q&A is a new series that has been created to generate conversation around some of the key areas of difference at Slattery. It provides insight into the unique structure of Slattery and some of the key people helping to drive the business forward.  

1. The opening of the Project Strategy business group marks a new chapter for Slattery. So what types of services can we expect from this new unit?

Slattery has always provided the strongest project cost and budget advice, and with our Project Strategy Group, we can now extend our services more broadly to assist our clients with making better investment decisions in their development projects.

More specifically this means we can assist our clients in the areas of:

• Feasibility assessment and business cases
• Cost informed options assessment
• Establishing project delivery arrangements – governance, procurement and risk
• Navigating projects through stakeholder and statutory interests.

2. Why has Slattery created this new division and what does it mean for clients?

For Slattery, the ‘project strategy’ initiative makes good business sense. It provides a platform for staff development and corporate growth, and does so in a way that is client focused.

While cost planning will continue to form the core of our business, we can now broaden the scope of how we think about development problems and provide project investment advice that is both strategic and precise.

3. Why is it important for decisions to be made at the front-end of the project’s lifecycle?

That’s where you have the greatest opportunity to positively influence the direction of a project. It’s also where projects can be set up to fail.

It’s really important at the start of the project to ask simple questions: ‘Why are we doing this?’; ‘What are we setting out to achieve?; ‘What does success look like’; and the big one – ‘What’s the problem?’

Often a client will have a preferred solution in mind, which is fine. But good strategy is problem focussed. An important part of strategy is to test, even as a thought experiment, the range of potential solutions to any problem.
Putting in a bit of effort early can save a lot of pain later.

4. As you mentioned, developing business cases and feasibility studies will be key drivers of the sector. Can you elaborate further on these two offerings?

There’s overlap here. For my part a feasibility study can either be a stand-alone activity, or will form a subcomponent of a broader business case, usually the second half.

Collectively, the business case/feasibility study will seek to answer the questions of ‘Why’, ‘What’ and ‘Wow’, in that order.

The business case will start with the ‘why’, and explore high-level strategic options, including options to manage demand, productivity solutions, and supply side solutions. In the development sector, ‘supply’ solutions basically means building stuff.

A feasibility study will then drill down further on the preferred strategic direction, and assess project options to determine, usually numerically, which option is the best and whether it stacks-up.

In the front-end of the business case, I want to regularly see the word ‘because’. The feasibility assessment should regularly include, and conclude with a ‘$’ sign.

5. Having come from such a diverse background having worked for the Department of Treasury and Finance and served as the Chair of Music Victoria among other appointments, what attracted you to this role?

Slattery is a people focused business, which highly values its staff and clients. Having the right cultural fit is extremely important to me and I wanted to immerse myself in a highly professional and values-based organisation.

Slattery also has a great client base, across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, and this nicely complements my interests.