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Finding engineering success for complex projects

Leaders within Australia’s construction industry and engineers will converge in Melbourne in an effort to forge greater industry-wide collaboration and improve success rates on delivering complex projects.

The Mastering Complex Projects conference, which is part of Australia’s largest ever engineering event, Convention 2014 (Nov 24 -28) – will examine a range of complex infrastructure projects and identify the management processes and high performance culture critical to success rather than the technical issues.

Conference Chair and Fellow of the Institution of Engineers Australia, Nolan Bear said with the current trend towards larger, more complex projects, Australia is at risk of losing its competitive edge because of overspending, delays and operational problems plaguing megaprojects.

“When design is multidisciplinary and complexity levels are high, we often see hostile or competitive relationships between clients, owners and contractors which can spell disaster for large projects.”

“Success in major engineered projects needs a far more in depth understanding of the interplay between leadership, team work, risks and systems specific to these complex projects.

Our challenge is to share the lessons learned and to stop getting caught up in the technical and confidentiality issues when troubled projects are reviewed,” Nolan said.

He predicts that capital projects will become increasingly difficult over the next decade, and the companies that develop the culture and systems to work within the complexity will be the ones that thrive in challenging environments.

Robert Young, former Regional Director in Australia for Independent Project Analysis, agrees with Bear’s comments on a greater need for leadership.

“We consistently note that complex projects, which usually cost more than $1 billion, have a significantly higher failure rate than ‘standard’ large projects.

“Given the large amounts of money involved with many of the projects, further education of business leaders is desperately needed,” Young said.

The Cotter Dam (ACT) is one of the projects examined in the Mastering Complex Projects Conference.

The three-day conference will also produce a White Paper addressed to Government from the construction industry on lessons learned about complex projects since 2000 and the factors contributing to success.

“The White Paper will be a first for Engineers Australia with the industry, giving delegates from a variety of disciplines, the opportunity to discuss and contribute to the draft and ultimately how we tackle complex projects,” Bear said.

Expected to be finalised in December, the White Paper will give a voice to Engineers Australia in advocating the development of a world-class construction capability to reliably deliver projects to cost and on time.

Other keynote speakers for the three-day conference include Ken Mathers, CEO of the Linking Melbourne Authority and Marc Vogt, CEO of John Grill centre for Project Leadership and a former project manager for BHP and Rio Tinto.

The Mastering Complex Projects Conference takes place at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre from November 25 – 27. For event details and ticketing visit

Convention 2014 will take place at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, November 24 – 28. 

To register, please visit the packages and prices page at Discount registrations are available to members of Engineers Australia.

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