Case study

How HS2 reduced its workload by 72% by working with Nodes & Links

ABOUT HS2

As the largest infrastructure project in Europe, High Speed 2 (HS2) is a project of monumental proportions. 
The goal is to create a high-speed rail line to join the north and south of the UK in a way that’s never been done before. Such a large-scale project naturally has hundreds of thousands of smaller milestones within it. The work spans 20 years and has an estimated cost of £100 billion, as of February 2020.

By The Numbers
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increase in the accuracy of identifying critical activities
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CHALLENGE

To stay on top of a project of such magnitude, HS2 undertakes extensive, regular risk assessments. Project experts must stay on top of relevant threats and keep stakeholders informed of potential disruptions.

Delivering a major project like this depends on sticking to both time and cost schedules. Currently, the industry-standard practice requires extensive time and effort to be spent on developing bespoke schedule risk evaluations. HS2 needed an effective and scalable way to approach these assessments. It was time to improve on how risk assessments were traditionally done and identify opportunities for how to better manage such an ambitious project.

SOLUTION

In 2019, HS2 set out to change the way they approach regular risk evaluations. Michael Bartlett, Head of Enterprise Risk at HS2, acknowledged the size of the challenge ahead. A single day of delay on HS2 can result in millions of additional spend on an already-ambitious project.

As the current industry-standard risk models cannot provide the level of assurance and confidence stakeholders needed, HS2 sought out a new, innovative approach to replace the traditional methods.

The main goals of the new approach are not just to replace, but to enhance HS2’s ability to assess risks. In addition, the team sought to lighten the workload of project managers, risk managers, and planners so they could apply their expertise more effectively elsewhere.

“The ideal solution would be deployed across the entire organisation and would be simple to use and understand.”

Michael Bartlett, Head of Enterprise Risk, HS2

Michael worked with HS2’s Innovation Team to find a potential solution: Nodes & Links’ technology. The enhanced risk evaluations enabled HS2 to spot areas of improvement that would have the biggest impact on HS2’s outcome ahead of time.

To test out the partnership, Michael and the Innovation Team used the technology to generate insights for Phase 2 of the project, totalling more than £50 billion in spending. The plan was to compare the accuracy and precision of the new system against traditional methods, evaluating its overall presentation and user experience.

RESULT

The collaboration uncovered the limitations of existing industry-standard solutions and, most importantly, presented opportunities for how to overcome these obstacles. Now, multiple project professionals can coordinate decisions across various milestones at the same time.

Looking back at the original objectives, HS2’s collaboration with Nodes & Links empowered project experts to identify new sources of schedule risk, far beyond the capabilities of existing industry-standard tools. This saved project experts valuable time by expediting the risk evaluation processes, along with enabling easy data exploration.

“The reduction in time and workload required to generate an understanding of risks alone constitutes a significant saving and enables HS2 to more efficiently utilise bottlenecked resources.”

Michael Bartlett, Head of Enterprise Risk, HS2

The new strategic opportunities stretch far beyond its direct benefits. More effective and efficient risk evaluations enable teams to identify hidden risks before they present as problems and therefore make smarter decisions for the good of the project.

On the back of the first initiative’s success, HS2 has now partnered with Nodes & Links to work on one of the Integrated Project Teams for the Phase One component of the Programme. Following success there, the goal is to roll out a similar programme across the entirety of Phase One and Two and, ultimately across all aspects of the HS2 programme.

As well as being a success for HS2, the new process has attracted attention from across the industry and other government departments. Michael stated that he hopes that HS2 and Nodes & Links’ combined efforts can be used to improve practices on capital projects across the UK and even beyond.

“Nodes & Links' approach to tackling the challenge of project complexity is the biggest breakthrough in project risk management since the introduction of Quantitative Risk Analysis.”

Michael Bartlett, Head of Enterprise Risk, HS2

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