Therefore Strategic Technology Services

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Bridging the gap


The Therefore StratIQ™ application is a tool that drives the efficient execution of strategy. In essence, Therefore StratIQ™ bridges the, often treacherous, gap between strategy and its execution. The most powerful metaphor that we could think of when developing the marketing content for Therefore StratIQ™ was that of the bridge.

By definition, bridges link locations, reduce transit times, unlock opportunities for trade, and often allow for a greater degree of social interaction between isolated communities. In short, bridges unlock previously unrealised value. Similarly, by acting as a conduit for the execution of strategy, Therefore StratIQ™ unlocks the vast value associated with the execution of strategy.

During the course of our research into the bridge metaphor, we came across some pretty remarkable bridges. This article has been written to share our journey with you.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge, built between 1886 and 1894, is a combined bascule and suspension bridge in London which crosses the River Thames. It is close to the Tower of London, from which it takes its name, and has become an iconic symbol of London.

The bridge consists of two towers tied together at the upper level by means of two horizontal walkways, designed to withstand the horizontal forces exerted by the suspended sections of the bridge on the landward sides of the towers. The vertical component of the forces in the suspended sections and the vertical reactions of the two walkways are carried by the two robust towers.

The bascule pivots and operating machinery are housed in the base of each tower. The bridge's present colour scheme dates from 1977, when it was painted red, white and blue for Queen Elizabeth II's silver jubilee.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is a “steel through arch” bridge across Sydney Harbour that carries rail, vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic between the Sydney CBD and the North Shore. The dramatic view of the bridge, the harbour, and the nearby Sydney Opera House is an iconic image of both Sydney and Australia. The bridge is nicknamed "the coat hanger" because of its arch-based design.

The bridge was designed and built by British firm Dorman Long and Co Ltd of Middlesbrough and opened in 1932.

The bridge's design was influenced by the Hell Gate Bridge in New York City. It is the sixth longest spanning-arch bridge in the world. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is the tallest steel arch bridge in the world, measuring some 134m (440ft) from its top to water level.

Nelson Mandela Bridge

The Nelson Mandela Bridge, completed in 2003, is a bridge in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was built to link the Braamfontein and Newtown business areas as well as to rejuvenate and modernise the Johannesburg inner city. The bridge was constructed over 42 railway lines, without disturbing railway traffic. It is 284m in length.

The bridge’s two pylons, North and South, are 42m and 27m high respectively. To reduce the weight of the bridge, it was built using a steel structure with a concrete composite deck. The bridge consists of two lanes and has pedestrian walk-ways on either side to accommodate foot traffic.

The bridge's lighting was upgraded for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The new LED lighting technology allows for the changing of the colour of the light, thereby creating a light show at night.

A bridge linking Braamfontein to the Newtown precinct was first mooted by Steve Thorne and Gordon Gibson in 1993 in their urban design study of the Johannesburg Inner City. Their study suggested that the bridge be called the Nelson Mandela Bridge in recognition of the role that he played in bridging the various peoples of South Africa and thereby uniting South African society.

Millau Viaduct Bridge

The Millau Viaduct Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge that spans the valley of the River Tarn near Millau in southern France.

Designed by the French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster, it is the tallest bridge in the world with one mast's summit at 343m (1,125ft) above the base of the structure. It is the 12th highest bridge deck in the world, being 270m (890ft) between the road deck and the ground below. The Millau Viaduct Bridge is part of the A75-A71 autoroute axis from Paris to Béziers and Montpellier. Construction cost was approximately €400 million. It was formally inaugurated on 14 December 2004, and opened to traffic on 16 December. The bridge has been consistently ranked as one of the great engineering achievements of all time. The bridge received the 2006 International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering Outstanding Structure Award.

Great Belt Bridge

The Great Belt Bridge runs between the Danish islands of Zealand (Copenhagen is partly on its eastern shore) and Funen (Odense is the main city). It consists of three structures: a road suspension bridge and a railway tunnel between Zealand and the small island Sprogø located in the middle of the Great Belt and a box girder bridge for both road and rail traffic between Sprogø and Funen. The "Great Belt Bridge" commonly refers to the suspension bridge, although it may also be used to mean the box-girder bridge or the link in its entirety. The suspension bridge, officially known as the East Bridge, has the world's third longest main span (1.6km), the longest outside of Asia. It was designed by the Danish engineering firm COWI.

The link replaced the ferry service that had been the primary means of crossing the Great Belt. After more than five decades of speculation and debate, the decision to construct the link was made in 1986; the original intent was to complete the railway link three years before opening the road connection, but the link opened to rail traffic in 1997 and road traffic in 1998. At an estimated cost of DKK 21.4 billion (1988 prices), the link is the largest construction project in Danish history.

The link has reduced travel times significantly; previously taking about an hour by ferry, the Great Belt can now be crossed in about ten minutes. The construction of the link and the Øresund Bridge has enabled driving from mainland Europe to Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia through Denmark.

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate strait, the mile-wide, three-mile-long channel between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The structure links the U.S. city of San Francisco, on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, to Marin County, bridging both U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 across the strait. The bridge is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco, California, and the United States. It has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The Frommers travel guide considers the Golden Gate Bridge "possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed bridge in the world". It opened in 1937 and was, until 1964, the longest suspension bridge main span in the world at 1,300m (4,200ft).

Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge is a famous historic bridge that crosses the Vltava River in Prague, Czech Republic. Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century. The bridge replaced the old Judith Bridge (built 1158 – 1172) that had been badly damaged by a flood in 1342. This new bridge was originally called the Stone Bridge (Kamenný most) or the Prague Bridge (Pražský most) but has been the "Charles Bridge" since 1870. As the only means of crossing the river Vltava (Moldau) until 1841, the Charles Bridge was the most important connection between Prague Castle and the city's Old Town and adjacent areas. This "solid-land" connection made Prague important as a trade route between Eastern and Western Europe.

The bridge is 621 m long and nearly 10 m wide, resting on 16 arches shielded by ice guards. It is protected by three bridge towers, two of them on the Lesser Quarter side and the third one on the Old Town side. The Old Town bridge tower is often considered to be one of the most astonishing civil gothic-style buildings in the world. The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues and statuaries, most of them baroque-style, originally erected around 1700 but now all replaced by replicas.

Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is a hybrid cable-stayed / suspension bridge in New York City and is one of the oldest bridges of either type in the United States. Completed in 1883, it connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. It has a main span of 486m (1,595ft) and was the first steel-wire suspension bridge constructed. It was originally referred to as the New York and Brooklyn Bridge and as the East River Bridge, but it was later dubbed the Brooklyn Bridge and formally so named by the city government in 1915. Since its opening, it has become an icon of New York City. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1972.

Akashi Kaikyō Bridge

The Akashi Kaikyō Bridge, also known as the Pearl Bridge, links the city of Kobe on the mainland of Honshu to Iwaya on Awaji Island, in Japan. Completed in 1998, it crosses the busy Akashi Strait and carries part of the Honshu-Shikoku Highway.

The Akashi Kaikyō Bridge has the longest central span of any suspension bridge in the world, at 1,991m (6,532ft).

It is one of the key links of the Honshū-Shikoku Bridge Project, which created three routes across the Inland Sea.

Storms River Bridge

The Paul Sauer Bridge, also known as the Storms River Bridge, is a concrete arch bridge over the Storms River in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. It carries road traffic for the N2 national highway. The Paul Sauer or Storms River Bridge was built between 1953 and 1956. It was designed by Italian engineer Riccardo Morandi. The bridge spans 100m (328ft) and sits 120m (394ft) above the river.

The main arch structure was constructed in a unique fashion. The halves of the arch were built with climbing formworks in an essentially vertical position on opposite sides of the river canyon. They were then rotated and lowered into position to meet at the centre, thus forming the completed arch structure.

Located on the beautiful Garden Route N2, between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth (160km in length), it was initially the highest concrete arch in Africa. It lost this record in 1984 to the Bloukrans Bridge.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The Capacity Crunch … Things we learn from Eskom


Of late, there has been a lot of candle lit dinner table conversation about “capacity management”, largely driven by Eskom’s imposition of load shedding. Eskom's current predicament is very clearly the consequence of them having performed capacity management rather poorly for an extended period of time. Talk has it that we are on the brink of experiencing similar problems with water provision. The sobering thought is that it’s not just governments and parastatals that struggle to manage capacity … the private sector routinely gets it wrong too.

Capacity is typically seen as a strategic enabler. You develop a strategy, the strategy has growth targets and you develop enough capacity to be in a position to support the strategy with a view to realising its growth targets. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

The reality is that the management of capacity is typically hard work. There are two aspects to the exercise – maintain your existing capacity and develop new capacity.

Maintaining existing capacity

To return to the Eskom example, it is very clear that they have failed spectacularly to maintain their existing fleet of power stations. Lately, the portion of their fleet that is offline due to unscheduled maintenance exceeds the portion that is offline for scheduled maintenance, by a factor or two or three … a sure sign that they are losing the maintenance war. Eskom have recently admitted that they have neglected the performance of routine maintenance since 2010, apparently as a consequence of the 2010 Soccer World Cup. What can we learn from the Eskom debacle regarding the management of existing capacity? Some ideas follow:
  1. The management of existing capacity is a long term commitment. 
  2. You can’t afford to take a breather when it comes to managing existing capacity. There is no such a thing as a “cost holiday”. 
  3. If you have taken a “cost holiday”, my deepest condolences. You will pay for it dearly at a later stage. 
  4. The management of exiting capacity requires discipline, skill and needs to be driven from the top. If you don’t have the appropriate human asset, set about growing it or employing it. 
  5. The management of existing capacity requires financial resource. Cutting back on routine maintenance because you “can’t afford it” is not smart poker, as the good folks at Eskom have found. 
  6. The management of existing capacity requires a continued and disciplined focus on quality and root cause analysis. 
  7. If you have neglected routine maintenance for a long time, it is going to take you a long time to turn the ship around. In short, if it took you five years to break it, you can expect to take five years to fix it. 
  8. Don’t neglect to perform routine maintenance on your existing capacity because you have been seduced by the excitement of new capacity build initiatives. 
  9. If you can’t afford to maintain your existing capacity, you can’t afford to pay big bonuses.

Developing new capacity

Talk has it that Eskom had presented demand projections and plans for the development of new capacity to the Government in good time. Unfortunately, the Government hadn’t settled their policy framework for power, and as a consequence were unable to provide Eskom with the requisite go ahead until it was too late. What can we learn from Eskom’s new capacity build efforts? Some ideas follow:
  1. The delay in initiating the build of new power stations was a consequence of the Government not having strategic clarity on how it wanted to handle power generation going forward. While the Government was squabbling about the “privatise vs continued State monopoly” issue, precious time was being lost. Strategic clarity and Board commitment to the management of capacity is a key success factor … and the Government failed on both counts. 
  2. New capacity development takes time. If poor strategy and / or planning have put you in a position where you need to bring new capacity on-stream in a shorter period of time, you generally land up paying more or compromising on quality. Oddly enough, in the case of Eskom, it looks like they may well land up both paying more AND compromising on quality … which points to poor leadership. The bottom line is that it’s not smart to start late! Check out the “Good, Cheap and Fast” blog article for some background reading on this principle.
  3. New capacity development planning and execution must continually be performed across the short, medium and long term planning horizons. 
  4. Successful capacity development requires the delivery of capacity that is workable, on time and within budget. The Eskom new power plant builds are overrunning, both with respect to cost and time. Further, there has been some question about the quality of the new plants that are being built. It’s perhaps best not to reward performance of this nature with bonuses as it encourages the type of practices that you would rather do without. 
  5. Once again, the development of new capacity requires depth of skill and effective management. If you don’t have the appropriate human asset … set about growing it or employing it. 
  6. It’s not smart to finance the building of new capacity by cutting down maintenance spend on your existing capacity. 
  7. Large projects such as power plant builds tend to be hotbeds for corruption. Professional procurement contextualised by a solid value system is essential, particularly when your shareholder is the taxpayer. For example, clean procurement practices would never have allowed the Chancellor House / Hitachi issue to have arisen. It seems somewhat perverse that the ANC should both be ultimately responsible for the power crisis and be profiting from it.

When it goes wrong

When it comes to capacity, it’s fair to say that it’s easy to sell into surplus capacity, but it’s pretty tough to sell into undeveloped capacity.

Surprisingly, the new democratic dispensation inherited an excess of power capacity when they came into power. They did the right thing … they rolled power out to the previously disenfranchised. In business speak; they sold into the surplus capacity and they did so for in excess of 10 years. The problem arose when they were called upon to lead the development of new capacity. Sadly, capacity development simply wasn’t centre stage on their strategy.

The consequence of the Eskom debacle has been massive for South Africa. Although it’s very difficult to quantify the impact of the power crisis, conservative estimates suggest that GDP growth has been held back by somewhere between 30 and 60 basis points per annum by Eskom’s inability to keep the lights on. South Africa’s GDP would have been somewhere between 2.1% and 4.2% bigger right now if we had not run into a capacity crunch back in 2008. That translates into a lot of lost jobs for people that desperately need them.

What do we learn?

Capacity is the life force behind any organization. It is capacity that allows for the provision of goods and services to market and its often capacity that stands against you meeting your growth targets. In short … it’s the engine room behind what your business does. Take it for granted to your own detriment. Capacity management must be a key accountability of your Operations Team and should be in direct line of sight for your CEO.

Making the wrong capacity decisions for the sake of your next set of results will come back to haunt you in the medium to long terms. It is NOT in the best interests of your shareholders and it’s NOT sustainable. Don’t do it! Trust me … it’s not a good idea.

Your capacity is as strong as its weakest link. You should be continually monitoring for areas where your capacity is failure prone, performing root cause analysis and implementing corrective action. Focus on ensuring that your capacity is as robust and efficient as possible. Performing routine preventative maintenance is a far better option than living in a world where you are continually chasing around after the next “out of the blue” breakdown.

Treat your capacity well … and it will reciprocate. The alternative also applies.