International Project Management Expertise to Serve the Most Challenging Data Centre Conditions and Timescales

From Hanley Energy, November 12, 2020

“In all the years we’ve been in operation, we’ve never failed to deliver a project on time or miss a critical deadline” reveals Aidan Fee, Operations Manager at Hanley Energy, with understandable pride. 

Now that Project Management as a core competence is almost taken for granted in business, it takes exceptional performance just to stand out. In the case of Hanley Energy, it is the background of the team that is key to reaching and sustaining those standards. 

“Anyone who joins the company has come from a construction background, mostly electrical based,” he explains. “That gives us the edge where most projects are construction-based deployment-wise.”

Time to Market Pressures

The Hanley team has an innate understanding and experience of how things go together, and how to meet short delivery times on hyper-scale projects.

“We’ve known no other way,” says Aidan. “It’s always critical and every project has critical milestones and paths.”

A picture emerges then not of a business that offers Project Management as a feature, but one which offers Project Management as the product itself. That’s increasingly in demand as system integration off-site becomes the norm. 

“Customers are becoming more demanding in the time-to-market,” says Aidan. “We can integrate bespoke products that we know have the highest standards and quality, but we can do it in a controlled factory environment rather than on site.”

The Lifecycle Management Approach

Crucially, that Project Management-focused approach extends beyond execution and design. The team at Hanley Energy remain immersed in the project right through to service and maintenance. The handover is not the conclusion, so much as the beginning of the relationship. 

“When we sit down to design we don’t do it with a view to delivering the project,” says Aidan. “We’re aware that there will be 10-15 years of ongoing maintenance and lifecycle management which will be our business.” 

That long-term view influences the project conception in turn. “We design in a way that makes it as engineer-friendly and serviceable as possible. It’s a much more rounded view of delivering a project,” he says.

The Key to Strategic Decisions

Perhaps one of the key drivers of Hanley Energy’s continued success is the fact that projects are handed over to the PM early on, soon after the sales negotiation is complete. It then becomes the Project Manager’s responsibility to make sure the project is delivered “on time, quality and budget.” No wiggle room. 

“We hold time and quality sacrosanct,” Aidan stresses. Once the project is handed over, the PM will establish the scope of what is being delivered, and the specific milestones and stakeholders involved. 

Making Stakeholder Relationships

The internal design team retains a seat at the table, but the Project Manager is the relationship owner for strategic decisions. It is their responsibility to engage the client, electrical contractors on site, general contractors and sub-contractors. These days, that frequently means managing relationships and operations in overseas locations. 

“More often than not we’re now following clients to new and remote locations,” says Aidan, “so it’s important to ‘build an Ireland’ out there.” 

That means doing the footwork early on in the initiation stage of a project to understand the different cultures. It is one thing to talk about risk management, but there are also inevitable gaps in competency and cultural differences to factor in. That research has to be done early on to mitigate against those risks. And there is rarely the luxury of time. With most projects typically lasting 12-15 weeks, “you don’t have much room for something to go wrong,” according to Aidan.  

Experts in Electrical

Adaptability, customer relationship management, risk mitigation, and the ability to keep a level head while several plates are spinning are the mark of any competent Project Manager, but those at Hanley Energy must excel in one discipline above all others – electrical competency. 

“We need to understand how third-party works are progressing and how that impacts our work,” says Aidan. “And as you make your way through a project and commission equipment, you absolutely need to have an understanding of the kit that you’re using.” 

A Trusted Presence at the Table

Having that ability to speak with authority and fluency on electrical matters is an essential if not priceless skill when it comes to bringing stakeholders together, particularly as deadlines loom. 

“You need to make sure that your voice is being heard because there will be other vendors and contractors around the table with their own agendas,” he explains. “They may look for relaxation of timelines to suit their own means but it’s important to fight your corner. It’s very important to get in early and hone that relationship with general contractors and make them aware of our other experience.”

Having the ability and presence to state the case from an electrical standpoint lends gravitas, but also enables collaboration. 

“These fast deployment data centres are really a team effort with all vendors but you need to work together,” says Aidan.

A Powerful Customer Advocate

Typically, it falls to Hanley Energy to represent the customer’s interests during delivery, as both a trusted partner and champion of the end user. That’s not just to make for smooth relations during the design stage. It acknowledges the reality that involvement continues long after the project is delivered. And because of the team’s electrical background, there’s a natural empathy with those who will ultimately operate the solution.

Built-in Risk Mitigation

With an influx of younger apprentices who have grown up on data centre projects, Hanley Energy are developing the Project Managers of the future. They understand and are in tune with the timelines involved, and know when to raise the alarm when discussions around the table are out of synch. 

“It’s a matter of identifying early on what the scope and milestones are,” says Aidan. “So much of PM is down to communication and getting things out there early and getting it fixed.”

The team implements this through clearly defined steps and sequenced waterfall techniques, incorporating invoicing milestones that are mutually beneficial and transparent. These give much-needed clarity to the client in terms of delivery. 

“The equipment we deliver is of high value,” Aidan explains, “so it’s important that we can invoice as soon as possible. It has serious implications on the greater business.”

Developing Essential PM Skills

As Project Managers mature at Hanley Energy, they learn to balance their initial electrical competency with a more acute understanding of CapEx and OpEx. 

“There’s a language to be learned,” says Aidan, “and how to engage with customers and GCs. Electrical engineering is a prerequisite, but you do need to understand the PM role too.” 

That’s even more important when you bear in mind that it is the Project Managers who are essentially the face of the company as far as clients are concerned. In a fast-moving game, there’s no place to hide if you can’t discuss technical issues with the client directly. 

Says Aidan: “I’ve seen other vendors around the table explaining themselves for their lack of technical competency and you’ve lost the table when that happens.” 

In the Hanley Energy philosophy, there’s the understanding that a Project Manager cannot bluff their way in electrical engineering – but an up-and-coming electrical engineer can develop the skills of an outstanding Project Manager. 

According to Aidan, the industry demands a mixture of “relevant experience and street savvy.”

Lifecycle Management: A Matter of DNA

“We’re all PM’s in development,” says Aidan. “Execution of customer requirements is the core of what the company has always done since its origin. The ability and obsession to deliver is in our DNA.”

That means things cannot be left uncovered or controlled. There is never the option of just “dropping the product at the gates.” 

“Everyone who operates at Hanley, they’re all used to working to milestones and deadlines,” says Aidan. “So they already understand the critical nature of delivering projects to quality and time. It’s a deeper value set not a checklist.”

The other side of the company is the production and manufacturing of bespoke products and integrating them. “A product is delivered as a project on the execution and delivery side. Everybody is already working in a project mentality. It’s inherent in everything we do,” says Aidan.