What is a Soft Landings strategy?
Many in the construction industry have focused on Soft Landings to smooth the handover of projects to clients and end-users. However, the full concept encompasses much more. Since its origins in the 1990s, proponents of this approach have focused on creating a systematic approach to better understand the needs behind a project. The goal is to promote collaboration between project stakeholders. This is to fulfil the shared goals of a project while driving performance improvements within and between projects.
To deliver the full benefits of Soft Landings, companies need leadership and a series of procedures that draw input from different team members and stakeholders as the project progresses. A Soft Landing Strategy reflects a company’s intent on how to deliver this approach on each project, while still complying with requirements such as CDM and ISO standards, for example. Crucially, any strategy should allow a company to consider how it provides a scalable solution to maintain its focus on value for money.
Many of the concepts that fit within the Soft Landing model will be familiar. From stakeholder engagement and benchmarking to knowledge encapsulation and collaborative working. Ultimately the model captures these into a structured continuous improvement cycle. The application of Soft Landings drives enhanced solutions and value for money on each project.
Soft Landings and bid writing
A good bid writer understands what the client wants and is able to offer solutions to their problems. The clients’ Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT) criterion reflects the core concept of Soft Landings. These focus bidders on their priorities for a targeted solution, not just a one size fits all approach. Bids that succeed are those that align and show the marker that you have understood their needs.
Bid writers usually leave a job once the project has been won. A designated Soft Landing Champion (an appointed person who is a constant throughout a project) helps to bridge the gap when bid writers have finished on the project. A Champion’s role is to maintain the focus on the end-goal from bid to handover and aftercare. They act as a project advocate at every stage. Maintaining the dialogue between team members and departments from bidding through to aftercare is the mark of a better business.
The Soft Landing model provides a comprehensive approach to allow alignment with your existing and proposed procedures. At the beginning of a response, you could explain the Soft Landings strategy, rather than a long list of all the work you will provide for a client. You could discuss with them how the strategy provides:
- stakeholder engagement to tailor proposals
- value management feeding targeted ‘true’ value engineering to maximise the benefit your engagement brings – in a post-Grenfell world, understanding the difference between ‘must haves’ and ‘would likes’ when proposing design or value engineering solutions is fundamental.
- whole life consideration embedded within design, delivery and aftercare proposals
- performance measures and benchmarks.
The Soft Landing model includes stakeholder engagement and benchmarking throughout. Proposals can be amended at the design stage, which enhances value at handover and in use. The model effectively provides an audit trail of decisions for accountability and justification of reduced or enhanced offerings.
To achieve better modelling of requirements, a strategy should engage stakeholders. It should model their requirements into a language they can understand. Remember the expression ‘good is good enough’? Well, agreeing from the outset what ‘good’ looks like is much easier than in the closing days of design or a pre-construction programme, when your time and money has been invested into designing a solution you thought the client wanted. Client satisfaction is increased and a bidder’s costs are reduced.
The beauty of Soft Landings is its focus on closing the gap between expectation and reality at the design stage. This benefits everyone involved. Performance measures, such as energy monitoring, occupation satisfaction surveys and benchmarking are all essential for demonstrating value. This is important when it comes to scoring the high marks you need in your tender.
Ultimately the Soft Landings model is a recognisable standard for integrated management procedures. It is already referenced in BIM and BREEAM requirements. Many organisations’ policies and procedures for adding value are not integrated as they would first appear, and will become confusing if applied all at once. The Soft Landing model offers a ready-made approach to consolidate and focus proposals.
Make your strategy work
David Lowe, Director of VBD, recommends that before you develop and apply a Soft Landing strategy, you need to consider what you already have. There is no point inventing new procedures if your existing approach can be refined and updated.
To achieve this read the following steps:
- Create a small group of staff who together have a comprehensive working knowledge of your business strategy and working practices
- Complete a comprehensive strategic review of systems and procedures
- Identify your USPs and areas of weakness, ask team members for a reality check on your findings
- Create an overarching process map of outcomes to properly appreciate how processes are used and included in bids, and each stage/phase of your work
- Agree a plan to bridge any gaps in process map, where approach has become ad-hoc or unclear
- Identify areas that naturally link together or overlap. A strategy review is a good opportunity to assess how LEAN your systems and procedures are.
- Use the process map as an opportunity to confirm company strategies between bid and delivery teams, match reality and rhetoric, update case studies and references, ensuring feedback loops inform and improve your bids and project activities
- Assess the Soft Landing model and its steps for the business and each project phase
- Identify parallels and links in existing activities
- Develop and test a ‘you-specific’ model for achieving Soft Landings
- Consider a scalable solution e.g. Soft Landing ‘Lite’ offers an ideal vehicle to allow a more bespoke level of service offering.
Around 10% of text in a bid can be saved by offering your Soft Landings strategy or a recognised industry model as a comprehensive methodology, rather than explaining a dozen separate processes. Demonstrating this overarching strategy focuses bid writers on providing a coherent and integrated offering. This is easier to understand as an evaluator and will also save words and space when faced with tight limits.
From our experience, recognising that the processes that support Soft Landings can be modelled visually means bid writers can develop a series of diagrams to support a scalable Soft Landing offering. In addition, diagrams are an easier way to explain proposals, to clients and your own teams, providing clarity from the outset of any project.
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