Determining Agency Staffing Levels and Skill Sets for Alternative Contracting Methods (ACMs)
State departments of
transportation (DOTs are increasingly incorporating the use of alternative
contracting methods (ACMs) along with the traditional design-bid-build (D-B-B)
delivery approach. The primary ACMs include design–build (D-B), construction
manager/general contractor (CM/GC), public–private partnerships (P3), and other
innovative techniques (e.g., alternative technical concepts (ATC), cost plus
time contracting (A+B), a best-value approach to D-B-B projects, and others).
In fact, ACMs are a significant part of the Federal Highway Administration
(FHWA) Every Day Counts Initiative because they are tools that can be used to
improve transportation projects and programs.
Staffing needs and skill sets for
traditional D-B-B delivery are well established. State DOTs have historically
employed and maintained levels of technical and administrative staff to perform
design and construction activities according to their traditional delivery
practices. However, the staffing needs,
skill sets, and organizational structure for ACM projects vary from D-B-B and
have not been adequately understood although they are critical to the success
of implementing ACM projects and programs.
Synthesis 518 Staffing for Alternative
Contracting Methods found ACM projects require staff with different skill
sets, knowledge domain, and competencies to be successful. NCHRP Synthesis 518 also highlighted that
state DOTs are faced with more complex decision making regarding the
appropriate levels and mix of staffing for ACM projects. The staffing needs for
ACMs vary widely among DOTs and are affected by project and program size, type,
staffing availability, organizational structure preferences, and ACM selection
processes among other factors. There is a need for developing a formal process
and procedure to help state DOTs effectively and efficiently select the “right”
people for ACM project teams. The proposed research should address
at least the following questions:
How can state DOTs provide effective and
efficient staffing levels for successfully delivering ACM projects? When do
state DOTs use consultant forces to supplement in-house staff for ACM projects?
What are the critical skill sets and knowledge
that state DOTs should attain for ACM project teams? Do these skill sets and
knowledge domains vary among ACMs (e.g., D-B, CM/GC, and P3)? How do state DOTs
determine the “right” people for their ACM project teams?
How do staffing needs vary with different types
of organizational structures (centralized, decentralized, and combined)?
How do state DOTs introduce new/junior staff to ACMs?
What type of trainings are needed to promote ACMs?
What traditional DOT functions and responsibilities
are delegated or shared by the project contractors under various ACMs? What impacts does this have on staffing
objective of the proposed research is to develop guidelines to assist state
DOTs in effectively and efficiently planning, staffing, and developing a
sustainable core workforce for successfully implementing ACMs along with traditional
By developing guidance on the needed staff and the
associated skills that these DOT staff should possess, DOTs can more
efficiently deliver highway construction projects using ACMs. Further, the use
of the results has the potential for DOTs to expand their portfolio and use
ACMs more often than currently.
Existing information on agency staffing for alternative project
delivery is scattered throughout various internal working documents published
by state highway and other transportation agencies. One such example is the Washington State
Department of Transportation’s “Guidebook for Design-Build Highway Project
Development,” which includes a subsection that discusses special staff needs
when procuring Design-Build. Another
source of information is the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s “Innovative
Contracting Guidelines,” which lists items to consider when choosing
alternative delivery methods, including staffing—although no particular
guidelines for staffing are included. Further,
the Virginia Department of Transportation outlines the QA/QC measures necessary
for alternative delivery projects, which help inform the level of oversight
needed from the agency staff for these quality measures. Other state highway agencies keep their staffing
information internal in project management manuals, which often are not shared
with the public.
A limited number of reports and academic studies have been
published on topics related to, or that acknowledge the importance of, owner
involvement and staffing in alternative project delivery frameworks. TCRP Report 131 discusses staffing requirements
and capability in general terms, but does not provide practical guidelines for
determining the appropriate levels of agency staffing. Another example is Gordon’s (1994) interesting
discussion of owner sophistication and owner involvement for different delivery
methods. Gransberg and Molenaar (2007) also
studied the impacts of Design-Build on the public workforce, which can serve as
another basis for this research that is interested in providing specific staffing
guidance to the state highway agencies.
Proposed tasks to accomplish this
objective are as follows:
Task 1: Conduct a literature search to review past
studies on staffing practices in transportation agencies and other industries.
Task 2: Select a representative set of highway
agencies with the extensive experience in using ACMs that can be studied in
depth to identify both effective staffing practices, challenges, and lessons
Task 3: Prepare a white paper to document the
findings from Tasks 1 and 2.
Task 4: Prepare a research work plan that describes
the details of the research methodology and approach to identifying and
verifying effective practices and developing conclusions.
Task 5: Execute the research work plan and prepare an
interim research report that articulates data collection and analysis as well
as emerging conclusions, effective practices, lessons learned, and a proposed
outline for the guidebook.
Task 6: Prepare the draft guidebook on staffing
practices, skill sets, and knowledge for ACM projects. Incorporate review comments as required, and
validate the guidebook’s efficacy with case study DOTs.
Task 7: Publish the final guidebook and a final
research report that details the full results of the research
Proper staffing levels on ACM projects
are essential. State DOTs and other
agencies expend large portions of their
budgets on staffing; therefore, the efficient use of staffing is vital to
appropriate expenditures of tax dollars.
This proposed research is especially important for ACMs where little
relevant staffing guidance exists. It is
difficult to quantify the overall scope of completed or in-process ACMs, but
that figure easily exceeds $100 billion.
Inadequate or ineffective agency staffing on project portfolios of this
magnitude could result in inefficient use of public funds and potentially lead
to higher maintenance costs and lower quality.
Based on the findings from NCHRP
Synthesis 518, the results showed that staff competency required for the
traditional D-B-B does not directly apply to the implementation of ACMs. For
example, strong partnering and team-building skills were found the critical
success factor for ACM projects. The intent of this project is to furnish a
uniform set of guidelines for planning efficient and effective staffing on
ACMs. The final deliverable potentially
will be a guidebook to help state DOTs establish effective and efficient
staffing for their ACM projects. The guidelines will become available through
the TRB/NCHRP libraries and websites.
|Sponsoring Committee:||AKC10, Construction Management
|Research Period:||24 - 36 months|
|RNS Developer:||Dan Tran, University of Kansas; Douglas Gransberg, Gransberg and Associates; Chris Harper, Colorado State University; Roy Sturgill, Kentucky Transportation Center|
|Source Info:||AFH10 - Standing Committee on Construction Management|
|Index Terms:||Design bid build, Design build, Guidelines, Project delivery, Construction manager at risk, Quality assurance, Quality control, Selection and appointment, |
Administration and Management