Over our 170 years in the engineering field, we’ve dealt with our fair share of job briefs. This experience has taught us a few important lessons about how to read and interpret these documents. It has also allowed us to refine our approach to responding to them – both in preparing proposals and delivering the desired work.
Most significantly, we’ve come to appreciate that there’s more to a job brief than first meets the eye.
Most briefs are much more than a simple scoping document that broadly defines a problem and the desired solution. In fact, to get the full picture, you often need to read between the lines and consider what’s not being said.
As we see it, this means that there are actually three parts to a job brief. And while all three parts are equally important, one is often given less attention, or overlooked completely. We also believe this third part – the missing piece – is what separates a good response from a great one.
The three parts of a brief
While the content of individual job briefs may vary greatly, the overall structure is usually fairly consistent. Regardless of the industry or the scale of the project, these documents will generally feature the same components. There is also a formula to replying to a brief, which we believe includes three key elements.
The mandatory checkboxes:
This covers the minimum criteria you need to fulfil to be considered capable of doing the job. In our field, this means the formal qualifications and industry certifications that confirm you have the required knowledge and experience. It also means having evidence of your commitment to superior safety practices and the right insurances and indemnities.
The job specific details:
This covers the actual problem that needs to be solved or gap that needs to be filled. Often, this will be quite detailed, with a fully fleshed out project and resourcing plan designed to deliver the requested result. But sometimes it will be more open-ended, with a clearly defined discovery phase, and general details about the actual project delivery.
What’s not in the brief:
This covers all the other details that do not fall neatly into the first two boxes. For example, how will you manage any unexpected issues that arise or significant changes to the scope of works? And how will you make sure your project team successfully communicates and integrates with in-house teams and other key contractors?
Together, these three parts provide a clear picture of who your organisation is and how you do what you do. Importantly, they also give a good sense of what working with your company would actually be like.
Without all three components – and particularly the final piece – this picture is incomplete and certain questions remain unanswered.
Why this is important
Within a field like engineering, there are multiple companies that would tick all the mandatory checkboxes for a given job. Most of these businesses could also come up with a workable project plan that would deliver the desired result. So, when choosing an engineering contractor, it often all comes down to who a client would prefer to work with.
As such, while we take great pride in our technical abilities here at Halliday Engineering, we know it’s our overall approach that sets us apart.
We understand that it’s our willingness to take the time to truly understand our client’s needs that keeps them coming back. We also appreciate that it’s our honest and open communication style and strong problem-solving abilities that new clients most respond to.
As important as these elements of our service may be, they are generally not captured in most job briefs. Some elements may be touched on – like the ability to meet tight deadlines or research and develop new components. However, this is usually through the lens of the specific job requirements and often only given cursory attention.
So, the only way for us to convey this is to supplement our response with details of our unique approach.
This means carefully analysing each brief to understand what is explicitly being asked for and tailoring a response to suit. It also means thinking about the additional value our team can provide and outlining how we’ll go the extra mile.
A real world example
Halliday Engineering was recently engaged by UGL / NSM to upgrade the bulkheads of a dozen Royal Australian Navy vessels. This project required us to fabricate and install an additional component in each of the 12 Landing Craft Vessels. To do this, we also needed to move several existing components and manufacture and install a number of new parts.
As this job involved a special steel (Strenx700), we needed to show that we had the skill to work with this material. This meant highlighting our CLASS qualified welders and experience with the type of welds required. It also meant committing to having the quality of all our welds checked by an independent testing laboratory.
There were also several serious safety considerations for this job, like working at heights and in confined spaces. To address these, our response focused on our highly trained team and the specialist safety equipment we would use. It also included a commitment to using an independent Emergency Rescue Team in the unlikely event of a major issue.
But just as important as these mandatory and job-specific components were some of the more operational elements.
The timeframe for this job was extremely tight and meeting this required more than just an ambitious project plan. This gave us a prime opportunity to highlight our innovative project management approach and unique capability for large-scale onsite manufacturing.
The requirement to work on multiple vessels also allowed us to demonstrate our commitment to continuous improvement. And, noting the significant time crunch, we were able to outline how we would constantly monitor and refine our processes. This also gave us the opportunity to outline our commitment to collaboration, noting the dependency on working with other contractors.
By including these details in our response, we were able to show that we were more than just technically capable. We demonstrated that we would be a reliable project partner that could be trusted to deliver on time and within budget. And, ultimately, we proved that we were the best choice for the job – a point we reinforced by delivering on all our commitments.