iTnews Podcast: Blending Finance and Technology for Project Success

22 November, 2023

Hansen Yuncken uses digital modelling software to ‘walk’ customers through the sequencing of construction projects to improve transparency and explainability of risks, such as time delays. In this week’s episode of the iTnews Podcast, Hansen Yuncken Chief Financial and Information Officer Rexine Jones discusses the use of Autodesk’s BIM 360 software. She also details the experience and advantages of having finance and IT led by a single executive.

The company has a central IT-OT operation, supported by dedicated Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) and Building Information Modelling (BIM) team members that sit in the business, as well as technology partners like Autodesk.

“Five or six years ago, we had one or two VDC Engineers across the whole of our business,” Jones said. “We now have eight to 10 supporting the business.” The growth in VDC resources coincides with the use of Autodesk software on construction projects.

Jones cites the world class redevelopment of Meadowbank TAFE in Sydney, multi award winning projects: the Greater Shepparton Secondary College, the University of Queensland’s flagship Andrew N. Liveris building, and the University of Newcastle’s Q Building in the Honeysuckle precinct, as examples of recent projects where Autodesk was used to map out, visualise and manage the construction effort.

The software is useful because construction is “really … a risk management process.”

“We’ve had great success in working with the [project] client to understand their needs: explaining to the client our needs, walking them through and using the technology to virtually satisfy both of us in how this construction is going to go, and how we can overcome hurdles and reduce risks.”

– Rexine Jones, Chief Financial & Information Officer

“Each party can understand what the other party’s concerns are, or what their excitement is.” Jones said that using Autodesk products in a project is particularly useful for transparency and explainability when circumstances arrive that might result in a time delay for a stage or completion.

She said the technology had been used on the Meadowbank TAFE and University of Queensland projects in this specific circumstance. “What the project team did was run the client through the sequencing of the project, and then run them through a virtual build and how it was adapted,” she said.

“The success was that we could articulate the change, and the client understood.”

Prior to using Autodesk, communicating the reasons for a delay would invariably involve “a lot of pen and paper”, heightened financial risks for the project, and a less receptive client.

“If we consider what we would have done before, I don’t think you would have had the same outcomes financially, and I don’t think it would have been collaborative. I think it would have been a bit more confrontational,” she said.

“One person would have made a decision and they would have lived or died by their decision in some cases.

“We would have [still] had positive outcomes, but I don’t think they would have been as positive or as fast, and I think there would have been a lot more risks along the way financially and also based on time and change.”

Jones said that Hansen Yuncken’s finance team uses the same project visibility to walk the extended finance team through current projects. “They hadn’t been out on site for some period of time, and they found it exciting,” Jones said.

Hansen Yuncken is an early adopter of Autodesk 360 software within Australia and has an enterprise business agreement (EBA) with the vendor. Jones indicated the relationship dynamic between Hansen Yuncken and Autodesk is emblematic of the maturity of the company’s technology operations.

Where a decade ago it would’ve been satisfied to buy software and implement it, Jones said that today, the company demanded more from its partners. In the case of Autodesk, this means fortnightly and quarterly calls, access to technical resources and an ability to get the product tweaked to satisfy emerging needs or use cases.

“We’re pushing them; they’re pulling us,” Jones said. “We’re challenging each other, and at the end of the day, the bit that I love the most is if they can do something, they will absolutely do it, but they’re [also] going to be quite honest and say, ‘We can look at it but we can’t do it today.”

While her remit as CFIO has Jones overseeing the IT infrastructure and application estate, she also “owns [the] innovation and the operational [technology] space” at Hansen Yuncken.

This is one area where her dual role as CIO and CFO comes into play.

“I think the value of having the CFO and the CIO together in one area is that I can allow the investment we make in that space to be as big as it needs to be.”

– Rexine Jones, Chief Financial & Information Officer

“It allows for an investment strategy we must continue along our IT journey.”

Jones notes that Hansen Yuncken’s technology team is also firmly in the service of the firm’s construction projects, so part of her role is earning the technology function a seat at the table of each project the firm is awarded.

“We have multiple project managers, and every project is slightly different,” she said.

Click here to listen to Rexine’s interview on the iTnews Podcast 

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