Yazeed joined Aston earlier this year and established the Delay Services Stream. He brings along a wide range of international and local experience in dispute resolution, specialising in delay analysis. Yazeed now supplements Aston’s commercial and quantum services and offers delay expertise, contractual and commercial advice, training and expert witness services.
Can you please introduce yourself and give some brief details about his background and experience?
I am a delay analyst with 17 years’ experience in construction working on projects across the Middle East and Australasia. I started my career as a civil site engineer in Jordan, before moving to Dubai and working as a project planner on flagship projects for a tier 1 contractor. My career was defined after these projects ended in dispute and I was thrust, front and centre, on two sizeable, complex, and lengthy international arbitrations involving the preparation of delay analysis. The exposure and firsthand experience of the sharp end of disputes, including arbitration procedure, expert witness appointments, joint and individual reports and cross examinations set the foundation for my career going forward.
During my time working on disputes in the Middle East I was fortunate enough to forge good relationships with some of the leading Expert Witnesses in their field. I decided to move away from contracting and join a consultancy to support the experts full-time. Working as their Lead Assistant allowed me to continue to develop in the sphere of dispute resolution on delay analysis. I moved to Australia for a lifestyle change and the opportunity to advance my career by learning from another Delay Expert Witness before authoring my own reports.
“I moved to Australia for a lifestyle change and the opportunity to advance my career by learning another Delay Expert Witness before authoring my own reports.”
Can you discuss your approach to complex claims, how does your analysis add value to Aston’s clients?
If you were in a room with a group of delay analysts what would be the main conversation topics and common challenges?
From the outset, I find the most important factor to be digesting and understanding the client’s brief. This is irrespective of whether it is for an expert witness report or claim preparation. I therefore carefully consider the brief before speaking with the client to ensure that expectations are thoroughly understood, aligned, and managed.
My reports provide a narrative of the issues with direct reference to the facts I relied upon and the analysis I performed. Whilst the report would include all the complex delay analysis details, I always ensure that the narratives are simple and easy to digest. This approach provides efficiency for our clients in order to allow them to make timely and informed decisions. Clients in this context include instructing parties, lawyers and dispute resolution decision makers.
Another important aspect is that I do not blindly apply ‘theoretical’ delay analysis methods. I tend to produce hybrid delay analysis solutions, largely relying on the facts on a case by case basis, to ensure that my conclusions are robust, compelling and are in accord with common and practical sense.
I think that’s an easy one; what we like to complain about is the challenging time periods in which to prepare a delay analysis report. Generally, and especially in adjudications due to their requisite time periods, we are appointed late with very tight deadlines. Despite these challenging circumstances, expectations for thorough and comprehensive analysis are still present. My advice to clients is that they should engage with us as early as possible. This may assist them in avoiding the disputes or at the very least, being well prepared for any formal dispute resolution process.
The other aspect is the distribution of information. It is common for clients to provide us with a selective set of information based on their understanding and view of the key issues. The delay analyst needs to be free to access all project information and, therefore, to be able to determine for themselves the relevance, in order to correctly and appropriately determine the critical path.
Any other challenges? How about the quality of records, have they improved at the same pace as technology on site?
Records were and still are the key missing piece in the puzzle. When I work on a project, I start by asking people for their views of what happened and then review the records to support the story Record keeping, the quality of information maintained within the records and the processes and systems used by Clients is ad-hoc at best and the industry generally needs to upskill in this particular basic requirement that, if done properly, would provide priceless evidence and support for the claims that we deal with for our clients on a day to day basis.
I cannot stress enough, the importance of record keeping. Again, this is something clients can benefit from greatly if they engage with experienced consultants, such as Aston in the initial set-up phases of a project. Ideally, there should be daily records providing details of “what, why, when, how and who” for every project activity or event. Obviously, the record should (as a minimum) comply with the contractual requirements but the information contained within the record(s) should not be treated as a “tick in the box” type exercise but as a fundamental and necessary tool that will enable the contractor or client to successfully prosecute legitimate claims or defend spurious claims.
The role of a delay analyst is complex by nature; how do you minimise the risks in your area of expertise?
There is generally no right or wrong answer in what we do. The application and the findings include a significant amount of subjective interpretations and conclusions. That is one of the main reasons why experts, with similar experience and similar qualifications disagree on matters, even though they may have relied upon the same set of records. One way to mitigate this area of disagreement is by ensuring the conclusions reflect the project facts, make logical sense and include sufficient reasoning.
Can you remember the point in your career when you decided to specialise in this field?
My project management and planning exposure commenced after specialising in these areas during my engineering University education. However, my understanding, experience and education in the field of delay analysis grew exponentially after I was involved in several international arbitrations while working for a contractor. The role involved working alongside several international delay experts, feeding them historical information, assisting in the delay analysis and contributing to a number of expert reports. This was my motivation in moving into the consulting industry and specialising in delay analysis.
I can see you were awarded the Chartered Institute of Arbitration (CIArb) Diploma in International Arbitration and a Fellow membership grade, how has this helped you?
Construction is multidisciplinary by nature. For example, engineers, lawyers and commercial consultants all have key contributions to make on a construction project. However, when it comes to the preparation of a delay analysis report, the analyst is required to have an understanding, appreciation and training in each of these disciplines. My role is then to coordinate with the specialists involved, identify the key commercial, legal, contractual and engineering issues and ensure that, where appropriate and relevant, the relevant specialist has input and buy in.
In order to achieve this, I continuously develop in these areas by studying for and obtaining these qualifications (e.g. the aforementioned diploma) and by affiliation with the relevant industry leading organisations including, the CIArb, RICS, PMI, AACEI, Academy of Experts, and Engineers Australia.
“A delay analyst requires a multidisciplinary technical ability, inquisitorial skills and, most importantly of them all, strong communication skills.”
What are the key strengths you believe people need to have to be a successful delay analyst?
A delay analyst requires a multidisciplinary technical ability, inquisitorial skills and, most importantly of them all, strong communication skills.
Communication is not only important in extracting information from the project team at the front end of their involvement, but also written and verbal communication skills in presenting the delay analysis findings at the rear end; whether during negotiations or presenting / defending during dispute resolution proceedings.
The delay analyst needs to be able to not only forensically investigate, process and analyse data, perform cause and effect assessment, and systematically sort through the detail, but also to be able to stand back and consider the ‘bigger picture’.
What advice would you offer to someone looking to specialise as a Delay Analyst?
Firstly, I would strongly advise the individual to work on a number of live projects to gain first-hand experience of the technical and logistical issues faced on a construction project and to also gain experience in the different types of planning software, planning processes, contract processes, project types, and construction methodologies.
Secondly, and in the absence of recognised and structured training in delay analysis, experience at this time is generally the only avenue to obtaining education in delay analysis. Therefore, the individual should identify a recognised and qualified delay analyst who is willing to mentor.
The rest is a time game, if you are seeking the right exposure at work whilst gaining professional qualifications, you will move further into the field.