The challenges of working in new territories can be wide and varied, from different cultures and approaches to work, through to exchange rates and dealing with government red tape. For Greg Denton, CEO of WorleyParsons South Africa, these issues were exacerbated by his own need, as a New Zealander, to come to terms with life on a new continent.
Thankfully the transition was greatly assisted by the knowledge and structure of one of the world’s largest engineering and project management delivery companies. In the first of three features, Denton gives us his insight into the challenges of entering a new business jurisdiction and helping to build infrastructure in one of the world’s fastest development regions.
“We are one of the big five companies in the EPCM (Engineering, Procurement and Construction Management) arena and globally we have been particularly strong serving the hydrocarbons (oil and gas) sector,” Denton describes.
“We have 41,000 employees worldwide and we are listed on the Australian Stock Exchange as WOR. WorleyParsons has had a presence in Africa since the seventies and came to South Africa in 2008 through a joint venture with Pangaea Petroleum. We subsequently bought KV3, a leading South African Engineering Consulting firm.”
Strategic acquisitions have helped WorleyParsons to not only establish an experienced and highly skilled base of staff, but has also enabled the company to achieve a level 2 BBBEE rating, which is becoming ever more important in dealing with Government contracts.
“The acquisitions of KV3 saw us inherit over 900 employees and the new company became 70 per cent owned by WorleyParsons and 30 per cent owned by trust, whose beneficiaries are previously disadvantaged employees,” states Denton.
“The Trust has already received cash inflow and dividends were paid in October to all the beneficiaries. It is fulfilling to see that many of our own personnel have received some extra income which will see a number of our employees being integrated in the economy of this country. WorleyParsons will continue to play a supportive role to the Trust and even deploy resources, to ensure it achieves its goals.
“Part of the challenge of entering a new country is to understand the complexities of the territory and WorleyParsons has been a part of the new South Africa and its economic transformation since 1994. Even so, the structure we have in place today took a couple of years of planning and I feel that the new ownership structure is one of our great strengths and complements South Africa’s changing culture.”
“Our new structure is very efficient and involves our employees, which has been a real spin-off benefit. I am extremely proud of our statistics but what is truly important is the transformation of our business and the opportunities that this creates for everyone,” he adds.
WorleyParsons’ head office is in Pretoria with other offices across the country. Together with the recent acquisition of TWP business from Basil Read, total employees in South Africa will increase to over 2,000. The SA-Mag will have a full in-depth analysis of the TWP purchase in our February 2013 issue.
Whilst the company has long been established in countries across the continent including Nigeria, Ghana, Namibia and Equatorial Guinea, its ventures into the sub-Sahara region are continuing to grow, with Mozambique set to offer plenty of opportunity, as Denton explains:
“Our strategy is to grow our business in South Africa and the global company has identified the sub-Sahara as a high growth region. We have just opened a new office in Sasolburg and will be opening our first office in Mozambique in the next few weeks. WorleyParsons is gearing up to provide project delivery and engineering services to the large hydrocarbons companies in the area and there are plenty of other opportunities too.”
These opportunities are varied but essentially the company operates in four markets: the hydrocarbons industry sees WorleyParsons work alongside the largest gas and coal to liquid producers, companies involved in clean fuels technology and building pipelines.
The company has also established a strong reputation within the Minerals, Metals and Chemicals industry and in South Africa it has become a supplier of services to the coal and iron ore industries, providing feasibility studies and front end engineering solutions.
Whilst these are two very established markets for the business, Denton says that there remains huge potential in the power and infrastructure work currently underway as South Africa’s Government aims to modernize services for all people.
“Perhaps our main business in this region has been our infrastructure and environmental services,” he says. “We provide inner city infrastructure services for electricity, water, road building, railway building and water treatment plants.
“Developing power infrastructure has been a particularly busy area for us in South Africa and we have carried out work on power stations, power lines and the distribution of power to settlements which can be remote. We currently play a role in Kusile and Medupi Projects. At Medupi we run the Soils Test Laboratory and at Kusile we are involved in a number of engineering and logistics studies around the road and rail infrastructure.
“Our environmental business is equally important and provides customers with approvals and recommendations on a raft of issues including social impact, ecology and flora and fauna investigations.”
Currently, South Africa’s Government is in the midst of a huge drive to improve provision of both infrastructure and environmental initiatives. The combination of WorleyParsons’ black empowered ownership and its vast experience and successful track record on projects large and small makes it an ideal business partner on many schemes.
“At the moment our business is split roughly fifty-fifty between private sector work and Government work, and a little more towards the latter on our power projects. Today, our strategy is to strike the balance between private and public sector work and to deliver the best value for money in both areas,” Denton surmises.
Denton’s arrival in South Africa last July saw a change in the business structure. He had spent several years working for WorleyParsons in Australia and has swiftly restructured the region to deliver better customer service.
“We moved from having a business delineated in terms of capability to a geographically based business where the local operations managers are now empowered to drive the business. It doesn’t matter how big or small a job is, the customer always wants to be able to see and interact with the project manager and by shifting the structure we have achieved this and created greater accessibility to the decision maker.”
WorleyParsons’ approach to its customers is reiterated through the many long-standing relationships and Denton says it has benefitted from the many strong partnerships it has established globally for so many years.
“We’ve got some great global service agreements in place with many large oil, gas and mining companies. Being part of a global business has meant access to large companies in the region, but we still have to meet their expectations so they come to us wanting and expecting consistent project delivery.
“One of the strengths of our business is that our people use the same systems and processes globally. This means that we offer them the opportunity to move around and I am perhaps, a good example of that!”
Another significant advantage WorleyParsons offers is its ingenious knowledge management systems which allow any employee access to an ocean of knowledge and specialist expertise from anywhere in the world where the company has comparable experience.
“We operate an Enterprise Management System (EMS) and a project management system to provide employees with everything they need to know. The systems are very intuitive in solving problems. We also have a global Wiki site in place and everyone at WorleyParsons is challenged to share knowledge or modify and improve our processes. We always seek to learn and the great thing is our customers also get access to our knowledge management tools for free.”
Such help is important given the variety of challenges each individual project can throw up. However the company has adopted a uniform approach to all aspects of its work approach – appropriately called “OneWay™”
“OneWay™ permeates our company culture by delivering an all-encompassing management framework for how we do business, how we engage with our customers and suppliers and how we approach the environment and health and safety,” Denton describes.
The environment is close to Denton’s own heart through his previous role in Australia being Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Association and his experience is set to drive further impetus into the South Africa business:
“We’ve got some fantastic tools and specialist knowledge to improve process or design in order to improve sustainability,” he enthuses. “We can facilitate advice on asset lifecycle costs or educate customers on the potential for reputational damage. WorleyParsons is very proactive regarding the environment and we ensure all our customers have access to information to help them make the most positive decisions. I believe all businesses want to be positive contributors and with our expertise, they can learn how to do that.”
Resources prove to be a key contributor to WorleyParsons’ success. Dealing with Government tenders can be highly competitive and Denton believes that the company’s highly-qualified people, varied experiences and ability to find value in projects are winning new business in South Africa. What also gives WorleyParsons the competitive edge is its understanding of the role of infrastructure to unlock opportunities and economic emancipation of many people in South Africa. The company’s capability to build infrastructure from scratch supports its involvement in construction work which can necessitate the installation of power or roads.
Presently, Denton says it is an exciting time to be involved on the cusp of a developing nation – and he is not referring to South Africa. The company’s latest opportunities lie in Mozambique, where resources are not as advanced as South Africa:
“The opportunities [in Mozambique] are compelling. The country has enjoyed stability for more than two decades and has attracted the big oil and gas companies in the north-west. There are also iron ore and coal reserves, whilst offshore, there is a significant gas resource.
“In Mozambique, the challenge will be complex but perhaps not quite in the social sense, as we are dealing with a country at the early stages of development. Our challenge will be to create a business and business culture and to nurture local talent. We have a huge focus on training at all levels here in South Africa. We run university programmes and student sponsorships and provide on-the-job support for our team.” Worley Parsons has a special focus on education. We have a bursary scheme, in this financial year we have allocated bursaries to the tune of R2 530 229.00. In our Enterprise Development Programme, in support of our Contractors, we have allocated this financial year R2 412 471.00.”
Denton’s personal experience of settling into a new country will undoubtedly prove invaluable in Mozambique and he has some interesting observations on his arrival in South Africa:
“As a new leader coming into South Africa I felt well-informed, however was pleasantly surprised by the economic transformation that has taken place since 1994. It is truly remarkable how it has occurred but you have to be mindful of the nation’s history and different cultures there are 13 official languages. The complexities of social interactions between these ethnic groups are probably second to none and coming from Australia, I had to get used to the way people speak to you and take instructions.
“But WorleyParsons is tremendously successful and we are now the engineer of choice for the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) and have begun work on Sasol Mining’s’ Shondoni Coal Mine Project and whilst fluctuating global mineral prices impact local mining operations short term, we remain very optimistic for the future,” he concludes.
“We have Global knowledge with Local delivery.”