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Remote risk management consulting: Interview

Ellen Casey, Satarla Project Manager kindly relented to being interviewed by Ollie de Boer, Software Lead. Their brief interview documents how Satarla have successfully been able to provide consultancy services online, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change crises.

Ollie: Ellen, you’ve been working with Satarla specialising in mining for a few years, could you tell me how you’ve seen COVID-19 impact on the consultancy work you do with organisations?

Ellen: Like a lot of similar organisations, COVID-19 has impacted our pipeline. In London we have seen a lot of consultancy work get postponed, naturally, a lot of organisations are trying to adapt to remote working so they have their hands full at the moment. Normally, we run a lot of face-to-face workshops but for obvious reasons these are not appropriate at present. We've accelerated our plans to respond to the climate crisis by moving services online, amid the rapid onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenge has been to come up with easily accessible and interactive online solutions for our clients.

For example, we have a client in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the extractives sector with whom a site trip was planned this month. We were due to compile the baseline risk assessment and a undertake a series of risk deep dives for a crucial new piece of plant. Due to the evolution of Coronavirus, it wasn’t possible for our team to travel to site so we decided to try and complete the work remotely to ensure the plant could operate safely.

Ollie: How did these changes impact on the way you interact with that client? How have you continued to work with them on a remote basis?

Ellen: It impacted us massively, Satarla are experts in workshop facilitation and running really interactive sessions with fun exercises, it seemed like it would be really tough to try and translate one of our USPs for an online session.

As a team we sat down and revisited the plan for the workshop, we picked exercises and tools that we knew we could deliver online and we highlighted all the areas where we anticipated issues. When we do an exercise in a virtual workshop we share our screen with all the participants and we work through it together with a lot of discussion in the same way that we would in a face-to-face session. We are also running a number of smaller ‘risk interviews’ with members of the team as well as one-on-one quantitative risk assessments with key team members.

Ollie: So you ran an entire risk workshop with a client, remotely from London, while they are in the DRC! That must have led to some challenges, could you outline what they were and how you responded to them?

Ellen: I honestly thought it would be an awful lot harder to run a virtual workshop, I’m really glad it came together so well and the client is happy with how it is being delivered. I think the main challenge we experienced was the lack of context for the site as this is such an important part of the risk assessment process. Normally, you would arrive at site, have a tour to get a feel for the place and get to know the plant. Without this it was harder to establish the physical context. Once we explained this to the client, they were able to make a 3D plan of the area available to us and they took several video tours of the operation which helped us to get our bearings on site and fully understand their process.

Also, judging the engagement and understanding of your participants can be tricky when running virtual workshops but there are simple facilitation techniques that you can employ to ensure you are bringing them along on the journey and effectively training people. Sarah Gordon and Annie Clarke outlined these good practices [click here to view].

IT will inevitably present issues in a virtual workshop too, I think the best piece of advice here is to try and keep it as simple as possible, use fewer programs like fancy whiteboard plug-ins and turn your video off when bandwidth becomes problematic, as ever simplicity is key.

Ollie: What would you say to organisations out there that, like Satarla, that have suddenly had to become entirely remotely based?

Ellen: Businesses are faced with a lot of hard choices at the moment and it’s not an easy time to offer your normal services. I would suggest that you check in with your clients regularly, while a lot of your pipeline has disappeared you may find that peoples needs have shifted and you are able to work with people using different methods.

Also, be patient with your staff and customers, everyone is having a tough time adapting to new working environments and routines. I think it’s important to check in with team members regularly and ensure that everyone is able to use any IT packages that have recently been rolled out for remote working. Simple things like including instructions for how to use online meetings when setting up such calls can be really helpful, especially as people try to adjust to new ways of working.


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