Ali Al-Khalifa, CEO, ASTAD Project Management, Qatar
23 Feb 12:24 AMSector : Construction Country : Qatar
Global Experience in Project Management
You have had a lot of global experience, having been educated in the United States, and worked in Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia and China. What has your experience brought to ASTAD, and how do you see urban development in Qatar?
Indeed, in the 1990’s I studied mechanical engineering in the United States where I also completed my MBA. After that I worked in Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia and China before joining ASTAD as CEO in 2010. At ASTAD, we are lucky to have such dynamic and forward-thinking shareholders aiding our dedicated team of professionals in achieving ASTAD’s objective of delivering iconic and complex large-scale projects across varying sectors.
Regarding urban development, Qatar is witnessing a boom in its economy and industry, characterized by a major drive towards development of infrastructure services and execution of several projects at the levels of private and public sector. The country is becoming a casebook study of how an emerging market can speed up its economic growth and social development. The main goal for such rapid development is for the city of Doha to be recognized as a global destination fulfilling the vision of Doha as the “City of Knowledge and Creation”. Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV 2030) is transforming Qatar into an advanced country, sustaining its development and providing a high standard of living for all. As part of this vision, Qatar will be hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup™, a remarkable feat, as we will be the first Arab country to host this major event. In order to support this world-class event, a massive undertaking of new construction projects is taking place.
As a maturing construction and real estate market, how is the project management concept understood in Qatar and what does ASTAD bring to this segment?
After becoming the world’s primary LNG producer, Qatar looked to foster growth in the education and other sectors, and thus, Qatar Foundation and Qatar Petroleum formed ASTAD. This initiative was developed to support the Qatar National Vision 2030, with ASTAD’s goal to form an organization that could take on highly complex infrastructure projects and simultaneously contribute to Qatar’s knowledge based economy.
ASTAD prides itself on delivering exceptional iconic projects with the highest of expertise, encapsulated in our name ‘ASTAD’; a Qatari name given to craftsman that excel at what they do. In line with this definition, we have consistently demonstrated excellence in our field of project management, where we deal with many of Qatar’s most prestigious clients including Qatar Petroleum, Qatar Foundation, Qatar Museums Authority, Qatar Olympic Committee and Qatar Economic Zones-Manateq. As a result ASTAD has managed numerous types of projects from hospitals, office developments, a convention centre, housing projects, to the construction of three museums, various university campuses, hotels, media studios, sports facilities, an equestrian club, and large-scale infrastructure projects. As you can see, our work certainly spans across almost every sector.
Because we are 100% Qatari owned, we have considerable knowledge concerning the local market, a key advantage and distinguishing feature that sets us apart from global competitors in our field. We know the local culture and business environment thoroughly, and this gives us a solid grounding in the PM/CM community. The clients are our focal point, and throughout the lifespan of every project we fully engage with our clients to understand their needs and concentrate on delivery. We do this to allow our clients to focus on what they will do once the project has been delivered. Customization in line with the stakeholder requirements is critical to ensure the most successful delivery.
With ASTAD involved in so many iconic projects in Qatar, some 163 projects, and with clear deadlines in sight – the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ and the National Vision 2030, is this presenting project management challenges?
Having critical deadlines certainly provides challenges, but it is nothing we cannot manage and only provides the impetus for us to enhance our skills with every project. Meeting the clients expectations is one of the greatest challenges, and therefore understanding your client, local knowledge of the markets, customs and practices are embedded into our philosophy. Selecting the proper local partner goes a long way in helping to overcome these challenges, and when the Client and Project Management Consultant have a clear and common understanding of the requirements, they can deliver a project that meets or exceeds the Client’s expectations. The essential qualities for business success in Qatar today are patience, resilience, and commitment, qualities which we hold with great importance at ASTAD.
I believe you were in Brazil recently to evaluate the FIFA World Cup™ infrastructure there. How was your visit, and what could ASTAD and Qatar in general learn from Brazil's preparations for the event?
From the Brazil visit we gained a greater understanding of the requirements of FIFA and engaged with different stakeholders that have previous experience in dealing with FIFA and their stringent requirements. Also planning for all aspects of delivery, the materials, the design stage, and the construction process of the stadiums was a key aspect. ASTAD is working with local communities around the stadiums so that they don’t feel excluded from the process. We are also building a team mentality among the local communities, our citizens, and stakeholders so that everyone has a shared objective and everyone is committed to delivering the best sports event that the world has ever seen, right here in Qatar.
ASTAD is one of the leaders in implementing the use of BIM (Building Information Modeling) technology. Could you tell us more about this technology and how you are applying it in Qatar?
Firstly, the design of the National Museum of Qatar would not have been possible without BIM technology. The complex, cutting edge nature of many of ASTAD’s projects has led us to welcome this innovative technology, using it to enhance the project delivery process. If applied correctly, BIM is a powerful technology and ASTAD’s combination of technology and experience is hard to beat. The sophisticated nature of BIM software requires you to be completely sure that the data you are inputting is correct, and that you understand the parameters you are working with. As a result, we made sure our engineers were highly competent with the software, and the National Museum of Qatar is an exemplar of BIM application.
ASTAD was eager to promote the implementation of BIM in Qatar, using it on many of our projects including the Qatar Foundation Headquarters building and the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies campus. We are looking to utilize other emerging technologies for the media package and to enhance spectator experience as part of a large stadium project ASTAD is executing for the FIFA 2022 World Cup™.
Where do you see ASTAD five years down the line?
We are building ASTAD to be the ‘Centre of Excellence’ for project management in Qatar, and whilst our focus will always be at home, we are looking to expand and grow to become an international project management company in the next two or three years. Once we enter the international market we will be in a solid position to attract international customers and from there we can truly establish ASTAD as a global brand.
We want to locally and globally assert ASTAD as providing the best quality services to all our clients and the best opportunity to our employees and shareholders.