Stories by Dayo Ayeyemi | Lagos
Design experts under the auspices of the Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON) have been urged to embrace modern technology and global best practices for effective service delivery.
They have also been advised to embrace collaboration among individuals and corporate bodies in order to remain relevant for sustainable professional practice.
These were some of the advice given by the invited guest speakers during the 2023 Professional Development Workshop of the association, with the theme:” Encouraging Global Best Practices in Town Planning Consultancy Service Delivery” held in Lagos.
The guest speakers were lecturers in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Lagos, Dr. Abubakar Olaseni and Obafemi Awolowo University,Ile-Ife, Dr. Akintayo Ojo, respectively, and Past President of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Mr. Waheed Kadiri.
In his presentation on “Encouraging Global Best Practices in Town Planning Practice and Service Delivery”, Dr Olaseni, defined concept of best practices as “a standard or set of guidelines that is known to produce good outcomes if followed.
He added that it’s “benchmarking your ways of working against those used by the market leaders.”
According to to the university lecturer, steps to setting best practices among others should include researching the industry and competitors, communicating the standards to all employees,evaluating and refining the best practices.
Olaseni enjoined town planning consultants to invigorate publicity and marketing by creating websites and social media presence, while embracing continuous technology application (GIS, drones in data collection, remote sensing) and robust capacity building in geospatial technologies.
He advised consulting town planners to ensure adaptation to smart cities in city planning and implementation. He also tasked them on branding and rebranding of their firms to encourage best global practices.
Another lecturer, Dr Akintayo, in his presentation pointed out that the 21st century has offered great opportunities through technological innovations and advancement to ease delivery of town planning functions and services.
He explained how town planning consulting firms could leverage social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Meetup and Medium and others to expand their professional networks and connect with professionals around the world.
To enhance adoption of technology among town planning consulting firms, Akintayo said the firm must be willing to embrace and adopt it, choose the right technology, ensure deliberate skill upscale of the technology, highlight quick gains,win the hearts of employees towards its usage and encourage adoption of the tools among others.
“Win hearts and minds of the employees/team members who are the primary driver of the new technology.
“Avoid going for technology that is more complicated than it needs to be; for a swift adoption, select a system that is approachable and intuitive,” he said
In his presentation on: “Past, Present and Future of Town Planning Consultancy Delivery in Nigeria”, Tpl Waheed Kadiri, went down the memory lane about town planning practice in Nigeria and the present era of town planning consultancy, saying that future belong to only those who could contemplate and plan for it.
For the future to be assured,
Kadiri, a former Rector of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, enjoined town planning consultants to find a way of sustaining the present to influence the future.
According to him, collaboration among individuals and corporate bodies remained the most assured way to influence the future
“I foresee a future where there will be less of one-man outfits,” he said, urging consulting firms to move away from individual efforts by developing their surbodinates, while the junior staff should be given the chance to become associates and partners.
“ This also presupposes that the employees are ready to give their best and commitment to the business,” he said
The past president of NITP said: “I also forsee a future where planning firms will merge to maximize the relative advantage of each other either based on specialisation or on location.”
Kadiri urged that consultants should also be ready to face a future that is being influenced by globalization.
This, he said would require competition for the survival of existing and new consultancies into the future.
He advised that more consulting firms should look at unexploited areas of the professional practice to carve a niche for themselves to stay in competition.
“Let’s blaze a trail and not follow a beaten path,” he said.
He listed flexibility, fluidity, focus and forward – thinking as four key factors any outfit that wants to survive should be conscious of.
“There will be jobs where workers have multiple short-term jobs or contracts with multiple employers online, rather than the traditional more permanent single employer-employee relationship.
We will need to be agile- always ready to reskill and learning becomes a constant,” he said.
According to him, globalization would enable much more cross-border, cross-company collaboration.
He added that organisations would continue to compete when it comes to creating innovative new technologies and using those technologies in the most creative ways.
“Above all, only the fittest will survive the stiff competition that will emerge.,” he said.
Earlier in his goodwill message, NITP President, Nathaniel Atebije, lauded the association for the theme of the workshop, saying it aimed at extending knowledge beyond the shores of Nigeria to imbibe not just contemporary practices but to get information on current global best practices.
This, he said simply meant quest for excellence in practice and delivery of services, pointing out that there’s no other way to market town planning consultants and the profession other than through excellence.
Virtue of excellence, he said has become imperative in the view of the seemingly diminishing image of the profession, which according to him,was evident by reduced patronage by government, non implementation of planning proposals, unabated exercise of impunity in physical developments in most settlements, dwindling enrollment in planning schools that has led to the closure of planning programmes in some institutions, excessive unemployment of trained planners in both public and private sectors and the influx/invasion of the profession by quacks.
Atebije tasked the town planning consultants to work hard to change the narrative, saying the association must produce professionals who believe in excellence, knowledge and practice endowed with consummate passion and integrity.
Earlier,ATOPCON President, Mr. Muyiwa Adelu, remarked that town planning consultancy has indeed come a long way to stay.
He said the workshop has provided the opportunity for practitioners to network,share ideas, discuss issues and challenges facing consultants.
According to him, it was tailored in bringing out the best in town planning practice, client’s relation and maximizing potential in consultancy delivery utilizing technology and borrowing from global ideas.
“Our delving to the past is to remind us of where we were coming from,where we are and where we are heading to.
We planned the workshop to helping us have a paradigm shift,” he said.
Adelu however said condemned the inability of government to rely on physical planning tool to create sustainable and vibrant environmental and economic wherewithal.
Neglect of town planning tool by the government, he said led Nigeria to current chaotic life.
“The problems are ubiquitous, but government should be ready to listen and willing to implement suggestions and ideas to help its operations,” he said.
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