Today, leading capital project managers understand that getting things done on-time and on-budget means keeping people and teams working together from start to finish. Like the myriad gears inside a Breitling pilot’s watch, the many moving parts in your project need to be precisely aligned or the whole thing grinds to a halt. It’s not easy.
In projects, the practice of achieving this precise alignment is called integration. It will look slightly different for each project. To start, you have to consider various interests, project operations and disciplines. Practically speaking, integration can cover the office and field operations, the flow of information, contracts, project controls, and plain stakeholder business and technical interests.
In this article, we take a look at four key steps to building the kind of integration required for success on the kind complex, modern capital projects we run today.
1 | Connect the office and the field
Office and field integration can take many forms, but these three key recommendations will create a strong foundation for an effective integrated project delivery system.
Plan your construction sequence as early as possible
The first and most powerful way to ensure office and field integration is to make sure the construction sequence is considered as early as possible. When you start your scope discussion, consider starting your integrated front-end planning, too.
Begin with sufficient construction planning, then lay out a preliminary sequence of construction. By following these steps, your construction plan can be communicated early and taken into account as the overall Project Execution Plan is being developed.
You’ll be challenged to secure funding so that you can have sufficient construction resources in place before you start. Make sure that work completed by the early construction people supports the work your construction management team will undertake later on.
The best part: A construction-driven scoping discussion allows you to produce a series of Construction Work Packages and Construction Work Areas. You may know these as Scope Elements. Either way, you and your team will be happy to have them in hand.
Use your work packages to drive the project
Planning discussions, bids, contracts, staffing, materials — everything should be driven by the work packages. This is the best way to make sure that engineering, procurement and other aspects of the project support the overall construction plan, and vice-versa. Track your project’s progress based on quantities installed and deliverables completed, and link this physical progress directly to the work packages.
Aim to standardize your Construction Work Packages
The definition of Construction Work Packages (CWPs) has helped to establish shared nomenclatures between engineers and construction leaders. Today, we have also successfully established strong execution sequences. The entire purpose of this industry-level standardization is to support reasonably standardized formats for work packages, in association with size, requirements and constraints monitoring.
So get your CWP templates well-defined. Measure your CWPs’ stability across your projects portfolio, and through the various phases of the project lifecycle. Adjust when needed. This simple process can help to bring even the the most complex projects under control.
2 | Make room for the maintenance and operations team
Make sure you get the input of your operations and maintenance teams as early as possible. You can do this by making a place for a designated O&M representative at the planning table, and ensuring that he or she is involved not only in the project’s early stages, but throughout the project lifecycle.
Implement Value Improving Practices
Value Improving Practices, known as VIPs, are typically used in the Front-End Loading (FEL) phase to enhance project planning, delivery and operations. Common VIPs include technology selection, value engineering, design-to-capacity, classes of facility quality or waste minimization. For example, before the project breaks ground, a company might set up a team to study the best technology systems for the project. The right technology can help keep the project on time and on budget.
It’s critical to involve O&M representatives in VIPs like the Classes of Facility Quality; make sure they have the freedom to provide meaningful input and the power to make decisions. Many large organizations have adopted different categories of facility quality and performance targets. These categories are typically evaluated in a formal exercise called Classes of Facility Quality. This exercise includes the study of aspects such as reliability, product quality, process flexibility, operability, maintainability, life of plant and equipment, expandability. It’s so important to involve O&M, you might even consider asking them to lead the exercise.
3 | Unite contracts with project services
It is critically important for us to redefine productivity. Why do we still measure performance against cost codes?
Measure performance against the plan, not the cost code.
Historically, companies have measured performance by adding up the number of hours worked under a budget line item, or cost code. The result: People fudge the numbers. When one cost code “pot” is empty, they just charge time against a cost code pot that’s still full. Project managers get a fuzzy picture of productivity and are literally at a loss when designing future work packages.
Consider instead charging time against the work package, and let the system assign it to the cost codes. This means you’re measuring performance against the plan, not the budget line item. Better data means better results – now, and in the future.
4 | Weave your data and historical knowledge into everything
Too often, capital project managers are forced to reinvent the wheel every time they sit down to develop an execution plan, design a work package or develop a construction sequence. It doesn’t have to be that way! Here are to tips for building on what you already know.
Run alignment workshops across project data sets.
Seek out and use scalable, configurable technology to support your work.
A work package that is ready to go doesn’t just contain all of the goals and data required for this project, it contains all the learnings from the company’s work packaging history. Build a library of work packages that work for your company, and deploy them again and again, fine-tuning each time, until you’re coming in on budget and on schedule.
Taking the first step
Achieving an integrated project delivery system requires a deliberate effort to revamp your company’s project practices. The scope of such an effort must cover various aspects of your projects, from people and processes to processes, data, materials and more.
This article is the first in a series of related that examines how leading companies achieve comprehensive integration of the overall project delivery system.