Why Capital Project Management Is Broken, And How To Fix It

Why capital project management innovation is broken, and how to fix it

In an era when capital project managers regularly encounter complex, dynamic and interdependent problems, innovation remains slow, stagnant or non-existent. Why?


When we initiate a search for solutions, we consult the very people, companies, and organizations that established the status quo. We use the same concepts, methods, and recommendations that have contributed to past failures.

We audit projects based on subjective data that barely scratches the surface in terms of understanding what project teams actually do, what their challenges are, and what processes they use to deliver on their promises. Owner and EPC companies hemorrhage knowledge at every turnover because they have no technical infrastructure for capturing, sharing and repurposing project expertise. 

Meanwhile, the mechanisms our industry has in fact established for creating, testing, learning and innovating are irremediably paralyzed by bureaucracy and ineffective use of resources.

The companies that provide technology and research to capital project managers almost always rely on project owners and large contractor companies to fund innovation efforts, but customers should not be asked or expected to bankroll innovation. Steve Jobs did not ask Apple customers for funding to develop the iPhone.

The capital project management industry needs a better way to encourage and accelerate innovation.

Project owners and primary executors need the ability to innovate on the fly while delivering cost-effective projects. They need the power to collect accurate, real-time data that can reveal best practices in their unique, real-world contexts.

They need the ability to meaningfully track key metrics in key areas including:

  • Business decisions

  • Contracting strategy choices

  • Staffing decisions

  • Work processes and communication protocols

  • Front-end definition quality

  • Lifecycle deliverables development quality and effectiveness

  • Execution and scope controls accuracy

  • Office and field productivity assumptions used for target-setting

  • Team integration and roles

Project outcomes can take years to materialize, writes Steven Strauss of Harvard’s Kennedy School of government. Consequently, it is important to establish continuous integration of project teams, stakeholders, data and processes using a knowledge-development platform that can ensure integration, continuity, consistency, accountability, and transparency. Project managers can minimize the impact of staff turnover by creating a traceable, measurable history of the project.

This can only happen with a change in the value proposition and business drivers for these projects.

First, the cost of technical innovation in capital projects must be borne by the solution provider, as an integral part of the business model. IT companies and certain knowledge and advisory companies cannot preach innovation and effectiveness to project owners and EPC contractors whilst simultaneously begging funds to support their own innovation. We did not wait for owners or software companies to write us a cheque. We identified the needs and pain points of project teams, built our product, and now we are asking you to try it within the framework of an innovation alliance at a fraction of the cost of the few other alternatives.

The cost of innovation is built into our outcome-based business model. Companies can fit the use of our knowledge-enabling technology to their unique investment plans. Simply put, if your project never makes it through the full funding gate, your organization and project should not have to pay for a technology license that will never be used, and you should not have to worry about losing the ability to mine the data you’ve collected for years.

Second, innovation must be supported and driven by accurate, real-time project feedback. This enables relevant, high-value knowledge creation across all phases of the project lifecycle. It also allows companies to evaluate their projects and practices regularly, without relying on outmoded, unvalidated best practices. Every project is different, and what works for one company on one project may not work for another company on another project.

The only way to know what will work on your project, right now, is to have timely feedback and assurance on what’s working and what’s not. This is real-time innovation, on the fly. That’s how you create knowledge and value. That’s how you create a real competitive advantage.

Innovation can’t be achieved by throwing resources at a problem or bringing in experts who can supply solutions. Strauss again: “Resources do matter — but more for their quality than their quantity.” We believe the best innovation is an iterative process fueled by high-quality, timely, project-specific, company-specific data that give your team members the information they need to build solutions that work for your company, right now.

The platform we are unveiling at the Petrochemical Update conference is not just an idea or a concept, it is a complete, ready-to-use operating system purpose-built for capital project teams. The proprietary T-CON™ operating system is embedded into a carefully designed and developed platform that poised to move the capital project industry into a new era – an era in which “innovation” is not just a buzzword.

If your company is serious about integration, project performance acceleration and building the capital project organization of the future, let’s talk!

Stay ahead with innovations other companies won’t release for years. ​​

Concord® works with leading organizations through an Enterprise Innovation and Transformation Alliance to configure and implement a company-specific Project Performance Acceleration Platform™.

Share This Post