A huge part of Project management is to be able to corral the troops, being able to deal with personalities, understand and getting the best of your team members- You can throw in all the buzz words you want, you can make it all glam and snazzy but its really the people that matter! And if you are able to exploit other resources towards this end, good on you. Some of the best PM’s I have come across are not the ones that can text with two thumbs but ones that could use an abacus to deliver a project-On time!
People – There is a difference between Process and Tools; let’s not assume or create chaos by confusing the two . It’s akin to a fire. I want you to light me a fire. You rub two rocks or use a blue tooth lighter doesn’t matter. If it’s warm enough to cook my meal I am good. Such is Project Management- the intent is to make the project deliver on time by measuring and working the right metrics. If you choose to use a toaster to make it happen good luck to you, as long as those metrics provide a forward looking view and someone can provide the insights and analysis. Planning still happens between the ears!
The EPC industry-
The EPC industry must be one of the most under-rated ones and perhaps a tad unsexy when compared to the world of Finance, Fashion or Hospitality. A poor cousin to the Production industry, it still struggles to get things right , a possible effect of the low margin and high risks involved. Why do we keep throwing buzz words around to address basic issues of execution? I am still flabbergasted by the churn of technology and rocket scientists that claim a few button pushes will define success. Seriously? My eternal mantra almost turns into this rant of- Get the Basics right Focus on- 1- Understanding the As-sold deal. That is the baseline 2- Understand and know your risks- Not every one of these risks is going to be mitigated 3- Define the right KPI’s – Do not measure KPI’s that have no relevance to execution or because a software can spew out pretty charts 4- Measure, monitor and look ahead 5- Keep people Safe No guarantees, but your chances for an on-time delivery just increased ten-fold.
All whining aside , EPC industry may have arrived late but the advancements with digital integration, smart analytics and AI are proving to be truly amazing. A self confessed dinosaur I started to crawl but now firmly believe there is a clear space to optimize all that clouds, lakes and all those paradigm shifting attributes have to offer.
Isn’t Project Management about execution and delivery? You make it on time and earn a fair return. Planning/Scheduling and Cost are intrinsically linked and must act as one. Time drives cost for most part no matter how it is spun. When Plans are not met, it will arguably drive cost (Float loss = Cost increase) and discussions on Project execution must always involve both Schedule and cost. Not doing this breeds a kind of monochromatic skill-set that will end up in its own silo.
As much of a platitude this may seem to be- The importance of an Operating Rhythm during the execution phase of a project is only exceeded by its effectiveness. If a project has discipline with an objective program of monitoring, you can maximize the use of technology to make these truly working for you. Again, I am not saying this guarantees success, but gets you a step closer to an on-time/on-budget project delivery.
Obvious but somethings will remain true eternally- 1-Change is inevitable- Like Death, Taxes & i-phones 2- Happiness is positive cash flow 3- Plans change but planning is inevitable 4- The width of a Project Manager’s smile is directly proportional to the bottomline 5- If you have control of your quantities, you usually have control of your project. 6- Bad news still doesn’t get better with age 7- Lying on your resume will get you no-where
I ask for nothing more, I ask for nothing else and I make no bones about being accused of being a Plannosaurus- an almost extinct species of the family of dinosaurs. Not only that I firmly believe there no substitute for experience. If the technology that is so enthusiastically utilized for all matters can be utilized towards development and on-the-run change to Plans the Plannosaurus shall be eternally grateful on behalf of the industry. Think about this- If I fed a recipe of a plan for building a combined cycle power plant or a coal plant, will you be able to create a plan for me ? Will technology help in collaboration between my experience and machine intelligence? If I gave you the optimal performance and productivity criteria, will you utilize technology with a solution that enables addressing construction problems on the run? If you can respond with a YES on either of the two, I will not only give up my technological apprehensions, I will create a conglomerate that fuses the Plannosaurus with machine and actually generate an unequivocal YES! to – It will indeed help you deliver as-sold!
Free Float in a schedule is highly underated. If stakeholders agree to a schedule and stop using free float as an excuse to justify “slips”, your project is positioned well to deal with genuine slips in future. Free Float is there and its there for a reason to account for resource availability and uncertainties but it is not meant to be a reason to “put off” starting an activity. Remember putting off starting an activity will most likely mean you will not finish on time and will result in float erosion across the schedule. And if your milestones are tied to payments, loss of free float inevitably will mean lost revenue when the free float diminishes and turns critical.
Do not be fooled if you are doing well only on the Critical path; how you earn progress against the baseline plan is paramount. You may be maintaining the end date by tracking the critical path, however if you continue to gradually erode earnings and keep deviating away from your baseline curve, chances are, you’re not going to make it. Any planner worth his/her salt can review the critical path. Earnings erosion is a slow, painful way to figure out that you have a problem. Therefore it is paramount to look at the below aspects of progress all the time- a- Critical path progress b- Overall progress based on earnings of manhours c- Progress on achievement of interim milestones Keeping an eye on the above three may not guarantee you success but you at least you are cognizant of where the project is and offers some kind of an early warning system so the project team has some reaction time to address issues.
Cost influence- It’s all about timing When the project is in its infancy there seems to be plenty of optimism around; there is time and the budget looks healthy. The team feels upbeat about progress and there is a general belief they will be able to meet deadlines and make a decent profit. If this sounds like a great position to be in, what makes it more promising is how much of an influence the team can have on project costs at this stage. What factors can the team influence- Ø Ability to optimize design to affect raw material – Early on, the design team has flexibility to evaluate several options on design and how design could specify low cost raw material by way of both labor and freight Ø Ability to optimize design for capital cost reduction- Design optimization plays a significant role with constructability options thereby leading to reduced labor cost. This becomes a key cost driver especially for projects in locations where labor costs form a high percentage of project costs Ø Ability to optimize the schedule by managing project float- The early part of the project is always the ideal phase at which time the execution team have the ability to look at options in terms of constructability, sequencing, heavy equipment usage, temporary facility sizing and staffing
If you as a Project Controls person can share the top five issues impacting project profitability to the Project Manager, it is worth more than any of the fancy graphics or scheduling tug-of-wars. A Project Manager needs you to deliver what’ll help in dealing with the future, anyone can take history and create a colorful report.
It is time people wake up to the fact that a good schedule in P6 does not guarantee project success. It is not rocket science . The ability to look at critical path and watching your float and communicating it is a better bet for success. Think of this, a good CPM network is like another weapon in a PM’s armory . You have the ammunition so you are prepared ; however the ability to win is governed by how well you hit your targets . Criticality , Float watch and adherence to your baseline are what you need to hit.
If Darth Vader is the Data monster, make sure you have a Luke Skywalker in your analyst who understands and can interpret the data!
As we progress during execution, the % of activities with Total Float less than 31 days continues to increase, when expressed as a % of to-go activities. Good scheduling practices suggest at the baselining phase, if this % is over 15%, the schedule is medium risk. If this % is over 35%, then the schedule is considered high risk. I am referring to the Project Master schedule.