Our 5th Project Excellence industry event in Houston, Texas was another successful day of learning about project information management strategies. It was a well-balanced day of learning, networking, and fun. This year’s theme was Driving Project Performance and we had 4 guest speakers to help us drive the message home (pun intended).
Michael Matthews, Director of PwC’s Capital Projects & Infrastructure group kicked off the day with his talk on Energy Project Trends in North America. Michael’s presentation focused on the challenges with unconventional oil and gas projects including:
- Scope: scale, geography, complexity
- Technology: reliance on Excel, lack of integration between planning and execution
- Portfolio Management: inaccurate forecasting, no clear line of sight for decision making
- Resources: stretched labour supply, complex and strained supply chain
Given the scope of work and projected expansions within this industry over the next decade, traditional management approaches cannot be sustained long term. An integrated planning approach to shale development requires the ability to manage the full portfolio of projects and should be a tightly integrated process. Michael reinforced the importance of project systems that ensure timely and accurate data flow, cost and schedule forecast accuracy, as well as transparency and accountability.
John Fish, Director of Project Support Services at Ford, Bacon & Davis followed Michael with an eye-opening presentation on the Strategic Value of Front End Planning (FEP). A little up-front work goes a long way on major capital projects. His Construction Industry Institute (CII) research shows that by spending less than 5% of total installed value on FEP, owners gain up to 25% in cost savings and 39% in schedule reductions. John outlined his “Nine Rules of the Game,” including a defined Front End Planning process which incorporates automated systems in Deliverables Management, FEED Oversight, Interface Management and Change Management.
There were lots of great questions for Michael and John around how Owners and EPCs should go about implementing processes to ensure information is being captured and communicated property, so SGC Energia’spresentation was timely, giving the group some insight into an owner’s perspective on the processes they just went through to select a project information control system. Senior Vice President, Jim Davis and Document Control Specialist, Morgan Street explained SGC’s business challenges as a small independent energy company, including:
- Managing contracts
- Documentation security
- Communication with contractors & investors
- Budget and time constraints
- Change management
- Limited personnel and resources
- Usability – A system that would provide easy access to the right information when they needed it.
- Availability – A web-based collaboration platform that would allow communication and access to global stakeholders .
- Affordability –A system that didn’t require a large upfront investment in hosting infrastructure, and that would grow with them by letting them license the software on a per-user basis.
- Flexibility – A tool that could handle many file types and engineering documents.
- Extensibility – A system that could be easily integrated with their existing applications.
It was clear that SGC did their homework when it came to choosing a project information management system, and we’re excited to work with them as they grow and add more projects.
Our final guest speaker was Kamil Sheikh, Technical Interface Manager for Suncor Energy’s $8B Fort Hills Oil Sands project. Kamil started his presentation with some interesting statistics around workflow management: “In offshore projects, interface issues have long been identified as accounting for up to 20% of total installed costs;” and “mismanaged documents due to lack of coordination, procedures, and workflow has resulted in real impacts – up to $130M in settlements.” It is a long acknowledged problem that large, complex, modular-based projects struggle to achieve on-time, on-budget project performance. This is largely due to interface dependencies. Without established work processes to manage interface-related issues, the risk of schedule delays and cost overruns increases dramatically.
Kamil defined an “Interface” as “the boundary between two parties involved on the project” and described the challenges he faced on the Fort Hills project, including the need fo
- Centralized information
- Standard practices
- Contract commitment
- Global operations
- Interface accountability
Kamil shared his Commandments of Interface Management and spent some time explaining his interface mantra, “Sophisticated communications over sophisticated tools.” Suncor’s philosophy is to enhance project performance and lower total costs. Investing in a tool dedicated to Interface Management helped Suncor:
- Create a one stop shop for Interface Points, Interface Agreements, and Action Items
- Eliminate backdoor email exchanges and handshake deals
- Improve project planning
- Build a deep understanding of project complexity
- Monitor detailed information exchange
- Identify shortcomings and critical issues early
- Reduce uncertainties
All of our presenters invoked good conversation and opportunities to gain from project professionals’ experiences, but the day wasn’t just about learning. Project Excellence is also a great opportunity to network with peers, and this year, we had the chance to meet new faces while practicing our golf swing on what turned out to be a gorgeous sunny day.