(51b) Catching Project Problems Early



Wouldn't it be great if you had a crystal ball that could help you predict project problems before they happen? Experienced project managers have such a capability, and in most cases these skills have been developed by years of executing projects and seeing/experiencing the same project problems repeatedly. The industry has spent years in developing project management ?Best Practices? that provide the basis for identifying project issues early and allowing the project team time to react to the problem.

This paper will address many of the tools and techniques that are available today to help project managers try to predict the future. Project planning techniques such as Project Execution Planning (PEP), Cost and Schedule Risk Assessments, Independent Project Reviews (Cold Eye Reviews), etc. will be addressed. Project Control features, such as progress measurement, Earned Value, productivity, trending and forecasting, will also be addressed. Although the industry has proven these tools to be value added, they are useless to the success of a project unless the project manager acts on the information these tools provide.

Most Chemical Engineers are trained to engineer a solution that will allow the end user to achieve their business needs. These typically result in choosing the best technology, developing the project drawings and support specifications, and completing a design package that will meet the end users' needs. This provides the ?What? that needs to be built. Project Management is focused on the ?How.? How do we design and build it? Many Project Engineers are not trained or experienced in the ?How,? which results in inefficient and ineffective execution of the project. The ?How? includes planning, estimating, scheduling and control of the actual work. These are the features that allow us the ability to look into the future and minimize issues that can potentially negatively impact project outcome. If the ?What? and ?How? are not aligned, the project can experience numerous changes which result in longer execution time and costlier facilities.

Projects in today's world will not be successful unless there is a close communication between the owner (who will operate the facility when completed) and the contractor (who will design and build the facility). Many project issues arise when this relationship breaks down ? the contractors are not specifically told what is expected of them, the owner does not manage the contractor, the contractor performs poorly, or the owner constantly changes his mind on the project scope and/or schedule. This paper will address these issues as well as provide guidance on how this relationship can be initiated and nurtured throughout the life of the project.

This paper will address projects in both the domestic US and international Chemical Process Industry. Case study examples will be used to demonstrate the benefits of these proven project management tools and techniques. Lessons Learned from a number of seasoned project managers will be conveyed to reinforce the benefits of following sound project management best practice.

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