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Is your company capturing the value of Integrated Project Controls?

Bringing puzzle pieces together

Advancement in technologies, increased communication capabilities and connectivity of devices provide a great opportunity to control technical projects smartly and more efficiently. However, not every company has bridged the digital gap. The common ways of controlling projects still lead to huge cost overruns and schedule delays.  

What exactly do project controllers need to know to navigate the future of project controls? In a couple of articles, we explore how Integrated Project Controls can contribute to this goal. We looked into the root causes of cost overruns and schedule delays in project controls and why integrated project controls is key for project performance. With this article, we dive into how you can determine where your organization stands in terms of Integrated Project Controls and in which areas you could improve your integrated project control process.

 

The road towards Integrated Project Controls

To apply an Integrated Project Controls approach, it is crucial to determine where your organization stands now and to understand in which areas you could improve your project control process. A systematic method for achieving integration with the right digital solution involves first identifying a company’s current level of Integrated Project Controls (IPC maturity).

For this, project controllers should follow an approach that is focused on 3 building blocks: work processes, IT solutions and culture.

Work process, IT Solutions, Culture

 

Project controls processes

The first building block where you should focus on while striving for Integrated Project Controls is the work processes. In a company with integrated work processes, there is common terminology across disciplines and departments. Ideally an up-to-date glossary is available to support the common terminology. In line with this, there are standardized breakdown structures across projects to allow for consistent analysis throughout different project phases and between projects. Moreover, in a company with integrated work processes, you would expect to see important project meetings being held on a regular basis with at least one representative from each discipline (cost estimating, cost management, planning, risk, benchmarking, engineering, etc.). Lastly, close-out meetings are held at the end of each project and findings are captured consistently for future use.

If the aspects above are not applicable in your organization, the work processes are not (fully) integrated, which could have negative consequences on your project controls and therefore project results. For example, if a common terminology is not used across different departments, this could lead to repeated miscommunication. Therefore, strive for optimization of the work processes to apply an Integrated Project Controls approach.

 

Project controls tools as IT solutions

The second building block where you should focus on while striving for Integrated Project Controls is the IT solutions. In a company with integrated IT solutions professional projects controls tools are used. The latest IT technologies (e.g. big data and machine learning) are used to analyze and benchmark relevant project data. Furthermore, all relevant software tools are integrated. There is little to no manual data handling required. Finally, reliable and up-to-date central knowledgebases with a wide coverage are available, which are updated and maintained by owners.

If the aspects above are not applicable in your organization, the IT solutions in the organization need to be examined. If no professional software tools are used and you mostly use Excel spreadsheets, this is not a good sign. Strive for one integrated  project controls software for all areas of project management.

It could be that there is no integration between disciplines (or some, mostly though Excel as intermediary), and each discipline has their own methods and coding. There are opportunities here. If you optimize the opportunities and integrate project controls software tools, no manual data handling would be required, which could save loads of time.

 

The impact of company culture on project controls

The last building block where you should focus on while striving for Integrated Project Controls is the company culture. Companies should embrace digital-minded people and create a company culture that is open to new technologies. They should embrace new ways of working, which stimulates cooperation and better communication among different disciplines. Furthermore, most ideally, there is an open office concept, where people from different disciplines can easily interact when needed.

If the aspects above are not applicable in your organization, there is some improvement work to be done. Especially in some special projects like maintenance and turnarounds, more experienced senior people are often preferred over relatively young and inexperienced people. However, young people are typically more accustomed to working with technology. Companies should embrace the digital-minded people and create a company culture that is open to new technologies and new ways of working and that stimulates cooperation among different discipline. Learning about other disciplines within an organization is key for integrated project controls. Organizations should encourage the employees to do so. Organizing cross-discipline workshops can help facilitate this.

 

Conclusion

If your company has all 3 building blocks in place, it is a company with a good level of integration across all disciplines. If the aspects above are not recognizable in your organization, integration has no role in your project controls processes. Isolated disciplines work as silos you are more likely to face schedule delays and cost overruns. There is a low chance of project improvement due to lack of learning from executed projects. When the latter is the case, the 3 building blocks as described in this blog could function as guidance to start working on Integrated Project Controls.

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