One step at a time
“How did you guys go from Project Scheduling to BPM (Business Process Management)?” This is a logical question.
This post illustrates the logical steps that pushed us from Project Scheduling to BPM. We had no idea at the outset that this would happen. In hindsight, it seems logical that it would. We are certainly glad for the journey. We hope that you enjoy reading, and relating to, this brief explanation of the main stops, and lessons learned along the way. This awareness should help you to be confident with having us as your business knowledge partner in your own journey to improve your business processes and your company’s bottom line.
In the beginning, there was Scheduling
Our initial goal was to prepare a schedule, or timeline, for the engineering, procurement and construction (i.e. EPC) phases of a capital project. We used the current system of the day, Primavera’s Finest Hour, to do this. This was the precursor of the current Primavera P6. Finest Hour was so called because it scheduled to duration units of 1 hour, while other systems of the period were limited to units of 1 day.
From Scheduling to Spreadsheet-based Data Management
As we manually entered data into Primavera Finest Hour, it became apparent that it would be far simpler to stage the data in a spreadsheet, then import it into the scheduling system. So we used spreadsheets to stage Activities, Resources, Successors and Constraints.
Our Data Awakening
It soon became clear that, to further reduce data entry, we needed default behavior. For example, an activity more often than not had the next activity as its successor. Work Items with certain nouns (like Scaffold) had a logical resource (like carpenter) that could be defaulted to reduce data entry. We learned that databases have stored procedures and triggers that could be configured to automate the tediousness and errors out of data entry. Now, with an unlimited, open-ended playing field, the database, the way was open to add unlimited new features. This was done as needed, either based on direct customer requests or based on perceived needs.
Over 50% of the relationships, or ties, in a well-designed logical schedule are ties to milestones. So we built a solution to auto-create and maintain these milestones and also to manage these ties. Doing so has reduced the scheduling effort (by expensive schedulers) by at least 50%! Now, it is easy to build a work package with work items in multiple periods (ex. pre-Turnaround) and know that the work is automatically logically linked internally and to the period milestones. You can even export your plan to Oracle Primavera or MS Project and enjoy the great results – that you did not need to enter and maintain in those scheduling systems.
You spent a lot of effort in estimating and loading resources on each activity in your schedule. How can you measure what you actually used or ‘burned’? Ensure that Timekeeping is integrated with the plan. This additional feature closed another gap in the work processes of clients, both owners and contractors.
Gatekeeping – Clock In / Clock Out
So, Accounting wanted to be sure that the people whose time was being reporting in Timekeeping were really on site. As they were scanning in and out each day, this was easy. We simply imported the gating system’s data and provided a variance report that made it easy to determine the exceptions and obtain explanations for them.
Progress Measurement / Earned Value
So, we now knew how much time we spent on each work item. Reporting progress on each work item enabled us to determine the earned value of each. The Earned vs Burned gave is the Cost Performance Index (CPI) and the the Earned vs Planned gave us the Schedule Performance Index (SPI). These performance indices, available for each work item. Additionally, these values were easily ‘rolled up’ to provide useful KPIs for each work package, equipment, equipment type, unit, zone and the entire project or turnaround.
Routine Maintenance Work Orders
Owners need to ensure that their assets are maintaining in optimal operational condition. ERP or CMMS or EAP systems were implemented by many owners. We have imported work order data from many such systems, in an effort to provide teams with a more effective workflow and planning process. Optimally, Work Orders go through 5 predictable stages: Strategic evaluation, Tactical detailing, Logistical provisioning, Execution and Pre-commissioning, and Commissioning and Close-out. A free flow of work orders, to or from turnaround scope, is easy with this approach.
Ensuring that the right amount of work appeared on Daily and Weekly schedules, required the available manpower to be accurately maintained. This included knowing when a person planned to be absent, such as for training, safety orientation, etc. The solution acquired resource limiting and activity chaining as features during this improvement.
A natural consequence of planning and executing the work in a single system is the ability to obtain standard KPIs for each asset being maintained. These include indexes such as mean time between failures (MTBF) and mean time to repair (MTTR), among many others.
Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
Cost tracking necessitated the inclusion of a fixed structure for reporting these costs. Each company has its own work breakdown structure for managing their costs. We had to learn how to support each company’s WBS and to enable each projects to support it’s own, project-specific, WBS if needed.
Following a successful bid, both the owner and the contractor’s budgets are agreed upon and based on the WBS. This includes the timeline for the budgeted costs. The budget and schedule baseline for each WBS in the project is the foundation for cost management of the project or program.
Following budgeting, contract commitments are made for the supply of labor, equipment, materials and services. These commitments help the project team to view the performance of each contractor in their area of the scope execution.
Integral to budget and commitment management is the awareness that things will change in the field. We built a change management framework to allow these changes to be tracked from inception of the change through approval and inclusion in the budget and commitment frameworks.
Materials needs are first identified from the engineering drawings available to the bidders for their material take-off (MTO) process. These materials can be tracked from here into the estimate that underlies the bid. If the bidder is successful, and wins the contract, this data is easily moved into the Requisition phase of the procurement process. Procurement professionals can bundle appropriate requisitioned items into ‘Request for Quote’ (RFQ) packages to be provided to vendors to obtain comparative pricing. Next a purchase order (PO) may be issued to the winning vendor for the materials that they quoted. The final aspect of the procurement cycle is the receiving process.
A key benefit of including the procurement cycle in the project is that the committed dates and costs are automatically included in the schedule and serve as a means to alert the team about possible material-related schedule delays. This happens without any additional data entry in the schedule – due to integration.
HSE (Health, Safety and Environmental)
Your company has its HSE standards for managing safety orientation, skills assessment and incident reporting. The solution helps you to ensure that everyone on your team follows the standard procedure.
The delivered product, or result, of your project or program has some pre-commissioning and commissioning-related requirements to ensure that a high quality result is handed to the owner. Tracking the requirements is made easier due to the end-to-end tracking available in the integrated solution.
Each of the functions described thus far require skilled people to be assigned to the project. Tracking these people, their skills and their tie, etc. required us to add significant abilities to manage all HR data in the solution.
Accurate Rates for labor, equipment, materials and services are required prior to the bid phase, in order to ensure a great estimate. They are then required in the execution phase to ensure that the cost reporting is accurate and believable. The solution support a rates buildup tool to allow for periodic increases in union and legislated rates.
BPM – Process Management
When you are the only one using a spreadsheet, you know who is making the changes. In an integrated solution, we needed to add audit tools to track key data so that there would be no doubt about who made a key change, and when they made that change. To manage the business process flow that you company has built into procedures, we built a BPM (business process management) app. This allows to do define a set of stages, with deliverables for each strategy, ex. Procurement. Each deliverable has a set of key processes. You may assign a role to be responsible for a process. A sign-off from that role would signal that that process step is completed. This is the simple basis for all of the complex processes that you have.
In order to help the right people to be involved in significant process steps in a deliverable, the solution supports 4 or more Notifications to the: Responsible, Accountable, Consulted or Informed roles in your project or corporate teams. The people with the stated roles are notified immediately on completion of the last process step, so that delays due to poor communications are avoided.
Our company’s trajectory, with multiple clients in multiple industries, has provided us with in-depth insights. These enabled us to gain invaluable business and project intelligence knowledge. This knowledge is now ‘captured’ into a single solution that others may use. Now, our newer clients immediately benefit from the experience already obtained. They can focus on pushing the envelope to new horizons, to stay ahead of their competition.
Our path opened up before us as we did more work for clients. We continually accepted new challenges, and satisfied our customers as we did so. It was, and continues to be, a great formula.