Delays, which are often seen as inevitable in large-scale projects, almost invariably result in increased project costs. What’s more, their effect is cumulative. This means that a one-month delay in an investment project usually ends up costing a lot more. In fact, the indirect economic impact of the delay may be as much as five times higher than its direct cost. To make delays and related costs – whether direct or indirect – a thing of the past, you must change your way of working and start managing all asset information with proper document coordination.
1. Eliminate inaccuracies in initial information
Risks and challenges related to initial information are manifold. Legacy data may be spread across different locations and stored in different formats, thus being difficult to find and access. Existing documents may be lacking in precision and level of detail or even be out-of-date and thus obsolete, which may lead to a situation where subcontractors are given misleading or false information.
If you want to create value from your legacy data, you must start maintaining it properly.
2. Make sure that everyone knows the project’s scope and requirements
Occasionally, projects are scheduled and budgeted too flimsily. This can occur for various reasons. The requirements specifications may, for example, be too vague, in which case the project manager may base his subcontracting decisions on inadequate information. Sometimes, the project manager may intentionally ignore facts and figures regarding the project’s true scope in order to keep the subcontracting costs as low as possible. This will, of course, come back to haunt later on.
The Plant Manager in 2020
The Plant Manager in 2020
To raise everyone’s awareness of the project’s requirements, it’s important to make sure that the same information is available to everyone regardless of, for example, their engineering discipline. All staff should also have full access to peer reviews and CAD-independent information.
3. Deal with change management issues throughout the project
Changes are an inevitable part of every investment project. They are usually managed and implemented in the normal course of things. What’s problematic, however, is that the effect they have on the adjacent functions is often ignored.
A change in a project’s scope requires both impact evaluation and change communication, and all levels of the project organization must always be kept up to date on the project’s requirements. In a large-scale project with a number of suppliers and subcontractors this can sometimes be a challenge. That’s why it’s of vital importance to highlight that updates and changes to documentation must be done during the process, while they are still fresh in the mind – even if paperwork is not one’s favorite part of the job.
4. Verify and validate all deliverables
The key to accurate and reliable documentation is awareness. The starting point, of course, is creating common documentation standards and templates, but only by making sure that everyone knows how important it is to be able to trust the information you have, can you ascertain that these standards and templates are also used. This requires guidance, communication, discipline, monitoring, and training, and also applies to documents sourced from and produced by suppliers and subcontractors. Failure to comply with the standards should always be addressed.
5. Support effective communication
As the Finnish academic Osmo A. Wiio famously said, communication usually fails, except by accident. This doesn’t mean, however, that it’s pointless to pay attention to communication, as communication problems almost always also lead to costly delays.
Setting standards for cross-functional communication helps create structure and reduce communication issues. Documentation management is a traditional way of ensuring traceability, as is version management. Managing stakeholder expectations is also important. If your stakeholders are kept up-to-date on the project’s status, they are better equipped to adapt to the changing situations and their expectations don’t get out of hand too easily.