Agile in EPC projects – Why I am super delighted?

Can we use agile principles outside I.T?. This is one question I had to answer many times during my project management workshops, and consistently my answer was/ is ‘Yes’. I have mentored a team of lawyers who analyse outsourced cases and submit case analysis reports back, to follow ‘scrum’, one of the agile methods.

Another question from an architect of Turner construction was about the applicability of agile / lean principles in EPC projects. This was around seven years back. My answer was ‘Partially possible’. Agile gives best results in projects where the requirements are evolving and the technology is also new to the team. The early phases of EPC projects (contracting, requirements collection, scope definition, architecture, engineering phases) satisfies ‘evolving requirements’, ‘technology ambiguity’ criteria very well, which justifies my answer ‘partially yes’. The rolling wave or moving window planning which is part of PMBOK for the last one decade, in it’s fully expanded form is nothing but iterative and adaptive in nature. I was always optimistic about application of agile and lean practices in EPC projects, except during construction phase.

Last week, I received a McKinsey report on the emerging trends in EPC from Mr. Varghese Daniel, CEO, Wrench solutions with whom I am professionally associated to analyze the global project management best practices and their application to EPC projects to improve on time and within budget delivery. My further googling got me another KPMG study on the emerging trends. Both points to Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) as one of the key trends globally, which revolves around better collaboration of motivated teams achieved through;

  • Choosing the right contract types (tri-party contracts between the owner, contractor and the architect)
  • Greater collaboration during planning phase (last planner – which is similar to iteration planning)
  • Greater collaboration during execution (construction) (burn down charts, information radiators, daily stand up meetings)

At last my hunches are coming true. All these years I was the lone crusader who used to say that adaptive(agile) and predictive (PMBOK, TCM, PRINCE2) are complimentary which raised many eyebrows, and as an acknowledgement of my views, the industry is moving towards it. I am super delighted.

About the blogger

Abrachan Pudussery is a highly experienced project management domain expert with three decades of project experience in project management, consulting, coaching and research. He has in depth knowledge about various project management frameworks (PMBOK, PRINCE2, TCM, Agile. He is the founder director of the Project Management Research Institute He is also associated with Wrench Solutions as their project management domain expert.

Applying Earned Value Management successfully

Applying-Earned-Value-Management-successfully – WorkAsOne ­

When is Earned Value Management (EVM) applicable?

We say: in every single construction project.

We are not the only ones who think so.

Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (AACE), being more function and detail-oriented, addresses this at length in their Recommended Practices. AACE defines two key concepts in EVM: 1) measurable work progress; and 2) a focus on planning to establish the performance measurement baseline (PMB) against which performance will be tracked and evaluated. AACE’s five guidelines form the foundation for the quality planning process and are identified as one of the two key concepts of EVM, namely:

1. Define Work Breakdown Structure

2. Identify Organizations

3. Integrate Subsystems

4. Identify Overhead Control

5. Integrate WBS and Organization Breakdown Structure

AACE then addresses how to generate and analyse EVM information on a routine basis. The guidelines specify at least monthly reporting although some programs receive reports and perform analysis more frequently.

But to start with, what is EVM? Why is it so useful as a measuring and monitoring tool? Let’s understand the basics.

Click here to read the complete article

Portfolio, Program, Projects harmony

What is a project?

  1. Projects are temporary endeavors 
  2. Produces unique products or services as output

Projects are temporary in nature. That means, every project has a definite start date and end date. After the completion of the project, the team is dispersed.

Projects deliver Unique products or services as an output. Developing a new online course is a project. Designing a new car is a project. Manufacturing cars in large numbers does not fall in the category of projects as the output is not unique. Manufacturing cars falls under operations.

 

Projects drive change. Projects helps organizations to achieve their business goal, which is a movement from one state to another. Projects enable business value creation.  Projects are initiated due to these four factors;

  • To meet statutory, legal or social requirements. (New labor law can trigger a new payroll system. A new tax pattern also can trigger changes in the accounting procedures.
  • To satisfy stakeholder requests or needs (need for faster internet, need for online training programs, need for cheaper transportation)
  • Implement or change business or technological strategies (digital marketing strategy, online business strategy)
  • Create, Improve or fix products, processes or services (Faster mobile connectivity, Reduction in traffic jams, Improving safety)

Project management

Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements (PMBOK)

Program

A program is a collection of inter-related projects, which when done together gives more value / benefits,  than doing them one after the other. A program is a collection of related sub-programs, projects, sub-projects that are managed as a program in a coordinated way through program management, performed by program managers. 

Example :-

Program – Reduce traffic jams  managed by Program manager. Comprises of multiple related projects. Each of these component projects are managed by Project managers. These project managers report to the program manager.

Program to reduce traffic jams

 

Projects are temporary endeavours delivering unique products or services within the agreed upon time, cost and scope. Contrary to this, operations are ongoing in nature and delivers standard output. Designing a car is a project where as manufacturing cars falls under operations.

Programs are groups of inter-related projects, which when done together provides more value than doing them sequentially. Programs are managed by program managers. Project managers of the component projects reports to the program manager.

Portfolio

Organizations have business goals to accomplish. Organizational strategies supports the accomplishment of these business goals. Organizational strategies are implemented through programs, projects and other work. A project portfolio is a collection of projects, programs, sub-programs and other work which constitute the portfolio. Project portfolios are always linked to the accomplishment of organizational goals, and they are managed by Portfolio managers.

Portfolio management

Portfolio management is the centralized management of one or more portfolios to achieve strategic objectives, performed by portfolio managers. . While the programs have inter-related projects, the programs , sub-programs and projects within a portfolio need not be inter-related. For example, in my project portfolio, I have PMP online and PMI-ACP online and they are inter-related and at the same time they are part of my organizational strategy to accomplish my business goals.

Portfolio management comprises of;

  1. Choosing the best projects in terms of return on investment (ROI), Payback period which are in true alignment to the organizational strategy for growth.
  2. Maintaining the alignment of the organizational strategy and the projects by overseeing the execution of these projects / programs at a higher level and at the same time monitoring their alignment to the organizational strategy (which can change during project execution time, hence re-alignment may be required)
  3. Post implementation monitoring the actual benefits Vs benefits forecast at the time of project selection.

Operations Management

Operations management relates to the ongoing production of goods or services.

Portfolios aligns the programs, sub-programs and stand alone projects with the business strategy, thus achieving better effectiveness.

Program management optimizes the planning and execution of the program components thus bringing better efficiency.

Project management ensures successful completion of the projects within the agreed upon time, cost and scope.

Why are the processes in PMBOK numbered from 4 onwards?

The processes in PMBOK are numbered from 4 onwards because chapters 1,2,3 contains the topics given below.

  • The standard for project management
  • The standard for portfolio management
  • The standard for program management
  • Code of ethics and professional conduct
  • Projects
  • Project initiation context
  • Projects, programs, portfolio and operations management
  • Organizational project management and strategies
  • Structure of PMBOK
  • Project and development lifecycles
  • Project phase
  • Phase gate
  • Project management processes
  • Project management process groups
  • Project management knowledge areas
  • Project management data and information
  • Tailoring
  • Project management business documents
  • Project business case
  • Project benefits management plan
  • Project charter and project management plan
  • Project success measures
  • Enterprise environmental factors
  • Organizational process assets
  • Organizational systems
  • Organizational structure types
  • Project management office
  • The role of the project manager
  • Project manager competencies
  • Comparison of Leadership and management
  • Performing integration

Project integration management comes under chapter 4. The first process under this knowledge area ‘Develop project charter’ is numbered at 4.1.

Understanding Earned Value Management System (EVMS)

Scope of the project : This project comprises of laying a fence around a square plot of size 1 km on each sides (A,B,C,D). Each side has a budget of 1000. The work is supposed to get over on the 4th week. The surveyor is conducting the survey to assess the progress after 4 weeks from the start date.

Side A, Side B, Side C are fully completed.

The Budgeted Cost of Work Scheduled BCWS(A), which is also known as the Planned Value (PV) for A = 1000

Since ‘A’ got over, the Budgeted Cost of Work Performed BCWP(A), which is also known as Earned Value (EV) for ‘A’  = 1000

The Actual cost (AC) incurred to complete side A = 1000

For SIDE – B,   PV=1000, EV=1000, AC=1000

For SIDE – C, PV=1000, EV=1000,  AC=1000

For SIDE – D, PV=1000, EV=500, AC=800

evm example 1 (1)

EVMBAC (2)

Conclusion 

A Schedule Performance Index (SPI) =>1 indicates the project is doing well schedule wise

A Schedule Performance Index (SPI) < 1, indicates that the project is lagging behind schedule wise

If the Cost Performance Index (CPI) >=1, indicates that the work is getting completed within budget

A Cost Performance Index (CPI) < 1 indicates that we have spend more than planned for the completed work.

Throughout the project if we can maintain a CPI and SPI which is greater than or equal to one, then the project is doing well schedule wise and cost wise. 

The ‘S’ Curve

The ‘S curve’ is widely used in project management to track the project. At regular intervals they plot the Planned Value (PV), Earned Value (EV) and the Actual Cost (AC) . If SPI=1 and CPI=1, then all these curves would have intersected at PV.

Badget-at-Completion-EVM-for-SharePoint

The Budget at Completion (BAC) is the sum of ‘PV’ of all the work from start of the project till the end.

Based on these data, it is possible to forecast the Estimate at Completion (EAC)

EAC = AC + (BAC-EV) / CPI  (Assumption, the nature of the work is same)

 

pmp_kochi_kerala_india

Multi dimensional risk analysis for PMP

Here is a multi dimensional risk analysis for the PMP credential from the industry, trainer, PMP aspirant perspectives with an intent to communicate an independent and unbiased view. 

pmprisks

Industry related risks 

  1. The risk – There is a wide spread rumor about PMP credential as a product, which has reached the end-of-life stage in the product life cycle.  Reality – While this can be true from the training providers perspective due to too many trainers / companies undercutting each other, this is never true from the project management professional’s / aspiring professional’s perspective. PMP still rules as most recognized certification for predictive project management (most suited for large projects involving engineering, procurement, construction and management (EPCM). PMP credential is followed by PRINCE2. There is no other choice as of now for anyone who wants to pursue a globally accepted predictive project management related certification based on Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) by Deming. I am using the term ‘predictive project management’ explicitly because there are many popular certifications available under the agile family (SCRUM, XP, RUP, TDD etc..) which are not a right fit for EPCM projects where the engineering discipline does not allow for much change, hence the agile family of frameworks are more suitable for product development where the requirements and the technology are highly volatile. Even then I am toying with the idea of applying agile during the planning phase of EPCM projects. Do not pelt stones at me because I am talking differently, or because I am the only one talking so. Unfortunately the agilists and the traditionalists do not like each other very much, even when the scrum masters fail miserably because they do not have any clue about stakeholder management, risk management, communication management, resource management, scope management, quality management etc. In my personal opinion, predictive and adaptive (agile) project management streams are complimentary  in nature for those whose goal is to manage their projects successfully, without bias towards any one particular framework.

Trainer related risks

  1. Many trainers teach the inputs, tools and techniques and outputs of the project management processes, in the same sequence as they are listed in the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK), without focusing on the benefits. That makes it very boring and difficult to remember (note that PMBOK is a 750+ page document). A better approach would be to learn process group wise;
    • Initiation
    • Planning
    • Execution
    • Monitoring & Controlling
    • Closing – This approach makes it easy to remember, as this is the natural flow of the project.
    • processgroupwisedoclist
  2. Many trainers provide too much emphasis on remembering inputs, tools&techniques and outputs (ITTO). Remembering them for 49 processes is humanly impossible, especially when one is under exam pressure. In fact, surprisingly those who spent maximum effort to mug up ITTO during their preparation time have failed in the final exam. Once you understand PMBOK process group wise, it is easy to recollect logically the inputs, tools&techniques and outputs. For example remembering the ITTO for the process ‘Develop project charter’ is much easier when one looks at it as the first process under ‘Project initiation’ process group, than the ‘First process’ under ‘Project integration management’ knowledge area.
  3. They do not give any emphasis on the ‘professional ethics’ of project managers. You can imagine the plight of someone who tries into master professional project management without any idea about professional ethics. Since the questions are scenario based, every project management scenario has an ethics angle, and mastering it makes it easier while choosing the best project management decisions.
  4. PMBOK has a wealth of information for the project management practitioner. Many trainers lacks the experience to articulate the concepts from the practitioner’s perspective. For example, project charter can be explained as just an output of project initiation or it can be a great document to develop a well understood project success criteria among all stakeholders..
  5. Trainers may not be well versed with various project domains to cite the right examples, whereas the participants are from different domains. They end up seeing everything as a nail, because the only tool they have is a hammer.
  6. Trainers trying to showcase their knowledge than focusing on the knowledge transfer. Mostly with inexperienced trainers.
  7. Trainers who does not explain things in detail, due to monotony. Mostly with highly experienced trainers.
  8. Trainers recommending too many reference material, thus making the preparation difficult.
  9. Trainers who charge very less fees, who losses interest mid way through the course because they are not compensated enough for their efforts.
  10. Disillusioned trainers, who are wearing the trainer’s hat out of compulsion than by choice.

Learner related risks

  1. Underestimating the effort required. One need to spend atleast 80 hours of preparation time, which include training, self study and exam practise.
  2. Over confidence, hence insufficient preparation.
  3. Lack of confidence, hence not scheduling the exam and finally dropping the idea.
  4. Enrolling for cheap courses, just because they are cheap, without giving any weight age for trainer profile, method of training and track record. Online courses which are just record and play, which are priced lower than the price of books is the number one culprit. Think of the frustration, re-preparation effort and the re-registration fees after failing in the first attempt. Passing PMP in the first go is very important. Do not decide based on the direct costs alone, consider the indirect costs (especially the cost of failure) as well, before deciding on the training program.
  5. Try to finish it off at the earliest, preferably within 30 days of the course completion, else other priorities may take precedence.

pmpinjust5weeks

Why traditional project success criteria are still relevant today?

During one of my training programs, a project manager said ‘I am not getting acceptance for my project. What should I do get the acceptance?’. That was a difficult question to answer, considering the fact that I did not know much about his project. Still I wanted to give it a try, and I asked more questions about the probable causes that are acting in favor of project acceptance and the ones acting against project acceptance, just to understand the context better, before trying to help him out, if possible.
The key factors favoring his project’s acceptance

  • The project leadership team, especially the CEO is committed to the project
  • The product quality is excellent.
  • Capability of the team is good.

The key factors opposing his project’s acceptance

  • Organizational politics
  • Fear of loss of job
  • Trade union involvement …

Luckily I asked him about the ‘acceptance criteria’ of the project, which he, his team and all the key stakeholders were trying to achieve, and unfortunately it was not available. Further research reveals that, this is a major problem in many projects. The perception of success varies from project to project, and from stakeholder to stakeholder. There is no agreed upon success criteria for most of the projects, and it is a global project management problem or opportunity!.

Click here for the original blog post

Courtesy : http://www.wrenchsolutions.com

Stakeholder analysis to identify key performance indicators of project success

Step#1 Identify the stakeholders of the project / product  (sample list below)

  • Sponsors
  • Portfolio managers
  • Program managers
  • Project managers
  • Owners
  • Engineering mangers / teams
  • Design teams
  • Sub contractors
  • Procurement team
  • Quality team
  • Risk management team
  • Change management team
  • Safety management team
  • Cost controllers
  • Finance
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Project management office
  • Competitors
  • Consultants
  • End users
  • Government agencies
  • Industry bodies
  • Environment safety
  • Quantity surveyors
  • Competitors   etc..

2. Classify them into the segments of;

  1. High power, High interest
  2. High power, Low interest
  3. Low power, High interest
  4. Low power, Low interest

 

3. Identify the key parameters they would like to track towards meeting the project goals of their interest.

The following diagram depicts a stakeholder classification and the probable project parameters they would like to track

BCG for project health