The “No Surprises” Approach to Project Management

No disputing that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” When companies and institutions promote their latest building projects they do so with striking photography, knowing it will make an impact. The contributions of the project’s architects, civil, process, mechanical and other types of engineers; contractors and the construction crews can all be captured by the camera.

However, some efforts that can make or break those projects aren’t as tangible—specifically, the scheduling, cost estimating, cost control and procurement functions that support accurate and effective project management. At SSOE, those activities are called project management services and they are the job of skilled professionals who excel at collecting, organizing, analyzing, updating and, ultimately revealing data in useful formats using various Primavera, Microsoft and Sage applications.

The project manager’s best friend
Talk to project managers (PM) who have worked with top-notch project management services teams and they’ll cite dozens of reasons why they are indispensable. The project services team handles all the details, allowing the project managers to truly manage the project. Project managers receive meaningful reports and summaries so they can know the status of multiple aspects of the project at any point in time. They are able to make informed decisions, identify areas of the project that need attention, and resolve potential problems before they materialize. In short, the project manager can focus on orchestrating an optimal outcome.

The approach
The project management services team utilizes a systematic, phased project life cycle approach to assist with executing and managing a project. The different phases have specific requirements that need to be met prior to moving on to the next phase. Imposing this structure creates critical advantages for the client. It sets standards and ensures consistency across all projects. It enables the client to compare and evaluate similar projects. It allows any PM to pick up a project at any phase and know what to expect, and it ensures that clients receive the same type of documentation and reporting from multiple PMs.

Flexible levels of service
SSOE varies the scope and level of detail it provides for each activity depending on the project needs and the client request. For example, schedules range from a level 1—the least complex—to a level 5—the most complex. They can be limited to a single phase—engineering, construction, or start-up, for example, or include multiple phases over the entire life cycle of the project. Project management services can organize a project by developing detailed work break-down structures and then integrate the required resources to determine staffing needs. Similarly, SSOE varies the detail and level of accuracy of the cost estimate based on the phase the project is in and the amount of information it has access to. Setting up schedules and estimates with the same work breakdown structure enables effective cost control. In addition, having a consistent coding structure throughout all elements of the project allows apples to apples comparisons. The PM can look at one item, track it on the schedule, determine its budget and any financial activity associated with it.
The key to a successful project is to determine the right amount of control. Too little control can result in the PM not having enough information and level of organization to make quick, educated, and effective decisions on a project. On the other hand, too much control can be costly and ineffective. The PM can get wrapped up in too many details to get a clear picture of what is happening.
SSOE’s project management services experts frequently respond to a call for help from clients’ overburdened in-house teams. A major food company handed SSOE the construction schedule they were in the midst of developing for a large canning plant project. Over the next 1.5 years, the SSOE scheduler built and managed a schedule of over 400 tasks and additional sub tasks that continued to change as the project moved forward. With another client, detailed schedules were created for a $600 million project from project inception through commissioning and startup consisting of over 4,000 tasks that allowed the client to plan internal resources and monitor the status in real time during the course of the project.

It’s typical for project management services to save clients money – sometimes a lot of it. These are a few examples of the many ways these services more than pay for themselves.

  • When SSOE’s work for one client involved repetitive types of projects, the team created a cost model and schedule that could be used for the subsequent projects. This saved time in setting up the project management activities and allowed them to generate more specific quotes. Also, having schedule and budget data from the previous project made for more refined durations and completion dates of the tasks.
  • With detailed scheduling and procurement data, SSOE has been able to help save a client thousands of dollars. SSOE scheduled major equipment deliveries, prioritized critical items to ensure that specifications were complete, and made sure that orders were placed as early as possible. This saved the client expediting fees and the cost of potentially stopping the installation until needed equipment was delivered.
  • During the early phase of a multi-million dollar project, SSOE saved the client money by determining the required construction resources early. This proactive planning gave the client time to look for resources beyond the local area and schedule around their availability and still keep the completion date intact.
  • When using web-based applications, detailed, timely, tightly integrated project information is available to all appropriate members of the project team at any time. This reduces errors, missed information, version confusion, and duplicated effort—all drains on a budget.

And although you can’t put a price tag on it, you will reduce your staff’s stress, frustration, and lost time that accumulate over the duration of the project. Thanks to powerful software and people with the expertise to use it effectively you can come closer than ever before to a “no-surprises” project.