Build on success
With a strong foundation, the sky's the limit. As global firms negotiate the shifting construction job market, starts and stops, and economic uncertainty, they must ensure efficient management processes and resource usage at home.
Construction executives long have realized the benefits of project management. In an industry so focused on schedule, people and cost, consistency means more than a competitive advantage: It means survival and growth.
Four industry veterans discuss how their organizations have invested in project management, refined processes and seen big benefits.
THE WORLD IS INCREASINGLY GLOBAL—we're a British-owned firm doing business in the United States. Many clients are going to offshore firms, so we have to compete in that environment and come up with multiple solutions. We have to be where our clients are working as well. Multisite project delivery requires disciplined project management to deliver efficient and cost-effective services.
Our clients are demanding more formalized processes, and because we're a client-focused business, we have to move where our clients demand the expertise. There always are projects that are more successful than others. As we've looked at our best performing projects, we have found that the ones run according to the highest level of discipline and protocols are the ones that perform most positively.
Michael D. Bowerman
Senior Vice President, AMEC, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
A dozen years ago, we had process manuals, but we began to codify them and pull together formal procedures and invest in a regular training process to improve our people and technology. In the 1990s, we began self-help seminars where individuals like myself would teach leaders around the United States about the importance of consistent project management processes.
To stay at the forefront of the construction industry, we've developed some process tools that have allowed us to ratchet up our capabilities. For example, in the realm of Internet collaboration, we have designed project “webs” that allow us to discuss information, ask questions and communicate more effectively, which is at the heart of successful project management.
Most recently, we have teamed with Penn State University; a program of eight educational modules actually lead to a master's degree in project management. We're seeing tremendous benefits from the program as our staff receives formalized graduate-level project management training. We're seeing great innovation and collaboration from these individuals and their peers.
SECRETARY OF ENERGY Spencer Abraham reinforced the U.S. Department of Energy's commitment to improving project management processes and results in mid-2001. Additionally, in the summer of 2001, President George W. Bush issued his “President's Management Agenda” that challenges all the federal agencies to provide improved management through five governmentwide goals. The intent of the President's Management Agenda is that federal agencies clearly demonstrate performance and results in return for the expenditure of taxpayer dollars.
Since that time, the Department has issued a new project management manual for its federal project managers which provides direction, guidance and expectations for results in the delivery of its portfolio of projects. This effort recognizes the immense challenges inherent in managing a portfolio of 126 capital construction projects with a total value of nearly US$40 billion. The portfolio is diverse, including one-of-a-kind physics laboratories, complex environmental cleanup projects and more conventional construction of support facilities.
Our objective is to improve delivery of projects that perform as intended—on time and within budget. To do this, we have instituted a monthly reporting and assessment process to evaluate the health of our portfolio and track its success rate. We have improved performance from 74 percent of projects performing acceptably in November 2002 to more than 90 percent performing acceptably today.
The Department recently instituted a certification program for its federal project managers, based upon evidence of experience, performance, developmental assignments and knowledge of project management principles. The Project Management Institute's Project Management Professional (PMP® credential) is included in the Department's certification program, because PMP designation is accepted as evidence of specific competencies in project management.
It is our intent to certify all assigned federal project managers within our program by May 2006. Additionally, we are currently performing a benchmarking study to evaluate how well we manage different types of projects compared to similar projects throughout the United States, in both public and private sectors.
Principal and Shareholder, Capstone Planning & Control Inc., Broomfield, Colo., USA
CAPSTONE STARTED OUT AS A project management and project controls consulting firm in 1994. The bulk of our initial work was with the federal government. We have since expanded into construction management in the health care and school markets.
We believe that good project management is about more than just completing a laundry list of tasks on a schedule, which is meaningless without understanding what it is that we want to achieve in the end. The end result must be in line with the expectations and strategies of the client. Project management gives us the tools and techniques to clarify and communicate expectations, commitments and performance between us and our clients. Good project management practices give our consultants a feedback mechanism for analyzing their performance for a client.
Beside the obvious measures of budget and timeliness, I like to also look at how a specific project will help a client meet long-term strategic goals. This requires an upfront understanding of the core project and how it fits into the client's business strategy.
To evolve and improve our project management capability, we would like to achieve a 100 percent project management certification rate for all of our employees. We also want the consultants to gain experience across multiple disciplines and industries. We believe that a multi-industry view will allow our consultants to bring a more creative approach to serving a client's needs.
OUR COMPANY BEGAN INVESTING in project management, on a regional basis, in the mid-1980s to support specific assignments for our transactional teams. In the early 1990s we began to address the relationships with our accounts, and a client integrated structure emerged—we began to provide dedicated staff to corporate accounts at costs reduced from our normal “on demand” service models.
As part of our business, we manage third-party construction contractors, and we demand a high degree of project management competency from them; it makes business sense. For example, if we are working with a company that is building a corporate campus or a specialized manufacturing facility, we go through considerable effort to look through project personnel proposed by various contractors, noting the experience of that team and the systems that they use to reduce project risks. Our clients expect us to be that thorough, and we apply that same test to our suppliers.
Our business is the management of the entire facility planning and implementation process—how much a project will cost, how long it will take, and strategically, what it will take to get it done.
We find that communication is key to success. We can collect the data, effectively manage various agreements, protect our clients and work to keep them happy through organized project management: You can be successful at everything else, but it is communication that really matters in the end. Effective project management enables communication. It's the softer “people” issues that are the true differentiators in our business.
Our motto: Intelligence plus execution equals superior results. We have 450 project managers on staff worldwide that can provide local insight into market conditions, and we're constantly tweaking and expanding our project execution methods to enable us to deal with our clients and global partners more effectively. As we develop new technologies and tools, we can revisit all of our systems, as we're always looking to improve them.
Senior Managing Director–Global Project Management, CB Richard Ellis, Global Corporate Services, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
We're also layering our organizational structure and project delivery approach with greater senior management overview. Through the combination of our Web-based project tracking and reporting system, and thorough ongoing executive overview, we can now monitor a multitude of a client's projects at once to look at process, cost and schedule subtleties and deal with problems more proactively than reactively. We're seeing these investments pay off for us through increased client satisfaction ratings, new business development and by expanding existing accounts.
PM NETWORK | NOVEMBER 2004 | WWW.PMI.ORG
NOVEMBER 2004 | PM NETWORK