Tag Archives: Construction Management

Construction CPM -v- PGCS

We have just returned from a very enjoyable and successful trip to New Orleans for Construction CPM and now its time to focus on making our Project Governance and Controls Symposium (PGCS) in Canberra equally successful!

Construction CPM is probably the world leading event for project scheduling tools and advances in the field of major project scheduling. There were nearly 300 delegates, speakers and partners attending events over 7 days (the Construction CPM conference was 3 days in the middle).  The papers we presented were:

The emerging trends in New Orleans were firstly risk, new tools and many papers on the challenge of uncertainty and surprisingly ethics and stakeholders (more on these later).

Project Governance and Controls Symposium (PGCS) is designed to enhance the connection between governance and project controls in government department and corporations. It’s too soon to identify the trends that will emerge in May but we already have an impressive line up of Keynote Speakers. See more at: http://www.pgcs.org.au/

Both events have an emphasis on building knowledge through networking and social events.  However, the PGCS program, which includes a reception in the ADFA Officers Mess pales in comparison to Construction CPM.

Some of the things you will not see or experience in Canberra include:

Plated hot breakfasts starting at 6:30am with the first presentations at 8:00am (we run a more ‘civilised’ program starting around 9:00am……).

Our own Mardi Gras Parade……

NOL1NOL2

 

 

 

 

 

The Konstruction Krew consisting of 250+ project controls professionals following a jazz band (complete with police escort and waving umbrellas) in their own Mardi Gras Parade through the French Quarter to Bourbon Street.

Burbon-St

Last drinks and a locally rolled cigar at the Bourbon Heat from 9:00pm to 2:00am (if you have the staying power) When I bailed out at midnight, Bourbon Street was still going strong!!

Float

A totally different definition of ‘Float’ – several of the official Mardi Gras Parades – each organised by a different ‘Krew’ passed in front of our hotel in Canal Street.

CharmaineCharmaine Neville and her band playing inthe conference ‘Jazz Club’ from 9:00pm……..  PMOZ was renowned for its parties – Construction CPM is at least as good! In total there were 11520 ounces of alcohol consumed at the official events (plus cash purchases).

NOL3One final ‘only in New Orleans’ – ice cream daiquiris in the place they were invented……

Add  4 Keynote Speakers, 79 Breakout Sessions a mock trial, pre-arranged dinners with ‘5 new friends’ each evening and you have an intensive enjoyable learning experience.

The next Construction CPM is earlier then usual, December at the Swan Resort, Walt Disney World, Orlando Florida.

Our PGCS Symposium in Canberra will be a bit more subdued (after all there is only one ‘New Orleans’).  Where we will be as good, if not better, is in the quality of the speaking program.  PGCS speakers already confirmed include Lisa Wolf of Booze Hamilton Allen, Melinda Penna of Telstra, and Kim Terrell of Department of Human Services.  For regular updates on the progress of PGCS  see:  http://www.pgcs.org.au/

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GAO Schedule Assessment Guide released

GAO-TimeOn 22nd December, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued the final version of its Schedule Assessment Guide: Best Practices for Project Schedules (GAO-16-89G), this guide is a companion the GAO Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide published in 2009. The Government Accountability Office is an independent, nonpartisan, agency that exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities, and works to improve the performance of federal government programs.

The Schedule Assessment Guide applies to civilian and defence projects managed by either government entities or private contractors in the USA; it is also an extremely valuable reference for all projects world-wide. On its release, Gene Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO said “A well-planned schedule is an essential tool for program management. The best practices described in the guide are intended to help agencies create and maintain schedules that are comprehensive, well-constructed, credible, and controlled.”

Over the last 5 years, the GAO has worked with experts in cost estimating, scheduling, and earned value management from government agencies, private industry, and academia to develop and formalise scheduling the best practices outlined in the Schedule Assessment Guide. The ten best practices associated with a high-quality and reliable schedule defined in the Schedule Assessment Guide are:

  1. Capturing all activities. The schedule should reflect all activities necessary to accomplish a project’s objectives, including activities both the owner and the contractors are to perform.
  2. Sequencing all activities. All activities must be logically sequenced and linked. Date constraints and lags should be minimised and justified.
  3. Assigning resources to all activities. The schedule should reflect the resources (labour, materials, travel, facilities, equipment, and the like) needed to do the work.
  4. Establishing the duration of all activities. The schedule should realistically reflect how long each activity will take. Schedules that contain planning and summary planning packages as activities will normally reflect longer durations until broken into work packages or specific activities.
  5. Verifying that the schedule can be traced horizontally and vertically. The schedule should be horizontally traceable with “hand-offs” defined. And vertically traceable; lower-level schedules are clearly consistent with upper-level schedule milestones.
  6. Confirming that the critical path is valid. The schedule should identify the program’s critical path.
  7. Ensuring reasonable total float. The schedule should identify reasonable total float on activities.
  8. Conducting a schedule risk analysis. Using a statistical simulation to predict the level of confidence in meeting a program’s completion date. Programs should include the results of the schedule risk analysis in constructing an executable baseline schedule.
  9. Updating the schedule using actual progress and logic. Progress updates and logic provide a realistic forecast of start and completion dates for program activities. Maintaining the integrity of the schedule logic is necessary to reflect the true status of the program.
  10. Maintaining a baseline schedule. A baseline schedule is the basis for managing the program scope, the time period for accomplishing it, and the required resources. Program performance is measured, monitored, and reported against the baseline schedule.

In its 224 pages the Schedule Assessment Guide provides detailed explanations of each of the best practices, supported by case studies and includes ‘key questions’ and the ‘key documentation’ to be used by auditors in assessing schedule compliance.

The development of the Schedule Assessment Guide has been lead by 2014 PGCS keynote presenter Karen Richey, her presentation to the symposium outlining the challenges faced by the USA government auditors can be downloaded from: http://www.pgcs.org.au/index.php/download_file/view/116/
(see more on the Project Governance and Controls Symposium).

The Schedule Assessment Guide validates many of the concepts defined in our scheduling papers and the CIOB Guide to Good Practice in the Management of Time in Complex Projects , see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Planning.html

To download your copy of the Schedule Assessment Guide go to: http://www.gao.gov/products/gao-16-89g

Ethics and sustainability

Building ethics and sustainability into a project does not limit its success; in fact the reverse is often true. London’s Crossrail project is turning into an outstandingly successful project despite numerous challenges including finding hundreds of skeletal remains from the Black Death in the excavation for one of its major stations.  One can only hope Melbourne’s Metrorail project to construct a similar heavy rail tunnel under the CBD is as successful.

One factor in the Crossrail success has been the focus of the UK government on developing the skills needed to manage major infrastructure projects focused on the Major Projects Authority. This multi-year investment links proactive oversight and reporting, with research, support and training designed to create an organic capability to make major projects work (more on this later). Another is being prepared to ‘think outside of the square’ to solve major challenges – the focus of this post.

The challenge faced by Crossrail (and to a lesser extent Metrorail) is what to do with millions of tonnes of excavated materials when your project is situated under a major city??  The Crossrail solution has been innovative and coincidentally focused on restoring the environment of my youth.

Wallasea Island unloading wharf

Wallasea Island unloading wharf

Tidal marshlands may not be the scenery of choice for many but the marshes do have a fascination for those of us who grew up playing in and around them. My home and Charles Dickens 150 years earlier were the North Kent marshes.

Pip at the start of Great Expectations: “Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea…”  and elsewhere “The dark flat wilderness, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it… the low leaden line of the river… and the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, the sea…”

The landscape is not quite as bleak as it was (but still comes close in winter). The marshes have been drained and there are hops and orchards where there would once have been a windswept wilderness. But the Kent that Dickens knew can still be glimpsed if you know where to look, including the graves where Pip was first confronted by Magwitch in St. James’ churchyard at Cooling.

Seals at Wallasea Island

Seals at Wallasea

However, what may be seen as less than desirable real-estate to people not born on or near the marshes is essential habitat for a vast range of migratory birds and native wildlife.  Unfortunately, in the 150 years since Dickens, the draining, farming and urbanisation of the lands around the Thames and Medway estuaries has destroyed much of this valuable habitat. But the tide is turning.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has been on the campaign trail for the last 30 years to re-establish the marshlands in North Kent and Essex.  One of their earlier successes was to convert the industrial landscape of the Cliffe marshes (my home village) into Cliffe Pools.

Cliffe Pools before the RSPB project

Cliffe Pools before the RSPB project

The chalk hills and clay marshes were home to whiting works from the early 1700s and Portland cement works from 1866. Several years after the last of the factories finally closed, the flooded quarries used to dredge clay and some of the former industrial sites were brought by the RSPB and are now a steadily improving wildlife reserve.

Cliffe Pools after the RSPB project

Cliffe Pools after the RSPB project

On the other side of the Thames, the RSPB and Crossrail have combined in to create a new marshland on a massively larger scale.  Wallasea Island in Essex is an on-going project that has used 3 million tonnes of clay from the Crossrail excavations to start the transformation of drained farmland into coastal wetlands and marshes.  Another 10 million tonnes will be required to complete future stages of the project.  The drained farmland was several meters below the high tide level, protected by sea walls (and under increasing threat from rising sea levels); coastal marshes need to be a bit above sea level. Massive amounts of fill were required for the ‘wild coast project’.

Crossrail solved their problem of ‘what to do with millions of tonnes of excavated spoil’ by shipping the materials to Wallasea Island and working with the RSPB to transform the area. A win-win outcome Crossrail were able to use costal shipping to remove the clay from London minimising road haulage and carbon emissions, and they avoided tipping costs from commercial landfill sites. 80% of the materials were transported by water or rail on a tonne per kilometer basis. The RSPB got a head start on a major project to reinstate a major area of coastal marshland and 1000s of birds are getting a new home.

E+S-5

When completed in 2025, the project will have created 148 hectares of mudflats, 192 hectares of saltmarsh, and 76 acres of shallow saline lagoons.

Wallasea Island is a work in progress, but with at least two major tunnelling projects in London still to come, the Thames Tideway sewage scheme and Crossrail2, and the infrastructure in place to take the excavated spoil completion of this project seems likely.

E+S-6

What is of importance form the perspective of this post is the Crossrail project is 65% complete and on time and on budget – being environmentally friendly and effective are not incompatible!  It will be interesting to see what the Metrorail project does with its excavated spoil.

CIOB QEII Award – RMIT University Melbourne

CIOBLast week I had the honour of representing CIOB at the RMIT University, School of Property, Construction and Project Management, Annual Industry Research and Awards Night (Melbourne, Australia).  I was there to present the CIOB QEII Award to Chris Mikha, the CIOB Student member who achieved the highest average over the Construction Technology course in the RMIT Bachelor of Applied Science (Construction Management).

RMIT

The element of the evening that most impressed me was the breadth and depth of research undertaken by the School’s Honours students. As part of the final year research component of the Degree, the students produce create a poster as an info-graphic highlighting their research findings. Looking at the quality of the posters, out industry has a lot of talent joining its ranks!

The other key impression left on me was the success of the annual CIOB Global Student Challenge, Chris’s team missed out on a place in Hong Kong this year by a small margin but he though the challenge was one of the most important leaning experiences of his entire course. The decision by CIOB to take the game ‘global’ a few years back has certainly paid off!

Overall a very successful night all round.

Scope for improvement 4 pt2

Scope-for-Improvement-2014This post is my second discussing Ashurst Lawyers fourth report in the ‘Scope for Improvement’series looking at the management and delivery of mega projects in Australia; focused on the interlinked topics of productivity, innovation and training (read the first post).

This ‘Scope for Improvement’ report identified productivity and skills shortages as a key problem for the sector but failed to offer any real options for improvement.  The report also acknowledged productivity in Australia is significantly worse than many other developed economies, and whilst skills shortages are less of an issue now that the demand in the resources sector has returned to more normal levels, many participants expect it will again become a major issue in the near future. Some of the more significant observations from the report (with my thoughts in italics) are:

  • Major inhibitors are the heavily regulated labour market and restrictive work practices. This is a management failing, enterprise bargaining has been part of the Australian industrial system for nearly a decade.
  • Inadequate or insufficient training, and lack of experience, particularly in project and risk management of large projects, have been evident. . This is another management failing, skills don’t magically develop in ‘the market’ organisations need to invest in training.
  • There is a generational shift in talent and experience at project director level. Developing ‘young talent’ needs career planning – largely ignored in the construction sector.
  • There is not enough talent in the market to adequately cover the step shift in project scale (typically up from $800 million to $2billion) that occurred in the mid-2000s. Long term skills development has been largely ignored in this sector.

More depressing, was the complete absence of any meaningful discussion on BIM – Building Information Modelling.  BIM is now mainstream in the UK construction industry and gathering pace in the USA, China, Europe and many other countries (many of which have contracting footholds in the Australian market).

The reason the rest of the world is focusing on BIM is productivity and profit.  BIM reduces risk, increases efficiency and substantially reduces cost. BIM has a similar enabling capacity to EFPOST in the retail industry. The development of fully integrated data, driving efficiencies right through the supply chain – with EFTPOS, the suppliers know how many stock items have been sold today to arrange restocking overnight; JIT with a vengeance. BIM offers similar opportunities to radically reform and update the construction industry and drag it from its medieval craft roots into the modern era.

Implementing BIM will be a cultural revolution in the Australian context, making the optimum use of BIM will require skilled staff working as permanent members of the construction business’ supply chain. Successfully implementing BIM will require investment, training, staff development and a major shift in workforce management and supply chain management. The challenge facing Australian companies in all parts of the industry is to either catch up with their global competitors or face extinction.

The problem is a unlike the UK, there is no government leadership and we do not have the market size that allows innovative investments in Europe, China and North America. Solving this conundrum is where the real ‘scope for improvement’ lies.

To understand more about BIM and access a wide range fo free resources (mainly from the UK) see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/WhitePapers/WP1082_BIM_Levels.pdf

The Scope for Improvement reports can be downloaded from: http://www.ashurst.com/publication-item.aspx?id_Content=10561&langId=1

Scope for improvement 4

Scope-for-Improvement-2014A couple of interesting things happened on the 1st July,  the first was being invited to a wonderfully old-fashioned business lunch by Ashurst Lawyers with Champaign and fine wines – a far too frequent event in these days of OH&S liabilities……  The second was attending the preview of the Bell Shakespeare’s interpretation of Henry V.  You may wonder what the connection is.

Henry V has a number of memorable speeches focused around battling insurmountable odds to overcome adversity…… ‘Once more dear friends unto the breach let us block the gap with [engineering] dead’‘We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother …..’.  Stirring stuff given the character assassination most of the Plantagenet Kings suffer at the hands of the Bard. Which brings me back to the lunch.

Ashurst were launching the fourth report in the ‘Scope for Improvement’ series looking at the management and delivery of mega projects in Australia.  And unfortunately it really was a case of ‘once more dear friends……’  The title of the original 2006 report was derived from its major finding that scope was routinely omitted from tender documentation for mega projects.  The second report 2008 identified the consequences from scoping inadequacies. Survey participants attributed cost overruns (61%), delayed completion (58%) and disputes (30%) to scoping inadequacies. Further, scoping inadequacies had resulted in 26% of the $1 billion+ projects surveyed being more than $200 million over budget.  In 2006 and 2008 there was definitely ‘scope for improvement’; in 2014 the situation remains fundamentally unaltered.

The research for the 2014 report used a qualitative approach starting with discussions over lunch with some 130 executives (primarily from the organisations involved in the Australian Contractors Association), the discussions were documented and the emerging hypotheses tested in focused one-on-one interviews. This methodology has undoubtedly generated some interesting and important insights to the challenges faced by the major projects industry; but unfortunately the methodology prevents a precise trend analysis on this major area of concern. All we know for sure is it remains a major area of concern.

Probably the most telling insight in explaining the reason for the continuing omission of scope is the imposition of unreasonable time pressures to complete the work.  This pressure comes in part from the lack of any overall strategy on the part of the clients that defines the need for the project, meaning there is no ‘master plan’ to provide a framework for developing the project’s scope in a sensible timeframe.  This is a fundamental governance failure – very few mega-projects need to undertaken in ‘panic mode’.

The second insight is the effect of perceived ‘political imperatives’ that push governments and/or organisational executives to simply demand the work be accomplished in an unreasonably short timeframe. For some reason a completely unnecessary need for speed seems to have come to dominate executive decision making.  This demand for excessive speed will always drive up cost, increase risk and reduce quality.  This is equally true of a small $50,000 IT project as it is of a $multi-billion infrastructure project such as the National Broadband Network.

The only option to achieve excessive speed without compromising quality too much is to employ highly skilled people with direct experience of the work.  But as another section of the ‘Scope for Improvement’ report highlights, skills are in very short supply and only half the people in any group can be ‘above average’ – you simply cannot achieve ‘above average performance’ all of the time.

Certainly there will always be a limited number of projects where speed is an imperative, for most a combination of better strategic planning so the work is started at the right time and/or simply allowing adequate time will produce far better quality outcomes at a significantly reduces cost. Getting this balance right, and requiring management to have the right systems in place to avoid unnecessary ‘time pressures’ is a key governance imperative.

Simply having an immovable deadline is not an excuse. The London Olympics infrastructure was started ‘early’, properly resourced from the beginning, used appropriate procurement systems and finished a year ahead of the opening ceremony with no fatalities. Contrast the success of this project to similar ones in New Delhi and Rio de Janeiro where strategic decisions were not made at the right times, pressures to ‘increase speed’ developed and cost, quality and safety all suffered (or in the case of Brazil, are suffering).

The current ‘Scope for Improvement’ report identifies a range of solutions to this problem:

  • Clearly identify the project objectives.
  • Education on the importance of scoping.
  • Allow sufficient time allowed to prepare the scope
  • Employ sufficient personnel of the right quality to prepare the scope. Including providing adequate training for the personnel involved in preparing the scope.
  • Choose the right delivery model and the right method of describing the scope (performance based where appropriate).
  • Get the right people involved, with a collaborative process to obtain input from key stakeholders (including the end users).

Another area of the report that will be discussed in a later post is the interlinked topics of productivity, innovation and training. In the meantime, the Scope for Improvement reports can be downloaded from: http://www.ashurst.com/publication-item.aspx?id_Content=10561&langId=1

Getting value from an investment led policy

EU_FlagIf the Abbott/Hockey government is serious about an investment led recovery, they should take a leaf out of the EU’s book!  The European Union has approved regulations that increase the importance of applied project management skills as criteria for successful recipients of EU cohesion and structural funds. The new regulation describes the need for “building the capacity of local actors to develop and implement operations including fostering their project management capabilities.

The regulations see projects, program and portfolio management skills as part of the solution to the challenge of authorities getting projects completed successfully.

The new rules, will govern the next round of EU cohesion policy investment for 2014–2020. The purpose of the cohesion policy is to reduce disparities among the levels of development of the EU’s various regions by promoting economic growth, job creation and competitiveness and will make available up to €366.8 billion to invest in Europe’s regions, cities and real economy (the part that produces goods and services).

The intent of the EU policy is very similar to the 15% asset recycling bonus included in the Australian budget, designed to encourage Sates to sell assets and reinvest the money, plus 15% from the Federal government in new projects.  The question is will the Abbott/Hockey government also include a requirement for a commitment to fostering effective project management in the scheme?  We think it would be a great idea to adopt!