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Extending the Project Management Best Practices

Background: Write-up aims to focus on significant savings which can be achieved if the common elements of unique endeavors are captured and held as prototypes for subsequent reuse. Author assessment is based on his project management education, project management experience and set of project management beliefs.

Initiate, Plan, Execute, Control and Close are common procedures to effectively do a project – no matter what the scale might be. Various tools and techniques have been taught by various Project Management scholars, practitioners and organizations. Most of the globally acceptable project management best practices have stood the test of time, albeit with certain refinements (customization) and have contributed towards the successful delivery of projects from inception to handover. Each and every step as ran down in ‘globally best project management practices” and similar assets have been a success and have resulted in customer delight thus far. However under, this backdrop there are certain gaps and now is the best time to challenge, the age old proven track record. The punch line is “Extending the Project Management Best Practices”.

Best Project management practices, educates us to run a project no matter what the size as a firm in itself – as narrated in the definition of project as a unique entity. In SAP implementation terminologies it tantamount to making a project at a “Company code” level wherein each project by virtue of its unique status, is a balance sheet (B/s) and Profit and Loss (P&L) in itself. Each project runs like an independent corporate with a flavor of uniqueness attached to it. However, here, lies a miss – Projects as an independent structure by itself is not really an island setup wherein a project team and onwards processes are so uniquely determined; it fails to capture the advantages of synergies which it can draw from similar projects. Lots of time and effort is lost in preparing repetitive documentation(s) which is needed as per best practices methodology and planning window is generally very expansive. A project manager virtually starts from scratch on individual blueprints. On top of this there is a review and approval process which encompasses this documentation deluge. We believe significant savings can be achieved right from the planning phase. While lot of artifacts and lesson learnt decks are prepared at completion of a particular project, author believes that these artifacts are seldom used by new project teams. Even in instances when the project teams have common team members only a significantly low percentage of lessons learnt eventually get implemented.

Need of the hour is for each company to develop, prototypes – not just template. Project Management research organization(s) on its part needs to develop a best practice prototype as an IP asset which should be available to users for a licensing fee. What actually, is a prototype? Let’s take it up with a case study:

Case Study: 250 MW Green Field Combined Cycle Gas Power Project.

Project Management research organization(s) with its best practice and inputs from corporate like GE, Siemens, ALSTOM, BHEL etc all of who have proven track records towards successful development of such a project over decades should sit together and make a blue print. Let this blue print package constitute of all the documents and deliverables which are required from a project management prospective towards delivering such a project. Timelines of executing such projects extenze before and after end to end is anywhere between 18-24 months. The standard document will include not just templates but actual data and these documents should be developed in such a way that, subsequent user just changes the master data, and the document is created in current context. Such a document will have a shorter lead time in terms of development, review and approval and it will be full proof – devoid of manual errors. Risk, costs, procurement, revenue, schedule sheets – yes, everything can be standardized from top to bottom. Such a blueprint would be customizable, to include very specific project doctrines and regimens. Design, layout documents and steps to carry out a particular erection and commissioning of particular equipment(s) along with the testing methodologies to be followed needs to be documented and pre-approved to cut down on lead time on subsequent reuse. Once such blueprints are created they should be patented under owners and become Project management repositories. Such repositories then becomes a commodity to be used, thereby cutting down significant on delivery lead times and when we are talking about a mammoth project – a day saved can mean an extra day of 250 MW generation. Imagine the savings – and calculate the numbers.

Similar case studies from other types of project, from a building construction, bridge construction, IT implementation project; an M&A acquisition and a retail set up can be standardized and stockpiled. Project Management best practices have to expand to include these innovations in order to become an engine of standardization. Time is ripe to standardized even unique deliverables.

Customers need to understand that all savings cannot be passed onto them on day 1 and same hold good for contractors. Such a blueprint prototype development will be a cost exhaustive highly skilled R&D project in first place and returns will be sequential to time. Project management organization(s) today has a junta of highly experienced and talented members and it is backed up by almost all the leading companies who value its knowledge and methodologies. Need of the hour to start pilot projects through workshops at various places and make a repository which is “reused” for maximum savings in future.

Time has come for project management best practices to expand behind text book and white paper teachings and become a “new product development” (NPD) company in itself – There can be 1000’s of projects and each of these projects is an IP commodity- let above case study be ran for a North American, Europe, Asian, African and Australian geography independently and see how many valuable assets can be developed.

Conclusion: Author through this narration is critical of the repetitive portion of work which is carried out in projects which albeit “unique and temporary endeavor” still have a lot of commonalities. Lot of time and effort is utilized to carry out these repetitive activities in the absence of ready templates and prototypes. Author recommends that such prototypes be developed and owned as IP assets and be used which can have significant savings in two critical realms of project management – Time and cost. The case study presented above is a manifestation of author’s involvement in carrying out multiple power generation projects wherein the team had to spend significantly in individual assignments which were repetitive in nature. When time is of essence such additional spends can be conveniently dispensed.