Interface Management Case Study: Delayed Project Finishes on Time
Video recording and complete Q&A transcript from our case study webinar: Interface Management Helps Delayed Capital Project Finish on Time.
This interface management case study examines how a completed major capital project used interface management to overcome major hurdles and complete on time. The case study will illustrate how interface management was used to enhance other project management disciplines and keep the project on time despite the following challenges:
- Contractor Turnover
- Early Greenfield/Brownfield Operations and Safe Handover of Tie-ins
- Critical Milestones and Field Sequencing of Multiple Contractors
- Site Shutdowns & Startups Due to Environmental/Weather Issues (e.g. floods and forest fires)
- Market Impact – Cost Reduction Measures
Kelly Maloney, an expert in EPC and owner interface management implementation, and Stephen Airey, an industry veteran with 25 years of global project execution experience at BP, Shell, and Husky Energy, share a case study based on a completed oil & gas project that finished successfully and attributed many benefits to implementing interface management on this project. The following includes a recording of this webinar along with the slides and complete Q&A from the session.
1. Was Coreworx implemented for the pre-commissioning or commissioning stage?
As outlined in the case study, the existing commissioning processes and tools were deployed to support this phase of the project. Interface management was deployed to enhance these processes and allow the team to take advantage of an accelerated schedule. Interface points were defined to integrate and accelerate specific commissioning activities to advance initial test runs of specific utilities and process systems of the new facility.
2. How can Interface Management benefit the project when engineering is typically not complete prior to the execution of construction?
This is true in most large projects we work with. For example, in almost all cases, early works construction occurs long before engineering is completed. The way to ensure the benefit is obtained is to extend the interface process into construction by making it a part of the construction execution plan. Minor changes to data capture will be required (for example, it may be necessary to capture tie-in points and interface points), but by then the project team will have been “conditioned” to the methodology and hopefully, the benefits of continuing the collaborative approach will be visible, rather than reverting back to a ‘siloed’ approach.
3. I love this conversation and the distinctions you both are making. My question is do you have a method for developing the human or cultural side of the equation?
We tried to emphasize a number of approaches that ‘we’ took on the project. In summary:
- The executive team was effectively briefed on the key risks facing the project team. This resulted in a critical success factor for the project interface management
- The project team recognized that they could not delegate the responsibility for interface management to a third party, and they could not maintain oversight unless they took an integrated approach with the tools and technology to support interface management. (System ownership and responsibility for interface ownership were also defined in the ITB and well known to the contractors upon award)
- They selected Coreworx early in the FEED phase, to help develop project procedures and the governance model prior to the execution phase
- The project team led. They were clear in explaining their expectations and the ‘rules of engagement’ through the tender and award stages of all key contracts
- The project team remained actively engaged, monitoring behaviors between the various project participants, ensuring that the ‘one team’ philosophy was consistently messaged throughout the project lifecycle
4. Why did your client choose Coreworx?
- Proven, market-leading solution
- Key differentiators which were identified as critical to project success –
- Pre-built ‘out-of-box’ industry best practice interface management processes
- Rapid, easy implementation and use
- Schedule integration for alignment of the ‘One Team’
5. Would it not make a positive difference to bring the construction contractor on board early in the detailed engineering phase to enhance collaboration?
- Absolutely. Subject to the contract tendering approach, this would be of great benefit.
- Typically, we see most of our clients bring the construction team members on board in the FEED phase, with the actual contractor (site early works, civil, etc.) being engaged as early as possible – with requirements to use the tools/technology outlined in the tender process.
6. Is Coreworx software? Can I see some screenshots? How does it work operatively? I mean how do I enter the information? How can the stakeholders access it, etc.?
- Yes, Coreworx is a project information management suite of software tools, and Coreworx Interface Management is one of our solutions. Please go to our site www.ascertra.com to get an overview of all tools and capabilities.
- We can deploy our software on a client’s premises, or we can host on their behalf in a private cloud environment
- Coreworx is a browser-based tool set, with robust security and role-based user management. Typically, we have a combination of Owner / Operator, EPC Contractor, and Sub-Contractors / Vendors all participating in a project.
7. How quickly can you deploy the Coreworx Interface Management solution?
We can typically deploy Coreworx Interface Management in our private cloud within 3-4 weeks, subject to client configuration requirements.
8. In my experience, the interface team is always understaffed, putting a lot of stress on the few workers. How can it be changed?
- The case study example did not highlight any issues with staffing, and their approach was one that we recommend to our clients – include ALL roles in the system, not ‘just’ the interface team members. For example, the prime contractor AND the sub-contractor civil engineer. The interface team members can then focus on the process and timing, and provide interpretation and oversight.
- The staffing issues that we have seen are typically around a ‘broken’ process, where the interface team members act as administrators and ‘translate’ the input from the various disciplines – especially in the engineering phase (usually via multiple spreadsheets)– rather than place the responsibility to enter the Interface Agreements directly with the process participant or end user. This is generally a hangover from the Excel / Outlook approach
- Where this approach is taken, understaffing sometimes occurs during the transition from engineering into construction – where the field support roles from engineering or project management are reduced to reflect the focus on the field rather than administration/management roles. Fundamentally, this comes back to management awareness and understanding of the benefits of interface management – hence the webinar. Also, no time is required for manual consolidation of information from various stakeholders as reporting occurs naturally as a byproduct of the process. Everything is fully visible in one place 7 x 24.
9. In many mega projects, interface management starts with a bang, but it fizzles out as the project proceeds. How do you prevent that?
The client in our case study proactively drove an interface management culture with a number of key tactics:
- Interface meetings HAD to have a client representative present – no client, no meeting.
- The client took note of participation and monitored/tracked to ensure commitment
- Coreworx was used as a ‘single source of truth’ to both present current status, confirm actions, and close out agreements – driving participants to maintain and keep current status.
- Contractors actively used the system to highlight how they were potentially going to be delayed, so a more open and understanding communication could develop between participants
- Again, this has to be part of the project execution plan – mandated in the Invitation to Bid process and a key KPI of management focus. This ensures it does not fade out.
10. What benefit did the contractors see?
- They could be a ‘Selfish’ contractor – and focus on 'what do I need?'.
- They saw reduced times in meetings – focused discussion, immediate agreement/action, and online meeting minutes by using Coreworx to record agreements, decisions, and evidence of interface closure
- They were given visibility and clear accountability
11. You mentioned 'Reduce Rework'. CII has found that the average work per project is 12% TIC and 80% of rework is during engineering. Did you have an opportunity to do that during engineering?
We did see a major improvement in the scope of work clarity at the interface points during engineering, and the interface management approach, and being able to capture this in Coreworx – with the level of visibility and design data details – definitely contributed to less overlap and/or errors in the design phase. How much is always difficult to capture when it has helped, but you couldn’t quantify beforehand what NOT doing would have cost you in lost engineering hours!
12. How was the performance of the product in that area/project – was it cloud access, local…etc?
Performance was generally good. Typically, any issues are with the ‘local’ connection to the internet, rather than the hosted Coreworx private cloud as the Coreworx hosted environment has a large bandwidth connection to the general internet.
13. How do you prioritize the interfaces to avoid wasting effort on those that are not as important? Do you estimate the negative or positive impact of interfaces before you attack them?
The key to this is linkage to the schedule. We map the interface points to specific activities/milestones and the work breakdown structure (WBS), and then import plan dates to Coreworx from (typically) the controlled Baseline schedule. This enables the team to prioritize the nearest interfaces and focus on immediate needs. By doing this, the team can perform a ‘rolling wave’ approach to develop the Interface Agreements as they progress.
The interfaces are not necessarily a ‘negative’ or ‘positive’, and either a design validation (engineering) or a group of activities (construction) that are needed to finalize the interface point. The interface agreements (to do, provide, confirm, align scope) are typically risk management tasks to help ensure that there is no negative impact on the project. This, of course, will require proactive engagement with the planner(s) to drive a collaborative approach.
14. Coreworx appears to be used mostly in a reactive mode for solving issues and risks. Is there a way to use it proactively early in the planning process in order to help in prioritizing risks?
I am not certain I share that sentiment. The whole idea of starting with a consistent process in the early stage is to identify gaps/overlaps in scope and to reduce field rework before it actually happens. This is very much a proactive approach. For example, proactive use in the FEED phase enables the early adoption and planning to manage risks in parallel with the contract strategy development and contractor pre-qualification, that is, to align the team in the execution methodology and approach, and to clearly understand who is taking and mitigating which risks.
15. How much pestering was actually required? In my experience on megaprojects, there are significant interfaces and often teams with significant workloads and now added on top were multiple interface demands.
A key benefit in this webinar messaging was the ‘Selfish’ discipline – where I’m entering what I WANT / I NEED to perform my job, then I’ll make sure I pester the person who’s delaying me! Also, the person I am sending my request to will likely require confirmation of the information from another party to provide their own deliverable. The way this occurs is by requesting an agreement. So the process feeds on itself and results in a lot of agreements being raised.
Further, given the visibility in Coreworx, everyone knows that I’m not delivering against my promises. If this ‘symptom’ is present on multiple interfaces and is visible to the project management AND executive team members, then things start to change really quickly.
16. Please describe the ‘selfish discipline’ in more detail.
The principle is relatively simple. The interface agreements are based on what I need – not what my client or contract holder dictates are their needs or the perception of what I need based on a template or standard.
Simplistically, I ask for what I want. If it’s not provided or is late, this starts a conversation to clarify – is it a lack of understanding? Different terminology? Misalignment of engineering processes that need to be accelerated or converged? The aim of the ‘selfish discipline’ is to drive out issues early and enable the team to work on them. Rather than wait for surprises or have to re-validate the interface agreements – “We don’t need that, but this wasn’t in your list and is critical to us!” For example, I don’t need to know the location of the fiber optic cables, I just need to know how many cables are fiber optic and ensure I reserve the third-party vendor field service engineer for 2 weeks to do the work.
17. Do you have any formats developed, like interface register? If so, can we get them also?
Yes, Coreworx has a number of pre-defined ‘out-of-the-box’ formats, with the ability to quickly configure additional fields and attributes. Please contact us directly for further discussion -you can send an email to email@example.com
18. An age-old question – in your view, do you go for an off-the-shelf solution or an in-house developed one? And why?
100% off the shelf where possible – and we are able to configure to a high degree where project-specific additions are required.
We are in the business of building and testing software solutions that can meet the vigorous needs of your projects. We have spent a great deal of time understanding the processes and implementing the best practices used by successful projects so you can concentrate on executing a successful project without needing to manage the development of a software solution.
19. Would you please elaborate a little bit about the “One Team”- how many persons and their affiliations and who chairs the team?
It is critical that the team is chaired by the client or the PM of the group acting as the agent of the client (e.g. in a PMC capacity). The representation must be from each contractor as they have a role to play in ensuring their own company aligns culturally and in execution with the philosophy. It is also used to assist when trying to resolve priorities – for example – the needs of the project are greater than the needs of an individual contractor. The success of the project is the determining factor.
If you have any others questions regarding the details of this case study or interface management itself, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.