During a project, when is the best time to start an interface management (IM) program, and which project phases benefit from this practice?
As with most project disciplines, starting early has proven to provide the best results. Your interface management program should be established at the start of your project, during front end planning ideally, and continue throughout operations. The establishment of this level of practice early on sets the foundation for success throughout the entire project cycle.
Front end planning is the process of developing sufficient information and defining the scope for a project, allowing for the selection of a preferred solution moving forward. A contracting strategy is chosen for the project after identifying scope, interface dependencies, and risk; all of which contribute to the complexity of the project. Starting your interface management program during front end planning sets the basis for ensuring clarity in bid packages and provides a deeper understanding of project interfaces as stakeholders join the project.
Figure 1: Project Lifecycle and Interface Management
Interface Management Impact Across Project Phases
Although many view interface management as a project discipline applied during specific project phases, IM is proven to provide value throughout the duration of the project and into asset management. Some interface activities are completed during early planning, while others are executed across the project lifecycle. The following provides a few vital interface activities that happen in each project phase.
Front End Engineering Design (FEED) & Interface Management
During Pre-FEED & FEED, interfaces are identified and contribute to project scope definition. This exercise helps project teams understand the dependencies between scopes of work and potentially opens the door to reorganizing to mitigate risk.
Interface management supports the contracting process — how the project scope will be delivered — by ensuring interface requirements are included in the contracts. Including interfaces in the bid package will provide additional clarity and improve the certainty of returned bids.
Detailed Design & Interface Management
During detailed design, interface stakeholders work to align the design on both sides of the interface. Collaboration is critical during this phase. To resolve interface issues, manage change, and ensure design alignment, interface stakeholders exchange information and deliverables using interface agreements.
Construction and Commissioning & Interface Management
In this stage of the project, collaboration efforts and alignment formalized during the design phase are fully realized. While the content of interface agreements will change, becoming more focused on field activities, the alignment and collaboration between contracts remain essential to project success.
Project Closeout and Handover & Interface Management
During the final project stage, all interface points and interface agreements are included in the project closeout and handover package. How interface issues were resolved and how decisions were made during project execution can be critical to operations during maintenance and as the system is updated.
A Second Opinion?
With all the recent hype around AI progress, we decided to take our question about interface management across project phases to the internet, more specifically, ChatGPT, to see if it agrees. The answer provided is pretty on the mark!
We asked ChatGPT: "What project phases benefit by interface management?"
Here's ChatGPT's unedited response:
- Project Initiation: During the initiation phase, interface management helps identify and define the interfaces between different project components, systems, disciplines, and stakeholders. It ensures that all interface requirements are clearly understood and documented from the early stages, setting the foundation for effective interface management throughout the project lifecycle.
- Design and Engineering: Interface management plays a critical role during the design and engineering phase. It facilitates coordination and collaboration among different design teams, ensuring that interfaces are properly integrated and aligned. The software helps identify interface conflicts, dependencies, and design inconsistencies, allowing timely resolution and minimizing rework.
- Procurement and Contracting: Interface management supports procurement and contracting activities by ensuring that interface requirements are included in contracts, vendor agreements, and specifications. It helps manage interface-related deliverables and ensures that suppliers and contractors align their work with the overall interface management plan.
- Construction and Execution: In the construction and execution phase, interface management is vital for coordinating activities among different contractors, disciplines, and systems. It helps track and manage interface-related tasks, communication, and documentation. By facilitating effective collaboration and timely resolution of interface issues, it minimizes disruptions, delays, and conflicts during construction.
- Testing and Commissioning: Interface management continues to be important during the testing and commissioning phase. It ensures that interfaces between different systems and components are thoroughly tested, verified, and integrated. It helps manage interface-related test plans, documentation, and coordination among testing teams, allowing for successful system integration and commissioning.
- Operation and Maintenance: Even after project completion, interface management remains valuable during the operation and maintenance phase. It helps manage changes, modifications, and upgrades to interfaces as the system evolves. It supports effective communication among operation and maintenance teams, allowing them to address interface-related issues promptly and ensure smooth system performance.
All Sources Point to Interface Management Across the Project Lifecycle
So, you can take it from us and our interface management experts or an artificial intelligence chatbot, but the answer is the same: interface management provides real value to each phase in the project lifecycle.
"By implementing interface management practices throughout these project phases, organizations can enchance collaboration, reduce risks, improve coordination, minimize delays, and optimize the overall project outcome. It ensures that interfaces are effectively managed and integrated, leading to successful project delivery and efficient ongoing operations."
To learn more about how interface management leads to reduced risk and better cost control, read our eBook: Minimize Cost Growth with Interface Management.