Recently, I presented alongside Michael Pappas of CII and Olivier Calas from McDermott International on a webinar that covered interface management benefits, implementation examples, and numbers on the results it can provide projects in terms of minimizing project cost growth. During the webinar we received numerous questions. We answered each person individually, but we also noticed some common themes developing in the types of questions being asked. We summarized some of our most asked questions into these themes and have shared the answers below. (If you are interested in the webinar, you can go to the webinar recording.)
Interface Management and Project Fit
1. What is the project threshold (e.g. size, complexity, etc) when a formal interface management program is needed?
Every project has interfaces (scope, organizational, contractual) that need to be managed, so the principles of interface management are necessary for every project. On a small, relatively 'straightforward' project, the project manager does interface management along with a number of other roles. A formal program with full-time interface managers becomes necessary when the needs of the project, which include the ability to manage the complexity and risks associated with the project's interfaces, and the cost of at least one full-time interface manager & interface management software are balanced against each other.
Interface Management and Other Project Practices
2. Does interface management work with the Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) process? Are they managed using separate software or can both be managed with the same software?
Interface Management is certainly required on Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) projects. In a project using AWP, the work packages provide good boundaries for scope interfaces. It's likely that two different software packages will be required, though – AWP software is typically based on the model, and interface management software is typically a register of interfaces and their details. You would certainly want to tie the software packages together.
3. How do interface agreements align within or independently from traditional construction contracts? Are these an add-on or used in a similar way to variations with interface agreements being captured within an additional clause? Or are these entirely separate agreements, and, if so, what additional legal support is to be expected to manage these?
Interface agreements align within the contracts. They aren't typically approved like variations; but more commonly, they are added to the schedule and carry some contractual weight as a result.
4. How does an interface plan differ from project stakeholder management and communication management plans?
They have slightly different purposes. Stakeholder management and communication management plans tend to be externally-focused. The interface management plan would fit inside the internal focus of these other two, but the interface management plan would be much more detailed.
5. How is the role of Interface Manager different from Project Coordinator?
A project coordinator is someone who helps the project teams manage resources and assists with scheduling and project activities. However, the interface manager role is to make sure that all different entities will have their requested inputs on time from others entities (including external parties). The interface manager also acts as the facilitator, resolves conflicts, monitors progress, can be responsible for the creation of the Master Interface Plan and ensures interface deliverables are met.
Interface Management Practice & Terminology
6. What could be considered as soft interfaces and hard interfaces?
- Soft interfaces: Interfaces between people, organizational entities, processes and activities.
- Hard interfaces: Physical interfaces between systems and components.
7. Can you please share your experience on how you manage overdue interface information from another contractor? The information delays impact your activity.
A good practice to avoid or mitigate the effects of overdue interface information is to first get confirmation from the other contractor that they can deliver the information on time (i.e. both parties need to agree on a “need date”). A level of criticality depending on the consequence of the overdue item can be added to the request, this will prioritize the work of the other contractor and mitigate the risk. If the information delays impact the activity, then it needs to be identified and the project owner needs to be informed so they can step in if required. If the impact is significant, a commercial claim needs to be addressed to the owner.
8. What is the best way to document interface queries (IQs)/ technical queries (TQs) in relation to interfaces? Using interface agreements (IA) or interface queries (IQ)?
Terminology can be a challenge. Do we use ‘interface agreements (IA)’ to exchange interface information; or is this referred to as an ‘interface query (IQ)’. We have seen projects use the term ‘interface agreement’ and other projects use ‘interface query’ and some projects that use both.
The Coreworx data model supports both…..raising an IA/IQ directly against an interface or raising ‘action items’ which are either tied to an interface or generic in nature and may not be tied to a specific interface.
The CII interface management research study defines both:
- Interface Agreement: the formal and documented communication between two interface stakeholders at an interface point, including deliverable descriptions, need dates and required actions.
- Interface Action Item (or IQ): the task and activities performed to provide agreement deliverables defined in each interface agreement.
9. How much formal interface detail is enough and how much is too much?
This is like any other project management discipline… you’re looking for the 'sweet spot' where it is thorough enough (i.e. nothing falling through the cracks) and, at the same time, as lean as possible (i.e. for efficiency). When setting up an interface management program, I would look at a few similar projects (i.e. similar in complexity, not only size) and see what they did, and how effective it was and start there. But don’t hesitate to make adjustments when needed.
Interface Management Reporting
10. How can I measure interface management progress or status?
Coreworx Interface Connect supports extensive reporting capabilities, covering all areas including scope control, summary and statistics, progress indicators and early warning / look ahead reporting. Ad hoc reporting facilities allow the user to input filter criteria and refine/sort results. Examples of filter criteria available include scope package, discipline, date range, and contracting party. Reports can be exported in various formats including Excel and PDF.
Dashboard reports include the following:
- Interface Trends (planned vs progress)
- Interface Point Summary
- Interface Point by Phase
- Interface Agreement Early Warning
Interface Management Software
11. If each Contractor has a different Interface tool, how the integration is made?
If each contractor is using a different tool, integration is very difficult. If the tools support an API, it's possible, but would be very challenging depending on the number of contractors and tools in use. You will also run into challenges with consistency in data capture - not only with ensuring the same data is collected for each interface but ensuring it is in the same format. An example of this is when multiple spreadsheets are used.
12. Typically, critical milestones and interface points are identified and tracked in the project schedule. Is there integration between Coreworx Interface Connect and P6 to allow interoperable data sync? Is this integration complicated?
Coreworx Interface Connect supports importing a schedule or sub-set of the schedule. The integration is not complicated and includes some up-front work between the planner and the interface manager. The process starts with the identification of high-risk interfaces, those that you want to monitor and track more closely. These high-risk interfaces are then related to milestone activities within the schedule. On a periodic basis, the information is exported from P6 and imported into Coreworx where a comparison of dates is performed using reporting and other tools.
13. Can business process workflows be templated so they can be used on other projects without having to recreate them multiple times?
Absolutely! Coreworx Interface Connect supports a project template that can be re-used on all projects; this includes the workflow templates. The workflow templates can also be configured to support unique project requirements when needed.
CII Interface Management Study
14. Where can I find the CII interface management study?
You can find the study on the CII website under: Interface Management RT-302 Topic Summary