Industry Spotlight – UWaterloo and the Future of Interface Management
Samin Shokri recently received her PhD, under supervision of Prof. C. Haas and Prof. R. Haas, in Construction Engineering and Management from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Samin has spent the last four years working with Coreworx on her thesis: Interface Management for Complex Capital Projects. In addition, she collaborated with the Construction Industry Institute (CII) on the interface management research team for the last two years. The full research report and interface management-related tools are available on the CII website. This blog post highlights some of Samin’s research.
In her research, Samin argues that every single component in a megaproject should be coordinated. Any miscommunication or mismanagement relating to megaproject components often leads to cost overruns, scheduling issues, and worst of all, occasional disasters. To avoid this, projects need to implement good management practices and a sound technological foundation, including electronic product and process management systems (EPPMS). As a major component of EPPMS, interface management systems (IMS) have emerged recently and are being adopted in many industrial mega construction projects with the purpose of managing interfaces, improving alignment between stakeholders, and reducing project risks, issues and conflicts. This is achieved by providing a framework to identify the common boundaries between project stakeholders, improving coordination between them, facilitating the communication and collaboration channels between them, and automating work processes (Shokri et al. 2012).
Interface management system objectives include:
- Improved alignment
- Effective communication and cooperation
- Increased role and responsibility visibility
- Reduced project execution risk
Elements of interface management systems:
In order to achieve successful implementation of an interface management program, it is necessary to identify its elements. In a megaproject, several interfaces are created because of its complexity and the needs of various stakeholders. These interfaces could be physical (hard) or virtual (soft). A systematic IMS is required to effectively manage these interfaces at various levels. (Figures 1 and 2, Shokri et al. 2012).
When to start interface management and how?
Samin points out that front end planning is the best time to start an interface management program and then continue it throughout the whole project life cycle (Shokri et al. 2014).
All of this considered, the big questions project owners ask themselves regarding an interface management program include:
- How do I break down scope packages and who do I assign them to?
- Which stakeholders are critical, influential, or prominent?
- Which stakeholders have the highest percentage of communication?
- Which interface points are critical?
To address these questions, Samin proposes using a Social Network Model for project parties to visualize and analyze the relationship between different entities (e.g. scope packages, stakeholders, or EPCs).
In this network, information is directional. Leading stakeholders (for example, A) have the overall responsibility of the interface point. This stakeholder should make sure that all the requirements of the interface point and associated deliverables are identified, communicated, and delivered at the specified time and with the requested accuracy.
Interfacing stakeholders, such as C, B, and F have to provide the major portion of the information and deliverables within the requested time and with the required description. By analyzing the relationships between stakeholders, we can identify the critical scope packages in the network. Samin uses a simple offshore project as an example. In this example, over 500 interface points related to different disciplines are identified: electrical (145), pipeline (275), turret (20), mooring (25) and well system (77). The Stakeholders’ Interface Network (SIN) is very complex even though only 500 interface points have been identified. Figure 3 shows a snapshot of the SIN:
But Samin’s team has been able to create a weighted interface network, allowing us to analyze the network through a centrality concept to see how involved a scope package is in relation to others and enabling us to define scope packages as “influential” (large number of out-degree/leading parties) or “prominent” (large number of in-degree/interfacing parties). The advantages of running this analysis during front end planning is that owners can easily identify scope packages which have less complex relationships versus those with a high degree of interdependencies, therefore allowing them to select the most qualified EPCs for each scope package. Furthermore, using the graph theory, Samin has developed an algorithm to identify critical interface points at different stages of the project in order to effectively allocate resources and successfully manage critical interface points.
The University of Waterloo and Coreworx have developed a workflow driven process for effective interface management. Together, they have added visibility to roles and responsibilities, visibility to delivery times, and enabled project owners to identify key stakeholders and interface points. While Samin’s research has helped us gain better insight into the importance of interface management on megaprojects, interface management is an evolving discipline. There are still some unanswered questions, such as:
- Who should implement interface management?
- What level of interface management should be implemented?
- What are the key attributes of interface management for project successful delivery?
- How can interface management be assessed?
- What is the relation between interface management and project performance?
In 2012, CII created a team dedicated to answering these questions. The essential question being: what practices, techniques, and processes are most effective for improving critical interfaces among globally dispersed project teams, multiple project partners, and an increasingly diverse labor force?
Team members include experienced project professionals, university subject matter experts, and industry representatives from various companies, including Jacobs Engineering, Wood Group Mustang, Petrobras, WorleyParsons, and Coreworx . The team studied several projects with different install values ranging from $500M to over $10B that represented several industry sectors including oil and gas, nuclear, power, chemical manufacturing, hydro, rail, and more.
A full copy of the report is available to CII members at: Interface Management Implementation Guideline.
For more information on Samin’s research, see her full report: Interface Management for Complex Capital Projects.
Samin Presents the Future of Interface Management
Shokri, S., Ahn, S., Haas, C.T., Lee, S., Czerniawski, T. (2014). “Current State of Interface Management in Mega Construction Projects”. Submitted to Construction Research Congress, Atlanta, GA, US, May 19-21, 2014, pp. 2266-2275.
Shokri, S., Haas, C.T., Haas, R.C.G., Maloney, K., and MacGillivray, S. (2013). “How to Identify the Critical Stakeholders in an Interface Management System?” 30th International Association for Automation and Robotics in Construction (IAARC), Montreal, 2013.
Shokri, S., Safa, M., Haas, C.T., Haas, R.C.G., Maloney, K., and MacGillivray, S. (2012). “Interface Management Model for Mega Capital Projects”. Construction Research Congress, West Lafayette, IN, US, May 21-23, 2012.