Risk Management, the Right Way
When risk management techniques are applied to selecting the most appropriate project management organization, the chance of project success soars.
By John Nita and Luiz Correa, Emerson Process Management
After automation project risks are identified, quantified, and documented, users are ready to begin evaluating candidate project management organizations.
Basic project essentials
If asked, we’d all agree there are some things that are essential to every project regardless of project type. If asked to recite what these basic project essentials are, the list would include such things as scheduling, cost containment, scope management and reporting.
As you begin interviewing and evaluating project management organizations you’ll want to understand how each addresses, manages and reports these basic project essentials. While each candidate organization will have a compelling story to share, what you’re seeking is an organization that fits into or can adapt to how your company executes projects. This becomes especially important when the automation project is a sub-project of a larger project and everything is feeding into an overall project schedule.
You’ll also want to examine each candidate’s additional basic project essentials including its tools, techniques and methodologies.
Though the following is not an exhaustive list, it illustrates the breadth of project essentials users should hear and learn about when interviewing candidate project management organizations.
- Common project execution framework – Look for organizations with a standardized framework that describes how the project is organized, reported, etc. Ensure, by asking probing questions, that this framework is used by all project managers and project engineers. Best-in-class project management organizations establish this framework as part of their ISO 9001 certification process. Ask to examine the documentation and certifications. Be sure this is a “living” framework and not something that’s been collecting dust on a shelf for the past few years.
- Continuous improvement process – Look for organizations that use a formalized continuous improvement process that includes defining, analyzing, implementing, and controlling project execution improvements. Ask the candidate companies what “lessons were learned” on the past few projects and find out how those lessons have been incorporated in the project execution framework.
- Quality control methodology – Measuring quality in “people-dominant” business activities, such as project manager or engineering lead, is subjective, elusive and frequently avoided. However, progressive companies find ways to measure the quality of people-dominant activities. Seek project management organizations that use a quantified methodology to measure a host of project deliverables, including people as well as “things.” Explore the variety of metrics that are used to track project quality, how often those metrics are updated, and how they will be reported for your project.
- Industry specific standards and regulatory requirements – Look for organizations with thorough knowledge and a well-documented approach to complying with local, regional, national and international regulatory requirements such as OSHA 1910 process safety management; FDA installation, operational and procedural validation; GAMP (Good Automation Manufacturing Practices); EPA; IEC-61508 and -61511 process safety; etc. You know what standards and regulations are most important and applicable to your project. Ask probing questions of key project personnel that likely will be involved with your project to determine the depth of their standards and regulatory knowledge.
- Experienced, dedicated project management – Look for an organization that is trained and measured on their project management abilities and performance. You’re seeking one that understands not only many of the technical nuances of specific automation system entities, but also understands the commercial issues and has established relationships with and access to various divisions and alliance partners. Ask to review the resumes and recently completed training records of key project personnel that may be working on your project. Use what you’ve learned about the organization’s project execution framework, continuous improvement and quality process to interview the people you’ll likely be working with. Interview them as if you’re going to hire them – because you are.
We’ve all heard the “project from hell” horror stories and while these are often humorous to listen to, those who “lived” them didn’t see anything humorous about them at the time.
Doing your homework and examining a candidate organization’s basic project essentials is an excellent beginning to avoid having your own “project from hell” story to tell.
When you’ve completed the evaluation of candidate organization’s basic project essentials, it’s likely some won’t make your short list. For those that do, the next step is to examine what each remaining candidate organization has to offer in the way of advanced project offerings.
Advanced project offerings
Earlier we explained that a project management organization includes the project manager, engineers, technicians, systems, product support, management commitment, financial resources, and more. As you begin to examine the tools, techniques, and methodologies offered by the different candidate project management organizations, several advanced offerings will be engineering oriented while others are best described as being business-related.
Advanced business related project offerings include:
- Guaranteed results – Depending on a number of variables (e.g., technology, culture, logistics, etc.) some companies will guarantee that what they design and install will achieve defined results. Just be sure that the company you are evaluating has the ability to follow through on any guarantees, and that you have read the fine print.