Let’s get back to basics with the what, who, and when of project management. Many companies using Proteus to improve their project management are engineering consultancies in sectors such as the energy sector. Therefore, we are referencing in particular energy sector projects, however, these project management basics are relevant for all companies running large, complex projects.
With today’s energy sector up against large-scale challenges in the face of increasing environmental concerns along with rising demand for fuel, companies across the energy sector are more than ever under pressure to deliver profitable projects.
Huge projects run at exorbitant costs split across locations, involving many people and disciplines across different time zones are the norm and historically have been run in silos leading to inefficiencies. This process tends to be very manual, prone to errors, woefully wasteful, and often lacks the ongoing controls required to manage the project successfully.
As shown in our latest research into the state of project management in 2023, only 55% of the leading global CEOs say they are using technology to effectively measure the impact of projects.
Successful energy sector project management needs i) a reliable, well-estimated project plan with project tasks broken down into a highly granular schedule; ii) a strong project management team to direct the project operations and technical execution of each stage of the project; and iii) real-time visibility over data to be able to control the project and monitor progress.
The what: planning in project management
The first most important piece of the ‘what, who, when’ in project management is the plan. Project management tools and techniques vary but the one thing that is always present in any PM methodology is the plan.
Projects in the energy sector are large and complex making the planning process hugely important.
The detailed project plan operates as the roadmap for each stage and task. The plan breaks down each stage of the project, from concept through to design, delivery and close into groups of organized activities, each having a definite beginning and end, intended to meet a specific business objective when completed by a project team. Breaking the project plan into these separate structured stages makes the project easier to manage and control. A well-defined project management plan sets out a path that defines, creates, measures, and documents success.
Estimating and project scheduling
Predicting how long any procedure will take, routine or otherwise, is difficult and varying or inaccurate estimates have a significant impact on schedules and cost. If the project is complex with thousands of tasks to organise across a global portfolio of assets and operations, planning and estimating can be very time consuming and costly. Well-designed software tools which have been customised to the specific requirements of the project can significantly streamline this process, introducing reliable accuracy, preset margins and charge-out rates and automated milestone scheduling. Any software functionality that introduces simplicity through strong user interface design, consistency through unified databases and automation through templated documentation is essential to improving the time and cost taken to develop a project plan. The result should be a well-defined plan which can be used to secure both understanding and commitment from all stakeholders.
The who: the project managers
The job of a project manager is to plan, schedule, and control large-scale programs as well as individual tasks and projects. Identifying risks, recognizing deficiencies and implementing variations lies at the heart of any project management role.
You can have a highly detailed project plan, but if you don’t have the right people doing the task they need to do when they need to do it, the plan is useless.
Project management accountability tools
An energy sector project manager needs key skills necessary to successfully manage the full project lifecycle, from planning and overseeing budgets and schedules to reassessing and resolving conflicts. It is essential for a project manager to have strong technical and human skills to ensure they are able to manage both scope and people issues, thus ensuring the project stays on time and on budget. Using a project management tool makes the process easier and leaves an auditable trail, with all project decisions clearly documented with accountability assigned. Whether the project is managed in-house or a contract energy project manager is used, a well-customised project management tool will equip any energy project manager with what is needed to successfully deliver an energy project.
Project management challenges
Keeping a project on track is the project manager’s job and it is often where project managers fail. Scope management is an ongoing challenge as work change requests are guaranteed to come from all stakeholders involved in the project. Having an integrated variations management tool built into budget and task tracking allows the project manager to stay on top of the project schedule and budget, ultimately ensuring the tasks are delivered profitably. The impact of shifted deadlines and increased resource utilisation on the schedule can then be quantitatively evaluated using a schedule risk analysis.
The when: project controls
A well-controlled project, is a well-run project.
Traditionally, energy project teams have been run by large teams with knowledge capital ingrained within the company, be it an operator, EPC or consultancy. The use of long term contractors has been normal, however, with more flexible working models entering the market and short-term freelancers becoming more widely used, having robust methodologies for managing these resources is more critical than ever.
The sheer volume of information and the number of decisions made daily across a large complex energy project is a huge challenge for project management. No single project manager can be involved in every aspect of every work package and this is where having clear visibility across all moving parts is key. Real-time, accurate, updated data allows the project management team to keep the project on track, constantly monitoring project costs and managing value.
Project performance controls
For project managers to better manage their projects, processes and people, they use performance data to lower risk and improve margins. Critical success factors in energy projects are most often cost and scheduling. Teams need robust utilisation tracking, with timesheets that are aligned to approved work packages and assets, physical or software, that are managed in the same way. Cloud-based data visualisation tools have predictive forecasting models mapped against actual performance that provide an instant top level view on progress. These tools, such as Proteus, remove the need for digging around in multiple spreadsheets and relying on out-of-date data. In addition, all the tricky calculations needed for project controls are automated for you. The key project control metrics that allow you to constantly assess your project performance are:
a) The planned value – this is the budget of the work that has been scheduled.
b) The earned value – the budget of the work performed. This takes the project budget and multiplies it with the project progress.
c) The actual cost – this is what has been spent on the work performed.
d) The forecast value – this predicts the future budget based on the current actual and the current performance
When you compare the earned value with the planned value and the actual cost, you can calculate the progress and performance of the project. If you measure the schedule (the planned value) and the budget (the actual cost) separately it is much harder to assess the performance of the project and to estimate the time and cost to complete the work against the plan.
Project finances and invoicing
Giving project teams full access to finance documentation from issuing and receiving POs to managing invoices is not something that is easy to manage in large organisations running complicated projects. Accounts teams often operate separately from the project team, using very different software tools. Integrating project management with finance tools guarantees precise, timely billing project administration. Information used by both the accounts and project management teams is always current, and accurate and results in healthy cash flows. This ultimately leads to successful project delivery.
Xergy Group’s Proteus work management solution is designed to work with your existing systems and to scale and evolve as your business evolves. It was created by energy sector professionals, for the diversified energy sector, and delivers an end-to-end project management software platform compliant with ISO audit requirements and common project management frameworks.
How to get Proteus
Proteus’ work management software is a cloud-based system designed for businesses of all sizes to handle projects of unlimited complexity. Each Proteus feature is aimed at making bottom-line improvements by improving utilisation, streamlining workflows, providing quick and efficient access to resources, and reducing overheads. One of the unique advantages of Proteus is that we offer a free onboarding consultation service to ensure your company account is set up according to your company’s needs.
Proteus operates under a software as a service (SaaS) model costing $35 per user per month. Billing is monthly or annually. For more information on our pricing visit our pricing page or get in touch with one of the team.
We designed Proteus to be simple, and that means you can get up and running on Proteus without an IT team or support from a programmer. You will want to spend a bit of time configuring the admin console so that you have everything set up to suit your company structure, but it’s very intuitive and you don’t need a PhD in IT. However, we want you to get the best out of what is a brilliantly powerful tool, so don’t hesitate to ask for our support. We have a team of product experts who are ready to help you with the configuration process, so get in touch today.