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How Does Experience Affect Project Performance?

Released on Tuesday, January 29, 2013
By Phyllis Kulkarni, IPA Manager of Site-Based Systems

I recently had a telecon with a site that is about to benchmark its performance with Independent Project Analysis (IPA). We went around the virtual room and each person stated their name, function, and years of experience. This site had about five project managers/engineers with more than 30 years of experience and an equal number with less than 5 years of experience. In other words, a very bimodal distribution when it comes to experience.

This is a very common situation for sites to find themselves in - many are facing a “demographic cliff” where their most experienced resources are soon retiring and, while they may have hired new folks, there are precious few people in the middle range. It’s a situation that few are comfortable with, but what do the data tell us?

IPA’s past research on experience has shown some correlation between experience levels and project performance (though it is insignificant compared to the effect of Best Practices such as team development and project definition). We have seen some indication that overall team experience is more important than PM experience alone and that experience with the company’s work process may be more important than simply years of experience. Finally, I believe that experience levels can interact with staffing levels to influence performance. For example, very leanly staffed sites often show poorer performance than their better staffed counterparts, but IPA has seen some anecdotal evidence that a leanly staffed team with high experience (particularly years of working together at the same site) can achieve better than expected outcomes. Conversely, we hear sites say that when they have a number of very junior staff members, they need more of them to do the workload that a more experienced group could manage.

In 2013, we hope to examine these questions in more detail as the demographic cliff continues to confront sites around the globe. How does your site’s experience level and staffing compare? Contact me at pkulkarni@ipaglobal.com.

About the Author
As IPA’s Manager of Plant-Based Systems, Phyllis Kulkarni oversees all global small project benchmarking, turnaround benchmarking, and licensing of the FEL Toolbox software. Phyllis joined IPA as a Project Analyst in 2002 and has led numerous site benchmarkings, project evaluations, and onshore and offshore megaproject assessments. She is fluent in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Phyllis can be reached at pkulkarni@ipaglobal.com
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