What Would You Change About Your Site-Based Capital Project System?

Phyllis Kulkarni

Over the past 2 years, IPA surveyed almost 300 site-based project managers on the following open-ended question:

If you could change one thing about your project system, what would you change?

I recently tabulated the results and did a quick and highly unscientific correlation of the answers with the performance of projects that we have evaluated from these project managers. The top three answers showed some interesting findings:

Adapt the Process to Small Projects

14 percent of respondents answered “adapt the process to small projects.” The projects from these PMs had longer Front-End Loading (FEL) durations—but not better FEL quality—than projects from PMs that did not flag this as a complaint about the system. So, these respondents may have been correctly sensing that their system was adding time but not quality to their small projects.

Add More Resources

13 percent said “add more resources.” This was a common complaint, and indeed, these projects were less likely to have an integrated team. Lack of operations/productions input and lack of cost control resources were commonly cited as the key issue.

More Time for Front-End Loading (FEL) / Identify Projects Earlier

11 percent responded “more time for FEL / identify projects earlier.” The projects reflected in this group did indeed have shorter FEL durations and were more likely to be schedule-driven—a common outcome when poor portfolio management leads to late identification of projects.

Nothing At All

Last, but not least, the biggest surprise for me was the number of respondents that said they would change . . . “nothing at all.” About 6 percent of respondents offered this answer, a low number, but still higher than I would have expected. These lucky folks work at 6 different companies out of a total of 37. Interestingly, the projects managed by these project managers had better definition and slightly better cost performance than the others in the sample—I guess they recognize that their system is working! 

In conclusion, next time you hear your site-based project managers gripe about something, do not be so quick to shrug it off—it is very possible that they have identified the shortcoming that is adding time and cost to your projects.

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