Supporting Project Management Through ePM

Cari Stieglitz
'Process' – that single word has many reactions, but to Faithful+Gould staff, it is their passion and the very foundation of our ePM, or electronic project management, service.

Exercising discipline through process is the backbone of good project management. This is why every project begins and ends with a robust project management or execution plan. By standardizing these practices, companies can increase efficiencies and save money. However, software isn’t going to fix it – you have to first work on the people and process side. Faithful+Gould has successfully been executing this practice through its ePM service line for the last eight years and continues to show success.

Companies are setting projects up to fail

Before any project begins, project managers set up expectations on how the team will interact with one another, what tools or templates will be used, how deliverables are created and updated and overall rules of engagement. They are setting the process for the project. When an organization doesn’t invest in a common language of project management many are left to fend for themselves. Project managers will create their own ways of tracking costs, scope and schedule and try their hardest to bring a successful project to completion. It’s their job…but it is inefficient for two reasons. First, the project manager re-creates the wheel for every project. Second, executives get different versions of the truth when the company's reports are not reconciled with the information in the project manager's tool. Reconciliation is too time consuming when project managers aren’t equipped for success. Companies often need to ask, 'do I want my PM to spend their time doing paperwork because our processes aren’t aligned,' or, 'do I want my PM to proactively manage their project – looking forward instead of backward?'

Our ePM, or electronic project management, service focuses on increasing project management maturity – first through the human side and then through the tool side.

By not standardizing project management at their organization, clients create inefficiencies through re-creating the wheel every time and getting different versions of the truth. Our ePM, or electronic project management, service focuses on increasing project management maturity – first through the human side and then through the tool side.

Software Won’t Solve Your Problem

Bringing in project management software isn’t good enough. Success comes when companies embrace standardizing processes through a project management office or center of excellence – and the software reflects what they have built. Standardizing across a business is not an easy project to undertake and it takes time to make it successful. Efforts to determine a standard process should be undertaken well before a tool is purchased.

Carin Rautenbach, senior vice president, commented, "Many clients are surprised when a service line built around software states that software isn’t the solution. Rather, it is about finding out how the client wants to do business and then selecting a highly configurable tool to support that process. I always say, the tool should be built around the process, not the process around the tool."

I always say, the tool should be built around the process, not the process around the tool.

Carin Rautenbach, Faithful+Gould's Senior Vice President

The software should not mandate how you do business, but rather support how you as a company have determined the most effective way to do business. Faithful+Gould first focuses on where a company can bring its project management practices up in the maturity scale by creating a road map. But because this is a process project, the culture of the business is being affected. Small, phased steps should be rolled out instead of a big bang theory. This can be accomplished by focusing on processes that will bring the most savings, or through rolling out the entire process to a smaller, well-supported group.

One size also doesn’t fit all. Every project is different in type, scope, size and requirements. The processes built should be firm enough that they provide a good wire frame for success, but flexible enough that it stays applicable as a tool to actually manage the project instead of just checking boxes.

An Example of Success – Orange County’s International Airport

Eight years ago, the John Wayne Airport in Orange County was set to undertake a $550-million, seven-year major terminal renovation during the heart of a recession. Funding was secured but they knew the project would be watched very carefully and a thorough audit conducted at the end. Owned by the County of Orange, due diligence with the public’s money was also a large concern.

Faithful+Gould was able to save John Wayne two full-time contract positions over the duration of five years...

Faithful+Gould, as part of our project controls services, advised on best practice and recommended that software be used to capture these processes. After conducting a thorough alternatives analysis, Oracle Primavera Unifier (then owned by Skire) was selected as the tool of choice. As the project ramped up, our staff worked closely with their project management staff to determine how the project was to be managed. Contractors were included in the model, logging information into the owner’s system like schedule of values and RFI's.

Because the whole team, regardless of who they worked for, was collaborating on one platform, efficiencies and complete transparency to the 'one truth' was reached. Our staff remained on site for the duration of the project, working with the client to ensure the processes were followed and could be audited. As the program drew to a close, the focus turned to standardizing the rest of John Wayne’s projects and programs. The business processes were re-evaluated and the processes were adapted to smaller projects – still within the Unifier system.

ePM continues to be a relevant part of our service offering – building on what we already do through helping clients build project management offices and project controls standard procedures.

Sonny Sicat, Faithful+Gould's Program Director for John Wayne Airport

Faithful+Gould was able to save John Wayne two full-time contract positions over the duration of five years because of the efficiencies gained from establishing processes and automating them in Unifier. Additionally, project staff were able to proactively look for trends and indicators because their time usually spent on time consuming reports and spreadsheets was automated into a database.

Sonny Sicat, program director for John Wayne Airport, commented, "ePM continues to be a relevant part of our service offering – building on what we already do through helping clients build project management offices and project controls standard procedures."

Taking the right steps forward

Faithful+Gould continues to help clients manage their projects and advise on project standardization. Companies need to evaluate the investment in removing the inefficiencies of re-creating the wheel and duplicating the success they have on their large programs. Our ePM service line can help with the evaluation of business processes, recommending a road map and implementing a project management system to help save money and have more transparency and oversight to their portfolio of project.