As a part of my new year’s resolutions, I am including a commitment to better project definition. In November, Wayne Fischer wrote a blog on Front End Engineering (FEE). The best way to run a project, by far, is to work on defining the project up front. However, just as we might commit to more exercise, we have to be committed to the work of planning. Let’s look at some expectations for project definition training.

1. All major stakeholders are involved.

The definition phase of a project cannot happen in a vacuum. Everyone who will benefit from the success of the project is a major stakeholder. Waiting until you have a fully-developed project to present it to the stakeholders is a recipe for scope change. Be sure to include Process Plus in meetings with the other stakeholders. We benefit from a deeper understanding of your needs and you benefit from having another perspective on the engineering of the project. The partnership developed in this stage will carry through the project. As decisions are needed, Process Plus can contact the appropriate stakeholder; saving you time and money.

2. Key success criteria are identified.

Before we start designing the system, Process Plus will ask for your success criteria. We want to give you and all of your stakeholders a chance to tell us what is important. We want to know the key objectives so we can align the design to meet your needs.

3. The scope is based on accurate and current information.

Tight budgets and limited personnel resources can lead to out-of-date documentation. As Engineering Contractors, Process Plus relies heavily on documentation. We are constantly sharing documentation across disciplines to complete a project. We believe the documentation that you provide us as a basis for a project, and we want to provide accurate documentation back to you for a successful next project. Errors in base documentation propagate through a project and often lead to scope change.

4. A realistic schedule and budget are developed.

Often we develop the schedule or budget only to be told that the project must be done for less money or in less time. The scope, budget, and schedule are like a three-legged stool. You can shorten one leg a small amount and the stool will still stand. You can shorten all three legs and the stool will still stand. If you get one leg out of balance, the stool falls over. When we review a budget to look for cost saving, we will account for possible increases as well. When we review a schedule to look for work which can be done in parallel, we will be sure to look at the risk of rework.

As we start the New Year, let’s start with a fresh commitment to project definition. It is like eating vegetables instead of too many cookies. We know that the resources spent upfront will pay off in the long run, but planning takes discipline.