Information integration, the new project paradigm
The success of any organisation is almost always dependent on bringing its projects in on time, on budget and to specifications, and nowhere is this more true than in the mining and oil & gas industries. While resource companies rely on project delivery for revenue growth, however, often their own information management tools are obstacles to achieving successful outcomes.
Whether the project involves exploration, drilling, engineering or construction, its delivery is usually based upon a collection of processes. The problem is that the tools often used to manage these processes are functionally driven. Each business function is supported by a different application, resulting in project information being stored in numerous locations. Process and collaboration is therefore inconsistent and not easily transferable from project to project.
It can be difficult for project managers or stakeholders in the resources industries to get a full picture of the project, which in turn can drive up costs and cause delays. Project managers too often have to rely on email, phone or word of mouth to find out potential issues that can affect project delivery.
At the very least, project managers almost certainly face challenges capturing and managing project costs in their enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. Everywhere I go, I see disconnected finance, engineering and delivery systems that stand in the way of gaining real-time visibility of budgeted versus actual costs. Not surprisingly, a solution to this problem is usually near the top of the list of things resource companies seek.
Less visible challenges
Challenges with project visibility and cost capture, though, are just the tip of the slag heap. Project managers also face a number of other less visible challenges that make their lives difficult.
For example, resources companies generally have occupational health and safety (OH&S) policies and procedures—many of them company and/or site-specific—which are well in excess of minimum legislative requirements. These are constantly being refined and improved and information systems play a crucial role in supporting them. However, engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) firms contracted to deliver projects for resources companies often find it challenging to demonstrate OH&S compliance by working with a different set of policies.
Again, the lack of integrated information systems is a key contributing factor. Data relevant to OH&S is often stored across various systems within the organisation, such as human resources as well as within project management software. The result is that mobilising for new projects, demonstrating OH&S compliance or getting through an audit takes longer, is more costly and may not ultimately be as successful as they would be using an integrated approach.
Another less visible challenge is the handover of asset information. Resource industries are by nature asset intensive and success usually depends upon the intelligent management of big ticket capital assets which are the focus of multiple projects throughout their lifecycles. As companies face pressure to maximise returns, technology is playing a key role and powerful enterprise asset management (EAM) software has become a requirement rather than a luxury.
EAM often encompasses only the analysis and work management practices necessary for preventive maintenance. Much of a capital asset’s lifecycle, however, involves projects executed by outside parties. Assets are usually engineered and constructed by outside parties and outside contractors perform upgrades or extensions to it. Poorly integrated or separate information systems used by these various parties often result in lost opportunities to maximise the value of projects by capturing asset information at the source and passing it down the line to asset managers.