CQU Project Management education

Removing silos from project planning

Is project and program management still a silo in your business? Is the project plan just a pretty picture on a wall that doesn’t really drive what people do? Is it time for the project plan to be properly integrated?

The pressure to deliver projects on time is intensifying and the construction industry still seems reluctant to try to integrate the project plan with the other systems and functions in the business.

Typically the project plan is developed in a tool like Microsoft Project, Primavera or Asta. However, these tools are rarely integrated with the other business systems such as procurement, engineering, operations, sub-contract management, construction and project cost control.

The sub-plans for these functions are still typically created in Excel, so how do we know that these plans are aligned with the pretty picture plan? This is made even harder when the scope is constantly changing through contract variations.

Some organisations are attempting to link the plan to the BIM module and are trying to implement smart 4D construction simulation solutions, but this only covers the construction phase of the project and is only part of the story. It also relies on having a very well structured BIM model and very high quality data.

It still amazes me that more than 90% of the companies we come across—some of which are managing some of the largest capital projects in the world—still have non-integrated project plans.

Why is there such a reluctance to integrate the plan? There are two main reasons:

  1. The business systems used in most construction and engineering businesses are not integrated and do not support a work breakdown structure that is integrated with the other functional areas of the business. They are still operating with many non-integrated systems and lots of Excel spreadsheets.
  2. Culture. Simply put, people are still working in departmental silos and are reluctant to change as they may fear that if their data becomes visible they can be held accountable.

The functional areas all want to invent their own plans because that is what they trust. On the other hand, if the plan is integrated it means everyone has to trust and work to the one plan. The benefit is the organisation is working to one common goal and the project delivery performance will improve.

An integrated solution to manage the project lifecycle is essential to project-based businesses like those in the construction industry. Perhaps it is time for the industry to change?

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