Project Practitioners > There’s Nothing To Project Management

There’s Nothing To Project Management

By Morley Selver, P.Eng IPMA B

You Can Do It In Your Spare Time.

Right now, in the oil and gas field there is a huge demand for project managers and a very limited supply. Companies are trying to fill the void in several ways, including; hiring  IT project managers to fill positions in industrial applications; and getting an employee to manage a project along with their regular duties.  

It is the second method that I want to talk about as there were several attendees at a recent workshop in this situation. They were engineers whom management had offered the chance to manage a small project along with their regular duties. Since project management was not their field of expertise, they had a couple of issues they did not understand.

 Project Management is Easy-Peasy

I realize that the companies are short of project managers but management still feel that project management can be a necessary evil and is not required for every project.  That’s why they give the project management task to an engineer who’s daily job is to keep the facility running, not manage a project. Now, there are times when the engineer is not fully involved with the facility and may have some spare time but that is not the norm. When there is an emergency in the facility, the engineer is focused on that and will ignore the project he is supposed to be managing. This situation could go on for weeks, depending on the problem. Decisions get sidelined and the project gets behind schedule and /or over budget. If the engineer does not understand project management, they don’t know what to do and even if they did, how to do it.  When problems arise the tendency is to revert back to what they know best which is keeping the facility going. At the end of the day, this ends up in an unsuccessful project. This is not fair to the engineer as the projects are not successful and they don’t know why. If they get a lot of grief from management, they may give up on ever being a project manager which is career limiting. Management should realize, project management is time consuming and should not be a part time endeavor.

We Should Have Discussed This At The Beginning

One of the issues the engineers had was construction drawings not being what was required. Although the engineering company did the drawings correctly, they were not what the contractor wanted. The contractor wanted to do the construction a different way than the engineering company had designed it. Typically, the project will have a construction coordinator who works with the contractor and can provide input to the design. If this is not what you have, then you should arrange a meeting at the beginning between the designer and the contractor. In all cases there should also be a constructability review meeting before the drawings are Issued For Construction (IFC). These meetings usually take place before the drawings go to check which is about the 70% stage. The meeting should include Operations, Maintenance, construction, design, and safety. At the meeting the drawings are reviewed in detail for constructability, not process design. Comments are made on the drawings, the comments are picked up, the drawings completed and the drawings issued IFC. If nothing else, you should always work with construction to get them what they need and have a constructability review meeting before issuing drawings IFC.

You Want What Level Of Estimate!

Another issue, was estimating the projects. They were small projects, however, management wanted +/- 10% estimates when they did not have sufficient engineering done for that accuracy of estimate. For a + / - 10% estimate you need detailed material takeoffs. What the engineers had was an Issued For Design (IFD) Process & Instrumentation Drawing’s (P&ID). They had no piping isometrics and did take-offs from the above P&ID’s. This is not a method of estimating and off course it didn’t work. Apparently they needed something and that was as good as anything else they had. If you look at an estimate matrix a +/- 30 % estimate is what you can expect at the IFD P&ID stage. You would still need material take-offs along with factored and historical rates.  In this case the project overran by 40%. This problem of management looking for a +/- 10% estimate when sufficient engineering has not been done is fairly common. If you have an Estimate Matrix, you can use it to determine what accuracy of estimate you can expect in spite of what management is looking for. 

 Time To Make The Leap?

Regarding the first method mentioned at the beginning, it can be a frightening  to make the leap from IT project management to industrial project management. When they don’t understand what it’s going to be like, people are reluctant to make the change and could be missing out on a great career move. To help them make the change I am preparing a webinar to help IT project managers understand how projects are managed in the oil and gas industry. If you are interested in this webinar, watch for an announcement on my web page (www.bmoj.com) announcing the date. 

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