4castplus is a centralized platform that integrates people, data, processes and workflows to deliver the intelligence and reporting required for a multi-discipline project team. By bringing together critical project functions such as Project Controls, Procurement, Project Tracking and Project Management, 4castplus offers a connected and collaborative world for users to share information and work efficiently together as a unified team.
The recent downturn in the energy industry has a great number of companies scrambling to cut costs, cut staff and do whatever they can to hold on to existing business. The number of projects that have been cancelled or put on hold in the oil & gas industry over the past few months is unprecedented. Owners and producers are slashing capital budgets and announcing massive layoffs – reducing staff by the thousands. On the service side, Contractors and EPCMs are not only facing project cuts and fewer new opportunities – they’re also facing demands from their clients to apply significant reductions in their rates.
As most any project manager will tell you, you can’t manage the past. You have to manage in the Now to have a chance at staying on top of your projects. "Managing the Now" means providing project managers with current, reliable information on what’s going on. The idea of “current” project data isn’t anything new of course, but it’s astonishing how many projects are managed using data from the construction site that’s days or even weeks old. Historical information is interesting – and it does serve a purpose in the final analysis – but it doesn’t help much on a day-to-day basis when snap decisions need to be made to keep things running smoothly.
If you can do anything to help your projects, your business and the mental health of your project management team, give them better information and good tools to report on that information. They’ll hug you and probably never stop.
In the following video clip, Peter Timmins, VP Operations at Triumph EPCM, explains how their use of 4castplus has dramatically improved their business - and has led to winning this prestigious award for Project Management Excellence.
How on earth do we manage to make sense of the chaotic volumes of information that gets thrown at us every day? If you’re anything like me, in any 24-hour period you can get hundreds of emails, documents, txts, tweets and messages filling your inbox and various other mediums. It’s impossible to believe we can do a decent job of cataloging and organizing it all in order to get back to it later.
I don’t have any stats on this, but I bet that over 90% of people use Outlook as an information management system – supported by hundreds of folders located somewhere on a company shared drive. And to some degree that works ok. There does come a point, however, when that system simply breaks down. I talk to a lot of people who plan, manage and procure construction projects, and easily one of the biggest struggles they fight to endure is how to tackle the barbaric amounts of information they need to stay on top of. Contracts, drawings, change orders, vendor invoices, daily site reports, budgets, status reports and on and on it goes. Each document and email thread can contain important information that’s critical to a project’s smooth and healthy progress.
At some point, engineering and construction companies need to upgrade the systems they use for managing all that project-related content. It’s like when you used to have no kids, and now you have three kids: you have to face the reality that you need to upgrade your two-seater car to something that can haul around the whole family. I specifically wrote project-related content as opposed to enterprise content. There’s a very big difference. The difference is: Project Data should reside with the project – not in a corporate document management system (or in Outlook or on a shared drive).
Back in the 18th century there was a period of new thinking called the Age of Reason; or the Enlightenment. The thinkers of the time were moving towards a largely fact-based view of the world and all things in it – using reason rather than sentiment or religion to explain things. Dominated by a well-known group of French Philosophers, it’s this period that has significantly influenced our current scientific approach to our view of the world. Amongst other things, they described the process of understanding things by breaking them down into individual parts. Like, a bicycle is made up of wheels, a chain, handlebars, pedals, etc. As though all whole things in the universe were merely a sum of their parts. At the same time as the French philosophers were enjoying their breakthroughs in thinking, there was a smaller group of British philosophers, like Edmund Burke and David Hume, who believed that there was more to it than just Parts.
I recently had a meeting with a group of project managers and engineers at a mid-size oil & gas producer. For managing their construction projects, this team have an immediate need to improve efficiency, improve project cost reporting, and reduce the amount of manual movement of documents. Especially the high number of documents shared through emails. Throughout the meeting, the four guys were passionately articulating their many diverse challenges they have day-to-day and month-to-month. Each time one piped up to speak about his own version of the ideal solution they needed, another would chime in with a slightly different take on his version of utopia. They went back and forth just unleashing their troubles and desires for a better system. My role in meetings like this is often to listen and facilitate. And, ultimately, to distill their needs down to a straightforward plan that would improve how they operate, and simplify their lives.
It’s always very interesting to me how much difference there is between how organizations structure the management of major projects. Naturally, the bigger the project, the more bodies they’ll need for project controls, construction project management, procurement, etc. Adding more people of course, adds more complexity (to anything). When you add more people, those people need to be organized into groups and disciplines; each requiring key inputs and outputs and deliverables. In defining this organizational structure; I’ve found that there is a tendency for major to mega projects to disconnect these groups into individual silos. Working in silos, they coexist with each other, but with minimum interaction. No-one wants this to happen, of course, and any person would tell you that healthy communication is vital for streamlined success.