People asked question over and over again

Frequently asked question

The most important thing is to thoroughly think through what you are proposing to do and fully document it. We suggest structuring the document such that it starts with the high-level business objectives. It is important to keep these high-level objectives in focus as the project detail is developed. This will help you re-evaluate the solution as it progresses in order to make sure the project is still doing what it was intended to. You can include as many related facts as you know at this stage, as it may help develop the project, but be sure to avoid assumptions or hearsay.

Once the Scope Document is created, in order to check what you have documented makes sense and is complete, we suggest it is shared with people who will be impacted by the change. These people (stakeholders) should include other functions e.g. quality, operations, engineering, finance, EH&S. The stakeholders may identify likely consequences or interactions with other activities that you may have missed, which is helpful to include in the Scope Document.

Once approved, the document should then be used as the basis for developing the project and ultimately for validating that the project has delivered against what was intended.

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To establish an accurate budget, ultimately you should list all the things that need to be done or purchased to complete the project and gather accurate costs for each item. This work is normally quite involved, with a project manager/engineer taking the lead.

We would take the Project Scope Document (as mentioned in Q1) and expand this to create a Detailed Scope Document and detailed activity list (Work Breakdown Structure). This activity should be completed in coordination with all stakeholders and will define everything that needs to be done. We suggest these documents are formally agreed by the key stakeholders so they take some accountability for their content. Next you need to define how things will be done, this will include agreeing (or drafting) specifications and identifying who can service each activity. You will also need to work out the project timings (Project Schedule) as people involved will need to understand this aspect in order to create an accurate cost.

All of the identified cost elements now need to be quantified; some activities may be done by internal people and it is likely many will involve external organisations. In all cases the people providing the costs should be working to the documented specification and schedule. We strongly advocate validating the integrity of all suppliers to minimise the risk of being provided with an inaccurate cost estimate. We also advocate competitively tendering for external works to ensure you get the maximum value for each element.

A project budget should also include a contingency to allow for unforeseen items. Sometimes things change as a project progresses so we suggest making an allowance for this in the submitted project budget. To be clear, the budgeted costs should be 100% accurate against the circulated scope, so this contingency will allow for changes or unforeseen items. When a project has been fully engineered and costed, we typically include a 10% contingency on top of all gathered costs. This percentage should increase if a project is not fully engineered or accurately costed.     

It is vital that an accurate project budget is identified as early as possible in a project as this normally directly impacts its financial viability.

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According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), the term project stakeholder refers to, "an individual, group, or organization, who may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project."

You should undertake an evaluation of who these people are and consider some are likely to be external to the organisation. Consultation and management of stakeholders in a project is important as it provides insight into what the project needs to do, both physically and from a softer perspective to engage (or reassure) them. Commercial and technical stakeholders will help you specify a project, and staff or neighbours will inform you of concerns and potential insecurities. Ultimately, an important factor to consider when assessing a project’s success, is how well it was integrated into an organisation. Effective stakeholder management will have a massive impact in this regard so should not be underestimated.

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KPIs are generally structured around monitoring a project’s progress against the key project elements of time, cost and quality. Established clients generally have their own specific requirements within these categories but as a basic suite of measures for an individual engineering project implementation, we suggest the following:

Time: Master schedule variance, number of days used versus the plan, on-time activity completion

Cost: Budget variance, quantity and value of budget variations, spend versus project cash-flow forecast. 

Quality: Customer complaints, project safety (incidents and accidents), errors (rework and snag-list), actions completed on time, performance of the installed equipment/processes.

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This depends greatly on the type and scale of the project you are undertaking.

To begin to understand the resources required, you should review the detailed project activity list and stakeholder analysis (see earlier FAQs). This will help identify the specific functions that are needed to support the project.  

Consider it most likely that a project manager will not be the only resource you will need to deliver the project. Additional project specific resources such as project engineer, layout designer, product specialist and/or CDM roles may also be required. Normally specialists are required for detailed civil, structural, mechanical/electrical and automation design, depending upon the type of project, often architects, quantity surveyors, etc are also required.  Please see FAQ – ‘Can I manage a project myself’ 

Confirm all aspects of the project have been covered appropriately and speak with relevant stakeholders to address concerns. Consider whether the appointed representatives to help with the project have the relevant skills and time to be able to efficiently close out what is needed. Don't forget to include all of these costs in your budget!

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Potentially yes, but please review the project scope thoroughly, be realistic about the time you have to do the project (as well as your day job!) and whether you have the skills required to successfully complete the project.

People do 'projects' all the time, some successfully and some not. We very often experience situations where the appointed 'PM' has not been able to manage both the day job and the project. In this situation something has to slip and corners are often cut. How important is the project and what are the impacts if the day-job suffers - is there someone who can pick up the slack? Please assess these risks and consider, if you are spending money on the project, it should be worth doing properly.

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This is not an easy question to answer as there are potentially many reasons why people do not take ownership for the project. Typical reasons include (there are many others):

  1. Fear or insecurity (a perfectly normal response to change) 
  2. People don’t feel they have been consulted or their comments have been ignored
  3. People haven't had enough time to get involved
  4. People feel that the project is a waste of time

Review your stakeholders and understand critically (from their perspective) what concerns they may have. Early communication is important as soon as you have meaningful information to share. Typically, the project team should involve a cross-functional team to encourage outward communication to the wider teams. Set-up regular briefings, investigate setting up a project information area where interested parties can get the latest information. Make sure to keep communications up to date because if this slips, people will often become disconnected.

We strongly advocate involving staff as early as possible to help create specifications and project plans. This is really important because the experience of people who are directly impacted, really helps get the plans right.

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Designing a production line begins by understanding the full scope of what needs to be included and how much space you have (or need) in which to install the line.

The equipment required can then be determined as well as the necessary conveyors and interconnections. In developing a line layout, consideration needs to be given to personnel and packaging component access and movements. There are often differing hygiene areas set up on the line to protect sensitive processes which need to be considered. There are often compromises uncovered when preparing a line design - for example is there enough room to install all of the equipment I would ideally want? In this situation it is important to thoroughly evaluate and risk assess the options and impacts up-front. It is best to understand these compromises from early in the project process! 

Developing an optimum line layout design is an iterative process where the above considerations are built upon by other stakeholders and specialist technical suppliers for equipment operation and automation. Often a computer simulation is done to check how well the line will function when everything is put together. The model would factor equipment performance information, relative speeds, line accumulation, component reloading and staff movements. A well-structured, representative model will allow for different scenarios to be tested, evaluated and optimised. Any changes therefore can be made early in the project so the best solution is implemented.

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There are potentially many points at which senior stakeholders need to approve phases of a project. In the early stages these are normally concept approval, often followed by feasibility development, before a full capital investment submission is made for approval.  For all these stages it is important that the key decision makers have an understanding of all impacts of the suggested project to allow them to make a balanced decision.

Concept approval is at the very start of a project and its purpose is to broadly assess which projects to commit resources to. These submissions are at a high level (before much resource has been consumed) and the headings typically will include:

  • What is the justification e.g. financial, regulatory, safety?
  • What happens if the project is not done?
  • Broadly how much will it cost and what is the expected payback period?
  • When will it be done and when will the money be committed?
  • Who will be impacted and in what way?
  • What resources are likely to be needed?
  • What are the key risks?

If a project is approved for feasibility development or design and engineering, the earlier topics are explored in more detail to validate or challenge the earlier expectations and develop the project, before the capital request is submitted.

It is critical that a project has been thoroughly thought through and costed before a capital request is submitted. Errors or omissions in these areas will mean the installed project could fall short of expectations because of a lack of budget. Equally, the business case put forward for the project justification will be invalid due to a project overspend. Both of these scenarios are bad news!

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Risk Management is a key element of what a PM should do. The typical approach is to use a cross-functional team to identify all project risks, this could include anything from financial viability to adverse weather during installation!

The risks are tabulated and each one rated in terms of the likelihood of it occurring and the impact if it does. The assessment helps identify the scale of risk and the resultant priority. Mitigating actions should be identified and pursued until the assessment categorises a risk as acceptable. It is a live document that should be updated on a regular basis in terms of content and risk rating. 

The updated risk register should be shared with senior stakeholders so they understand the risk profile and ongoing concerns.

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