10 Universal Lessons For Successful Energy Infrastructure Project Management
Successfully managing engineering, design, and construction for any energy infrastructure project can be challenging. It requires meticulous planning, clear communication, and effective problem-solving skills.
With over 25 years immersed in the industry and a collective 250+ years of experience across our team of Project Managers, we’ve gathered a wealth of knowledge that guides our project management practices.
In this article, we’ve distilled that experience into ten concrete best-practice lessons we use to improve project management strategies, scope out issues, and control risk elements to ensure successful outcomes for our clients.
Remember to ADMINISTER your project!
1. Assume and clarify to help define and document a clear scope.
The first lesson in project management is to define the project scope in explicit detail, with written clarifications as needed. A well-defined EPC scope ensures that everyone involved understands what needs to be done, who is responsible for each task, and the possible/probable dependencies. Having this information written down also makes it available for all parties to refer back to if there are questions or changes throughout the project’s duration. Documenting these details reduces confusion, streamlines communication, and can prevent costly delays due to miscommunication or misinterpreting expectations.
We often participate in onsite collaboration to ensure that our clients and our project team have aligned scope expectations— in some cases, even before being awarded the work. The information gathered during this period is used to formulate our work proposal and align resources. Once awarded, ODIN uses this scope foundation to drive the success and expectations of the project with a valuable head start.
2. Delve into control variables such as materials, equipment, or sub-vendors included within the scope parameters.
Managing the variables within a project is an important task. This includes understanding and controlling any materials, requisite onsite equipment, or sub-vendors included within the scope parameters. Understanding these details, and ensuring their proper and timely coordination, helps to ensure that all tasks will be completed on time, with quality results.
Consider variables that outside factors could influence. For example, is the availability and timing of all permits factored in? Since so much depends on proper permitting, this has to be effectively addressed to eliminate surprises regarding budgeting or scheduling, which can cause delays or add costs if planned improperly.
3. Manage all documents with your internal disciplines before communicating with your key client contact.
Prior to communicating with your key client contact, you must review all documents related to the project with internal staff. If you’ve done what most successful companies do, you’ve hired some excellent and not inexpensive, cross-discipline talent. Along with this talent comes knowledge, insight, experience, ideas, and training— all elements that add tremendous value. A thorough review of documents at this stage will allow them to contribute in a way that may be both insightful and invigorating to the process. This also ensures that everyone is on the same page as your client regarding expectations, timelines, and budgets.
ODIN uses documented internal processes and procedures to ensure inter-discipline, cross-discipline, third-party, and leadership reviews are performed for every engagement. Additionally, ODIN identifies opportunities to engage construction contractors early in the engineering and design phase to perform constructibility and means and methods workflows to assist in projection execution.
4. Institute the tripod of scope/contract, schedule/milestones, and budget/cost.
Establishing and balancing the scope/contract, schedule/milestones, and budget/cost, the foundation upon which all projects rely, is essential. Critical to every project, these levers affect and complement each other significantly, so it is important to plan and manage these key components. Properly identified and managed, this tripodal foundation will support the successful completion of the project. In this case, balancing may mean investing additional resources into planning, communication, and risk management— an upfront investment that always pays off in the long run.
ODIN’s responsive, collaborative, and methodical EPC process has proven very beneficial, especially during mid-sized EPC risk-based contracts. If any one of these items changes in a negotiation, our team will analyze the other two to identify any potential need for adjustment.
5. Navigate the proposal with your client and ensure that it is communicated effectively.
By following the first four steps, you have clearly defined the project’s scope along with assumptions and clarifications in writing. You’ve had your team review and all requisite personnel are on board. You’ve balanced the key elements of scope, schedule, and budget, and you’ve considered the potential impacts of variance. Now, it’s time to verify that your and your client’s understanding of the project’s scope is in alignment before work begins.
It is vital to confirm consistent, unanimous interpretation without making assumptions of prior knowledge. Make sure your client understands every part of the proposal, including industry terminology, technical specifications, scope, terms, milestones, and budget.. If any area is lacking, use this opportunity to educate your client and consider revising your documentation to clarify the point.
Conducting a series of meetings to review the detailed documentation in full, with clarifications as needed, will help to prevent future misunderstandings that could derail not only your timeline or damage your relationship.
6. Implement frequent update meetings aligned with scheduled milestones.
Project updates must be conducted on a regular basis to keep all stakeholders informed of progress and to identify any potential problems or opportunities for process improvement. Keeping stakeholders in the loop allows for better collaboration and more efficient problem-solving if issues arise. It is often necessary to connect more frequently than the classic drawing progress issuance of 30%, 60%, 90%, issue-for-bid (IFB), issue-for-construction (IFC), and As-Built.
Establishing a strong decision-making point of contact with your client, and the 3 by 3 matrix around that contact, is key in any project. The supervisor, peers, and subordinates can help to keep the process moving smoothly. ODIN relies on regular meetings and touch points to keep projects on track and moving. We maintain open lines of communication with our client to understand when the frequency of meetings should be adjusted.
Be prepared for field adjustments in the form of comments from installers. It is key to understand their thoughts and manage through any adjustments in project scope. Any concerns or changes must be aligned with the governing project schedule to ensure progress is being made as anticipated and any potential problems are being addressed in a timely manner.
7. Scribe meetings and work progress through professional construction notes and the request for information (RFI) process.
Change is inevitable, and having an unambiguous process for managing it is essential. At ODIN, meticulous technical note taking is a vital part of every project. Professional construction notes and weekly reports help all parties to stay organized and on track with the project’s objectives. It also helps to create a record of meeting discussions and project progress that can be referenced to resolve questions or issues that may arise over the course of the project.
Additionally, including a formal change management process into your project logistics plan from the outset ensures that all parties will have access to information needed to move forward. It is important that all parties agree on the accuracy of meeting notes and reports and that any project RFIs are understood and addressed correctly. Accountability and a clear ‘audit trail’ of c
8. Track input, monitor errors, and provide high-quality service. Use those insights to improve your delivery.
High-quality service means consistently delivering results that meet or exceed expectations. Early and frequent client feedback can ensure everyone is satisfied with the result. Without accurate feedback, exceptional service is impossible to deliver.
In addition to project-specific client feedback, ODIN conducts surveys to gain additional feedback from our customers and understand their concerns. The team reviews this feedback and makes corrections accordingly. On a periodic basis, the team engages this cycle again to see what has changed, or to gain new insights on long-term reflections.
No one likes making mistakes, but it’s important to take responsibility for them if they occur. Taking ownership of errors demonstrates a commitment to quality and conveys respect for others involved in the project.
At the end of the day, client satisfaction is the factor that will determine whether or not a project is successful. That satisfaction can only be achieved through diligent, attentive service with meticulous attention to detail and crystal-clear communication.
9. Explain any variances quickly and deliver on time.
Timely delivery of projects is essential for successful project management. There are few industries where the old adage, “Time is money,” is more applicable than energy infrastructure. While devising ambitious timelines may seem like an easy way to make a proposal more attractive, it’s important to manage expectations by setting realistic timelines based on the scope of work and available resources.
These resources include material, sub-vendors, and equipment. When developing a timeline, be sure to consider questions like these:
- Are the materials you need readily available or are there shipping or production delays to factor in?
- Do sub-vendors have the bandwidth, reliability, and personnel to deliver these services within scope?
- Can you get all equipment onsite in proper working order immediately or are there additional lead times to factor in?
Weather is another variable that must be accounted for. Of course, weather is difficult to predict with accuracy, and the likelihood of unanticipated delays increases in proportion to the length of the project. If unforeseen issues arise, it’s best to communicate those variances quickly so everyone involved can make adjustments to reduce delays.
That’s why ODIN’s team holds strong client relationships in such high regard. Effective communication and a well-considered timeline can help resolve issues as soon as possible.
10. Review and close all items against original expectations and establish a consensus that the scope is complete.
Closing out a project involves more than just completing the agreed-upon tasks. It also requires a review of the expectations initially put forth, and consensus that those expectations have been met. ODIN’s close-out process provides all project managers with a checklist and designated time to execute a documented close-out with the client and address any concerns.
This process should involve all stakeholders to ensure everyone is satisfied with the final product. Consistent communication at each step of the project will help avoid any disagreement regarding the completeness of the project. If you have followed our best-practice steps so far, you should have precise documentation defining what constitutes the completion of the project.
Energy Infrastructure EPC Is What We Do
By following these best practices for successful project management, you will ensure that everyone involved understands the tasks at hand and that all objectives are achieved on time and within budget. Good communication practices will prevent avoidable misunderstandings or delays. With the right strategies and systems in place, projects can be both highly efficient and highly successful. Take the lessons we’ve learned in the field to heart: focus on communication and transparency, and don’t be afraid to reach out to an experienced EPC firm like ODIN before challenges arise.
Hopefully, these thoughts help you to ADMINISTER your next project effectively and efficiently. ODIN EPC brings together engineering, project management, construction, and industry experience to deliver comprehensive solutions tailored to your unique project. We apply decades of experience gained through successful project completion to help our clients achieve their objectives effectively and efficiently. Contact ODIN EPC today to learn how our expert engineering, procurement, and project management services can benefit your next energy infrastructure project.