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Standards & Practices

There are many common practices and helpful tips that CMS Inc. has learned throughout the many projects they have worked on. These tips have been used by CMS Inc. on many projects, varying in size and industry. Many have been developed and are helpful to those dealing with projects. We hope they can help your project services, even just a little bit.

Project Control Tips

Planning is the most essential part of the approach, because without proper planning, everything else will not fall into place and can lead to a project with many pitfalls, always trying to catch up.

  • Experience can play a large factor in planning. Use previous project experience, whether good or bad to help develop future planning models. Talk with other senior planners or project personnel who have had experience with a particular type of project or industry. Find out what was good, what was bad, what worked, what not to do, etc.
  • Develop a planning flowchart. It is important to plan the plan so to speak. Organize the flowchart into all the key project team members and their roles. Further details can be added if necessary, but it is an essential part; especially at the earlier stages of a project.
  • Always emphasize that the plan belongs to the group and must reflect the manner that the project will be executed.
  • Use the prepared plan to investigate alternative strategies, this could save time later when remedial actions may be needed.
  • Use the plan to check the content of the project scope and to conduct any Value Analysis studies.
  • Set up your controls systems as early as possible. If you can identify all your systems and have them ready and in place in the early stages of a project, then you are not playing catch up. It gives you time to double-check any items that may have been missed or alternative areas that should be pursued.
  • Get everyone involved. Build a team atmosphere if possible. Projects tend to get in the ‘every man for himself’ attitude; especially when the construction phase begins. This is not an easy task and never will be.
  • It is always good to have alternative solutions in place when necessary. Planning ahead is essential, but all projects fall upon changes and occurrences that may have not have been expected, but were possible. You should plan for those that are possible, even though they appear unlikely at the time.
  • Make sure you have a thorough understanding of the job and especially your own scope of work. Then progress through all relevant documents to determine the scope of the project, engineers and the contractors. If you understand what they are supposed to do, then you know what you should expect from them.
  • Set up a communications plan. Make sure you have a detailed contact list, that all minutes of the meeting are recorded and distributed to the proper personnel. It is extremely important that all team members have a feel for what is going on at the moment.
  • When planning the construction phase, determine through the estimate the number of men that will be on the project. You can even break it down to crafts. Determine if the number is feasible. Key questions to ask are:
    • How many will be working on the site at once?
    • What areas will they be working in?
    • Are there any conflicts?
    • What is a reasonable number of men for that area or the site?
    • Are these resources going to be available for this job?
    • What projects will deplete our resources?
    • Will these resources be available for the duration of the project?
    • Will we be looking at any overtime, if so when and how much?
    • Do we need large equipment?
    • If so what sort of equipment?
    • How many do we need?
    • Are they available?
    • Will they fit on the site?
    • If they do fit on site, can the crafts still work around it, or in another area?
    • Do the owners have any of this equipment we could use to save money?
    • These are the types of questions that should be addressed.

CMS Inc.’s Golden Rule of Earned Value – Whatever the quantifiable variable that is chosen, it must be uniform and weighted against all activities. Whether it is tons, man-hours or dollars, all activities must be converted to this common denominator in order to get a proper earned value analysis.

Scheduling Tips

The project schedule(s) can take many faces. It is an important piece of data if defined, developed and audited properly. It can afford you the opportunity to take actions before it may be to late, make forecasts and monitor your project status against a target. Below are some tips that will help with the scheduling phase of your project.

Define your Work Breakdown Structure to coincide with your Cost Breakdown Structure. This maximizes your overall control ability, and provides greater accuracy for data analysis. This can become extremely important when monitoring project costs.

Identify main project objectives and use milestones to anchor these objectives within the schedule, and use these milestones to define logic and activity requirements.

Don’t rely on the computer printouts or data that is always shown. Scheduling software is all different and each has its own uniqueness. Don’t rely on this software to do all the work. It is important to look at the schedules yourself and analyze them.

Use resource-loaded schedules whenever possible. These help give a more accurate picture than a duration based schedule. Earned value provides the most effective measurement of project progress.

Spent time/money/workhours does not constitute Project Percentage Completion. It is important to remember this. Many times, this becomes confused and inaccurate project percentages are given.

Get input. It is extremely important to get input from all the leads and appropriate individuals dealing with project scheduling. If you are to develop the project schedules, then unless you are a mind reader, you have no way of knowing the sequence of events that they are to be completed in. So get input and feedback from all the appropriate parties and modify the schedule as necessary.

Monitor your resources. When resource loading the schedule, it is important to remember that the resources entered must reflect real quantities. You cannot have 20 men on a scaffold installing pipe. Each activity should be given the funny look test and modified if it is unrealistic.

Modify the colour of the schedule task bars– solid colours appear as black when copied, progress bars and the activity bars cannot be seen as separate entities.

If the progress bars on your schedule are on the current date status line on the Gantt chart, you are dealing with a duration- based schedule, and therefore your project percent complete is based on time and not physical completions. Accuracy of assessments will be based on subjective opinions and not on fact.

Always use an “Earned Value” system to develop your schedules.

  • Task “A” takes 10 weeks to complete.
  • If the number of weeks extends the percent complete for a duration based schedule decreases e.g. a 10 week project – 3 weeks completed is 3/10 = 30% (by duration), the project extends to an 11 week project the percentage complete is now 3/11 = 27%.
  • Using an “Earned Value” schedule e.g. Task “A” takes 200 man-hours to complete, 60 hours have been earned on the same activity which calculates to 60/200 man-hours = 30% complete, the project extends to 11 weeks but the percent earned remains at 60/200 man-hours = 30%.

The amount of detail required in the schedule is proportional to the timeframe for updating e.g., do not schedule “nuts and bolts” if updates are only required monthly. If updates are required daily “nuts and bolts” detail is required.

Cost Tips

Costs are the primary owners concern. A budget is set on every project, and no one is happy when it is over run. Proper cost control allows the costs to be tracked, categorized and accurate forecasts to be made. If costs are going to overrun, then with proper cost control, at least there will be no surprises in the end.

  • Present the information in a clear concise manner
  • Summarize the costs on one sheet– no one wants to see the detail unless there is a problem. Be prepared to show the detail.
  • Use the schedule “earned value” percentage to forecast remaining costs (see schedule tips). Work closely with the project schedule department.
  • Be involved in the development of the schedule structure. Maximize the amount of information the schedule can provide to you.
  • Develop CBS and WBS to correspond with each other for a direct correlation of cost to work.
  • Reconcile to budget estimate on every report.
  • Develop a flow chart of contacts and key people. You need to know where and when.

Training Tips

Continual project training is the best method of project education. It is important to keep employees fresh on the newest principles, methods and practices as well as refresher courses for previous used methods. It allows individuals to expand their knowledge base, gain experience in little used areas or learn new procedures. Below are some guidelines that help maintain a well-trained and supported staff.

  • Request customized courses to suit your special needs.

    Our training professionals are both highly knowledgeable and flexible in course curriculum.

  • Consider training between peaks in your company’s business cycle.

    The team-building element of training together maintains the work rhythm, contributing to efficiency and improving morale.

  • How to choose your venue

    Decide on a venue for your training based on the need for availability of the students in event of necessary supervisory/ emergency situation. On-site training is handy, but can be distracting.

  • Encourage employees to seek professional development for themselves.

    Motivated employees learn more if they value the work skills they are seeking.

  • Begin by expanding and training in areas where your company may be weak.

    Bolster those areas, then train with refresher courses in other areas.

  • Set an agenda. For example you want all project staff to take two courses a year.

    Most companies offer 1 or 2 day courses. This makes it much easier.

  • Make sure that the courses fits your needs. Ask if course customization is available.

    This will allow you to focus on particular areas of interest.

  • Make sure you get involved.

    Training is more educating and less dry when you become involved in the course. Ask many questions, quiz the instructors, ask for alternative solutions or methods that are not covered. You may learn valuable information.

  • Pay attention to the instructor.

    All good training courses have instructors who provide feedback and real examples not found in the manuals. Use any materials that are given as a reference guide for later use. This allows you to focus on what is being discussed now.

  • Book training in groups.

    It gives you more leverage when negotiating, not only on price, but on time, location, and course content. It is unlikely that you will receive course customization for only two individuals.

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