Why capital project management innovation is broken, and how to fix it
In an era when capital project managers regularly encounter complex, dynamic and interdependent problems, innovation remains slow, stagnant or non-existent. Why?
When we initiate a search for solutions, we consult the very people, companies and organizations that established the status quo. We use the same concepts, methods and recommendations that have contributed to past failures. We audit projects by collecting subjective data that barely scratches the surface in terms of understanding what project teams actually do, what their challenges are, and what processes they use to deliver on their promises. Owner and EPC companies haemorrhage knowledge at every turnover because they have no technical infrastructure for capturing, sharing and repurposing project expertise. Meanwhile, the mechanisms our industry has in fact established for creating, testing, learning and innovating are irremediably paralyzed by bureaucracy and ineffective use of resources.
The companies that provide technology to capital project managers almost always rely on project owners and large contractor companies to fund innovation efforts, but customers should not be asked or expected to bankroll innovation. Steve Jobs did not ask Apple customers for funding to develop the iPhone.
The capital projects management industry needs a better way to encourage and accelerate innovation. Project owners and primary executors need the ability to innovate on the fly while delivering cost-effective projects. They need the power to collect accurate, real-time data that can reveal best practices in their unique, real-world contexts. They need the ability to meaningfully track key metrics in key areas including:
Work processes and communication protocols
Front-end definition quality
Lifecycle deliverables development quality and effectiveness
Execution and scope control accuracy
Office and field productivity assumptions used for target-setting
Contracting strategy choices
Team integration and roles
Project outcomes can take years to materialize, writes Steven Strauss of Harvard’s Kennedy School of government. Consequently, it is important to establish continuous integration of project teams, stakeholders, data and processes using a knowledge-development platform that can ensure integration, continuity, consistency, accountability and transparency. Project managers can minimize the impact of staff turnover by creating a traceable, measurable history of the project. This can only happen with a change in the value proposition and business drivers for these projects.
First, the cost of technical innovation in capital projects must be borne by the solution provider, as an integral part of the business model. IT companies and knowledge and advisory companies cannot preach innovation and effectiveness to project owners and EPC contractors whilst simultaneously begging funds to support their own innovation. We did not wait for owners or software companies to write us a cheque. We identified the needs and pain points of project teams, built our product, and now we are asking you to try it at a fraction of the cost of the few other alternatives.
The cost of innovation is built into our outcome-based business model. Companies can fit the use of our knowledge-enabling technology to their unique investment plans. Simply put, if your project never makes it through the full funding gate, your organization and project should not have to pay for a technology licence that will never be used, and you should not have to worry about losing the ability to mine the data you’ve collected for years.
Second, innovation must be supported and driven by accurate, real-time project feedback. This enables relevant, high-value knowledge creation across all phases of the project lifecycle. It also allows companies to evaluate their projects and practices regularly, without relying on outmoded, unvalidated best practices or biased opinions. Every project is different, and what works for one company on one project may not work for another company on another project.
The only way to know what will work on your project, right now, is to have up-to-the-minute feedback and assurance on what’s working and what’s not. This is real-time innovation, on the fly. That’s how you create knowledge and value. That’s how you create a real competitive advantage.
Innovation can’t be achieved by throwing resources at a problem or bringing in experts who can supply solutions. Strauss again: “Resources do matter -- but more for their quality than their quantity.” We believe the best innovation is an iterative process fueled by high-quality, timely, project-specific, company-specific data that gives your team members the information they need to build solutions that work for your company, right now.
The platform we announced at the Petrochemical Update conference in June 2017 is not just an idea or a concept, it is a ready-to-configure operating system purpose-built for capital project teams. The proprietary T-CON™ operating system is embedded into a carefully designed and developed platform that poised to move the capital project industry into a new era - an era in which “innovation” is not just a buzzword.
Let's work together on building your digital project delivery capabilities!
Co-founder and CEO
Concord Project Technologies