Consider a Cold Eye Review

Input from independent experts can bolster prospects for project success

By Brett W. Bailey, Pathfinder, LLC

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VIPs (Figure 3), first promoted by Independent Project Analysis, Inc., are another example of the types of tools and techniques that can help improve projects and, simultaneously, provide gatekeepers with information related to PDP conformance. VIPs now have become an industry-recognized best practice to ensure scope development (technical considerations) properly integrates business requirements on a "no more, no less" basis.

To correctly define a project and align technical bases with business and project objectives and drivers, the team should apply (during FEL) as many of the twelve recognized formal VIPs as deemed appropriate for the project. This requires conducting formal workshops at appropriate timeframes within the project lifecycle. These workshops generate reports that are used to integrate value-adding ideas as well as to provide gatekeepers with documentation to aid in their decision-making.

An independent and objective facilitator is crucial for such workshops. Although not considered cold eye reviews per se, these sessions demand the same qualities and qualifications for a facilitator. The "outside" facilitator must be trained, and for some VIPs, certified, in the VIP methodology, to review (in a workshop environment) specific engineering aspects to maximize the value of the project. Most organizations now opt to use external resources to facilitate these workshops.

Not all VIPs apply to all projects and, in fact, some may conflict with each other — e.g., process reliability (i.e., maximum uptime) may well clash with value engineering (i.e., minimum capital cost). Effective application of VIPs often can reduce capital costs or execution schedules by as much as 10% or cut operating and maintenance costs comparably.

Various studies as well as experience show that projects correctly following the PDP roadmap, including using proven effective tools and techniques, as well as objective outside experts, gain significant savings and operations benefits. Companies wind up "doing the right projects," confident the selected ones will provide predictable results that achieve the projects' objectives.

ADDITIONAL REVIEWS
Peer reviews, which focus on a specific set of project deliverables and typically involve SMEs (internal or third party) not on the team, also can provide benefits. Such reviews usually occur prior to formal gate reviews (during FEL). However, it's not uncommon to apply peer review principles to activities such as major design reviews or project execution plan reviews during early project execution stages. If any issues are identified, the peer review and project teams then must reach agreement on effective corrective actions.

For larger more-complex projects, full-scale independent project reviews — conducted during the 70%-completion portion of FEL 3 or early in phase 4 — can play a valuable role in construction readiness assessments. These reviews cover a broad range of project considerations such as cost, schedule, risk and resources, and provide a more in-depth analysis of project deliverables. Typically a team of SMEs (internal or third party) from several disciplines conducts the review.

The cold eye reviewers must objectively assess the status of the project or deliverables in question, unencumbered by any preconceived sponsor, gatekeeper, management or project team impressions. Their charter is to provide an accurate evaluation of where the project actually stands, pointing out both positive and negative factors.

For a PDRI scoring session, for example, they should derive a totally independent objective score and present this to the project team. The reviewers should pinpoint, in quantifiable dimensions, gaps that must be addressed as well as areas where additional effort is unnecessary or even counter-productive. They should include gap closure plans, including recommendations for improving those areas that haven't yet progressed to the appropriate maturity/quality for passage to the next project phase. These gap closure suggestions can prove invaluable in putting a project back on course, thereby preventing the huge costs associated with error correction during execution (Figure 4).

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