I am a firm believer in having a project website which has a lot of core project information that can be distributed to everyone at a click of a button. Here is an showcase of what a integrated project website might look like.
The website approach is not to be confused with the use of PowerBI or other data analytics or dashboard. Too often there is flat underlying information that can be distributed in much simpler terms and in some ways can be more valuable then a dashboard. This is where a project website can come into play. Additionally, perhaps my biggest critique of dashboards is the inability to actually really interact with data – to edit information.
Here is an example of some of my views as to what a project website might look like, and the type of content that might be used in such a website.
Although the website has information from various aspects of the project, what follows below is a short narrative of specifically how this can assist and improve the visibility into the engineering status of a project.
Using a website to provide direct access to all the engineering deliverables and their status is an immediate win to a project. To often, deliverables are stored away inside a engineering deliverable tool such as EcoSys, or manipulated in various offline spreadsheets. These are then emailed around left and right, and perhaps even managed by each discipline/area lead in their own separate file. So the concepts of smart digital transformation are completely lost.
Solution: A Weblist! (the below is just dummy data, sorry if parts don’t make sense)
This is a pre-filtered list, as obviously there may exist 1000s of deliverables. However, that is simple, just insert a few pages that allow for some quick filtering, such as a discipline view
Want a view at all the mechanical drawings by area? Again, just click your mechanical discipline (in this case 259600) and the world is your oyster
In the view by wbs, we can really start to dive into some integrated data, after all, this is meant to be an “integrated” website. One of the key elements of engineering management, is forecasting manhours. For that you need a clear understanding of your spent actuals to date combined with the current earned value (or perhaps more to the point, the current unearned progress to go). We can see all that information in our views as we are pulling in our timesheet date to a discipline wbs level. To provide the next level down, we might be interested in who has actually booked to our project. Here again, that is just a click away by following the SAP actuals link (this is just dummy data!). This clear visibility is something I think is lacking in scope management these days. Too often people just get buried under generic timesheet codes and can not clearly explain what they are working on. Therefore, having a very visible list of deliverables, and groups that allow linking of actual people to scope is critical for good management.
Engineering – Update Deliverable Progress
With easy access to all our deliverables, a nice extension is to add the ability to UPDATE progress on our items directly in our website. Here I can not stress how easy this approach is. This really have to be seen to be believed.
I have heard all the arguments against this approach, but to me, I don’t buy it. Again, why bury something inside a system that can instead be brought into the forefront. It is very easy to add specific security so that only the key discipline leads can access a feature such as this. Another key critique is the lack of progress by engineering gates.
Each lead will have a go-by sheet with the gates on their wall (they need this regardless of how they update their items). So, the lead will know if an item is at internal review, what % to enter. And, after they enter a specific % into the website, a query can be run to ensure the specific milestone progress is updated (if that is required).
Another key extension is the ability to see the document status directly in the document control system. In that, using the Document Number and building a HYPERLINK so that you can go directly into the document control system and see the live status. Even better, as we are in an integrated world, why not pull the latest document revision number into the screen above so that we can directly see exactly what that status of the document is. Its thinking like this I just love. I don’t want to auto populate the % based on the drawing rev, but, we want some integration so we can see the whole picture of what is going on inside each area.
The Website Does NOT Do Everything
Even though we have made it easy to view our engineering deliverables, update the progress of the items, view the actual spent hours per area and even have the ability to perhaps directly link to the document in your document control system: we have not talked about the budget hours.
Budget management is something that needs to be more controlled and is where your formal systems can assist. Again, my IPEX management belief is that the IPEX approach is not a system. You already have systems, use them! Or at least look at how you use them and understand where your pinch points are. If updating progress is difficult in your system, then look into how you can do that using a project website. If perhaps your weak link is the visibility into the forecast hours required to complete the project – then perhaps instead of updating % complete at a deliverable level, add an edit/update feature to allow a plugged number of hours to go per discipline or disc/wbs combination.
Another aspect we have not fully incorporated in this example is the linkage to Schedule ID and the ability to FORECAST FINISH DATES (or key interim milestones). However, that information too can be at least viewed if you have proper linkages to a schedule. Additionally, for detailed metrics, PowerBI does provide some more visual solutions.
The important aspect is to understand and look into simply how you can do things smarter and in a way that is more integrated into your project and in a way that is more visible and interactive for all those involved. Do not get sucked into the concept your Spotfire and PowerBI dashboard is the be-all-end-all in your projects digital strategy. Smart execution is not about a silver bullet, but a variety of tools brought together in smart meaningful ways.