EPCM organizations that are using just Timesheet & Billing software are finding themselves swamped in spreadsheets to cover the greater technology needs they face. It used to be that all an EPCM needed for enterprise software was a decent-enough timesheet tool to track their billable hours; and an integrated billing tool to invoice their customers. Things have evolved however, and EPCM’s are now seen as the go-to company for project management, procurement, document management, project controls, etc. These requirements obviously go well beyond what a timesheet tool can support. So, confronted with a lack of available tools, project managers & engineers have resorted to building cobbled-together solutions in spreadsheets to cover the gaps. The many challenges with using spreadsheets for this are vast – and can cause issues from productivity loss, to errors, to a compromised service to customers. I was in a meeting with a new client a few weeks ago. During the meeting, one of the guys – who had obviously faced the pain of too many spreadsheets for too long – said to me, “I’ll be happy if I never have to see another spreadsheet for the rest of my life.” He was clearly motivated to up their technology game. And that’s just looking at it from the perspective of providing the right tools for their staff. There is an additional growing pressure on EPCM’s to demonstrate good practices and tools before they can even bid on certain projects. Many clients aren’t willing to hand over critical pieces of their project to an EPCM that’s using hacked-together or home-grown solutions. Owners especially are looking under the covers now as part of their due-diligence to determine which engineering companies they’re prepared to work
In the following video clip, Peter Timmins, VP Operations at Triumph EPCM, explains how their use of 4castplus has dramatically improved their business - and has led to winning this prestigious award for Project Management Excellence.
When analyzing and evaluating the various proposals that you receive from vendors during an RFQ bidding process, what benchmarks do you use? Do you just compare price, or do you also have a list of criteria to compare the bids? Criteria such as: Compliance to Terms and Conditions, Shipping, Reliability, etc. How formal is this evaluation process in your organization? Are your RFQ evaluations – and decision around who is awarded the bid – subject to approval by your client? In 4castplus, the Bid Evaluation module allows users to define their own criteria; and go on to weight each criteria element according to its importance to the whole bid analysis. For example, if it’s a schedule-driven project where timing is critical, perhaps you’d weigh Delivery Date as having high importance. You can create as many or as few criteria as makes sense for each RFQ. Once you’ve received your proposals, you can then rank the defined criteria for each received proposal. 4castplus will calculate an overall Score based on your rankings and criteria weightings. In addition to the criteria, you can also perform a side-by-side comparison of price for each line item on the RFQ. Not everyone needs software to help rank and evaluate bids like that. It’s often the case where it’s a straightforward process of eyeballing the bids and making a judgement call. Nevertheless, many organizations that we work with have historically struggled with this area of bid management. Especially when any of the following are true: You’re providing procurement services on behalf of your client, and there is a requirement for bid-award oversight by the client The RFQ is connected to a critical path deliverable The RFQ has
Hey, don’t laugh, it’s a key skill. The only creepy thing about it is I can look at someone right in the eye and be muttering to myself at the same time. And even though I have at least another 40 years before I’m at that station in life where muttering is just something you do, I’m getting an early start because I’ve discovered that it has high value. I’m not the first to discover this, as it turns out. Experiments have been done to prove that regularly talking to yourself is a positive thing: http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/04/25/talking-to-yourself-may-actually-be-a-good-idea/. All the scientific research aside, the value I get from my outward-inner-dialogue is the art of practicing my next line. That’s because I so often find myself in boardroom meetings with very passionate people. Which is probably not that uncommon. What’s also not uncommon, is that the people in the room don’t all share the same views. They can be passionately expressing opposing views with each other while earnestly trying their best to do what’s best for their company. I, on the other hand, am an outsider invited in – and I’m equally passionate about trying to mediate them towards achieving the ideal solution to some often delicate challenges. The muttering comes in handy because I can try-out ideas out loud, so to speak, before I actually say them. It’s funny how things can sound so different in your head, compared to how they sound when they’re actually spoken. Or mumbled. About a week ago I was a participant in a very heated debate on a company’s policy towards the layout of their standard work breakdown structure for their projects going forward. They were growing
A Legacy of Long and Costly Software Implementations has Caused Businesses to Re-Think how they Buy Business Critical Solutions A few days ago I had an interesting lunch conversation with some friends who were talking about disaster software implementations they’d experienced in past companies. Each had their own horror story about the never-ending struggles and disruptions and the years of fruitless effort that went into them. We all mused about how common it is to hear stories like that, and the crazy amounts of money that companies blow on the implementation. That legacy has caused modern businesses to re-think their approach to enterprise software. Modern businesses that are looking for software solutions are increasingly seeking out products that can provide immediate value to an immediate need. Companies today are much less likely to look at the large enterprise behemoths like Oracle and SAP that are out to reinvent their business. There just isn’t the appetite anymore for the high costs, uncertain results and painfully long & expensive implementations. Today’s businesses want to solve a specific need and get up and seeing results quickly; and at a minimum cost. This doesn’t always mean however; that the decisions around adopting new technology are necessarily easy – even when that new system looks to be a perfect fit. Easy or not, those decisions have to be made; because as businesses grow, they start to feel the pinch of old technology slowing them down or causing unnecessary errors and failures. The decision process typically works a bit like this. Once they accept that they need to improve things, companies start looking around for what software is out there that can help fix their burning issues.
I was visiting a client yesterday helping them get started with some new projects they were planning. They’re a fairly new client and are still working through some of their internal processes with respect to how they’re going to take full advantage of this enterprise software they've just adopted. They were engaged in a very productive, but heated dialogue about how to manage this transition. The challenges they face are similar challenges that most companies would in this situation, so I thought it’d be worth writing about. To start with, they’re a mid-sized EPCM that is growing fast and taking on bigger and more complex projects. They’d long outgrown the spreadsheets they had been using for project management, project cost controls, procurement and estimating. It was a critical business choice for them to adopt a robust software system that’s designed to take on those activities – otherwise they would have been severely limited in their ability to grow. Still, despite adopting powerful technology, they still had some decisions and challenges to tackle. As the director of projects put it, “This software will do everything we need and much more. It’s great, we’ll have lots of room to grow to take advantage of its full capability. The problem we have is: us. We pose our own biggest risk to ourselves. We need to establish the processes and the rules and standards so that we don’t create a big mess in this software.” It was good to hear him say that because it’s a message we continuously reinforce with clients new and old. As the consultant in the room, I often try to take the role of helping facilitate the conversation towards people discovering the answer themselves.
I recently had a meeting with a group of project managers and engineers at a mid-size oil & gas producer. For managing their construction projects, this team have an immediate need to improve efficiency, improve project cost reporting, and reduce the amount of manual movement of documents. Especially the high number of documents shared through emails. Throughout the meeting, the four guys were passionately articulating their many diverse challenges they have day-to-day and month-to-month. Each time one piped up to speak about his own version of the ideal solution they needed, another would chime in with a slightly different take on his version of utopia. They went back and forth just unleashing their troubles and desires for a better system. My role in meetings like this is often to listen and facilitate. And, ultimately, to distill their needs down to a straightforward plan that would improve how they operate, and simplify their lives. Although they brought up many examples and frustrations - the underlying cause of what was truly troubling them was not that complicated. In their case, the challenges they articulated in our meeting could be broken into three broad categories: Field tracking of: labor hours, materials received & used, and daily log information Project Cost Reporting related to the above tracking captured. Reporting that’s easily accessible by multiple users through a common ‘cloud’ interface Document Workflow management and multi-user collaboration & approvals around documents Their perception was that their struggles are quite involved and complicated, but in reality, a very simple solution would eliminate a large percentage of their current pain. This perception is common amongst groups like this, because their daily work-lives are over-complicated by the many manual steps they have