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Interface Management: A Systemic Aproach


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This material, delivered in interface management workshops, explains the fundamentals of Interface Management in Projects using a systemic approach. The topics include: Definition of Interfaces, Interfaces and systems, Understanding Interfaces, Elements to Consider when Managing Project Interfaces, Interface Management Processes (using the PMI framework), a Case Study in an Oil Sands Megaproject in Alberta and some final considerations based on the concepts learned in the course.

Target audience: Project Managers, project Engineers, Engineering Managers and project personnel

Published in: Leadership & Management

Interface Management: A Systemic Aproach

  1. 1. Interface Management A Systemic Approach for Major Projects David Tain, MSc. P.Eng., PMP ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd.
  2. 2. Table of Contents Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Defining Interfaces Interfaces and Systems Understanding Interfaces Elements to Consider when Managing Project Interfaces Interface Management Processes using the PMI framework Case Study: Oil Sands Megaproject in Alberta  Final Considerations - Key Takeaways
  3. 3. Interface - Definitions Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Interface: A boundary point where an interdependence exists and a transfer of responsibility occurs Interface Interface Interface Interface Interface
  4. 4. Interfaces and Systems Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Modern Project Interface Management originates from the influence of systems thinking in project management: • System: Assemblage of elements (people , things, information, etc.) grouped together to achieve a particular system objective • Systems are logically broken down in sub-systems • Sub-systems are formed by subsets A project is formed 3 subsystems: 1. Project Lifecycle 2. Management Levels 3. Operational Framework
  5. 5. Subsystem 1: Project Lifecycle Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. FEL-1 ExecutionFEL-3 Operations Detailed Engineering Construction CSU FEL-2 Project Gates & Phases CSU - Engagement and Interfaces in Time
  6. 6. Subsystem 2: Management Levels Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. The Project Level II: Middle Management Level III: Technical Management Level I: Senior Management The Business Environment Coordinates project technical core and buffers it from the outside world Provide Strategy and deal with business environment Responsible for the technical content of the project Competitors Government Suppliers Community groups Media Regulator Agencies Economic Climate
  7. 7. Subsystem 3: Project Operational Framework Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. At the outside of the project: • Project definition • Operations and Maintenance • Sales / Marketing • Relationships with outside groups • Ensuring adequate manpower and resources • Ensuring adequate flow of fund At the inside of the project: • Realizing the desired project definition (adequate scope and budget, quality parameters, etc.) • Creating the project organization (organizational structure, contractual relationships, information management, control procedures, etc) • Mitigating external disruptions from the environment (e.g.: timely acquisition of material, handling relationships with unions, obtaining regulatory approvals, informing management of financial needs) • Logistics (e.g.: project facilities, transportation, communications, etc)
  8. 8. Understanding Interfaces – Traditional Approach Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Time Direction Some Traditional Classifications of Interfaces:  Analyze project / organizations based on their configuration • Internal / external • Organizational, contractual and physical (focus on construction projects) • Human / Technical • Tangible / Intangible – Hard / Soft  Problems: • Room for ambiguity promotes silo-based behaviors conflicts emerge based on territoriality / positioning • Difficulty in adapting to changes associated to: &
  9. 9. Understanding Interfaces – Contingency Theory Approach Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Contingency School of Organization (Organizational Theory + Project Management) Considers 1-the nature of interrelationships in the project and 2- time: Pooled Sequential Reciprocal Classification Static Interfaces Dynamic Interfaces Group
  10. 10. Understanding Interfaces – Static Interfaces Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Static Interface: Relationship between permanent subgroups  basic project structure  A project relies on at least 3 subgroups: Pooled Interdependence  Resources are shared / Matrix Organization Project Direction Project Management Functional Management Planning and Control Area 1 Area 2 Area 3 Engineering SCM CM Estimation Cost control Scheduling ReportingHSE Coordination Mechanisms: Policies, plans, procedures Etc.
  11. 11. Understanding Interfaces – Dynamic Interfaces Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Dynamic Interface: Relationship depends on how the project develops It considers two elements:  project lifecycle  the pattern of activity interdependence Sequential Interdependence  Stakeholders follow each other Example of coordination mechanisms: Schedule Reciprocal Interdependence  Stakeholders must continuously interact  Cyclical nature – units performance is mutually dependent  Require lots of horizontal coordination  Rely on personal contact  Example: SCM & Engineering:  SCM depends on engineering to understand what to buy.  Engineering depends on SCM to continue the design based on the market availability
  12. 12. Understanding Interfaces – Dynamic Interfaces (Cont.) Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Group Interdependence  Results and knowledge are built upon progressive interactions of the stakeholders • convergent in nature • Relies on Personal contact Example of coordination mechanisms: Scheduled and unscheduled group Meetings Pooled + Sequential + Reciprocal FEL-1 ExecutionFEL-3 Operations Detailed Engineering Construction CSU FEL-2 Pooled + Sequential + Reciprocal + Group Predominant Interrelations during Development and Execution
  13. 13. Why is it essential to identify and control project interfaces? Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. E=3 Imax = 3 E=5 Imax = 10 E=10 Imax = 45 E=20 Imax = 190 Imax = 𝑬 ∗(𝑬−𝟏) 𝟐 Project Complexity = f (interacting parts, uncertainty)  Project complexity increases with amount of interfaces!!! Possible amount of Interactions (Imax) as a function of Project Elements (E):
  14. 14. Why is it essential to identify and control project interfaces? Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd.
  15. 15. Elements to Consider when Managing Project Interfaces Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Keep static interfaces clearly defined  Define and agree all static subsystems (technical definition, organization, project infrastructure, etc.) Dynamic interfaces are the most important ones  the clock is ticking!!!  Early subsystems have a managerial dominance over subsequent ones (E.g. Design over Construction)  Errors in early subsystems have a snowball effect in the subsequent ones Level of control will vary depending on the stage of the project  Personnel issues (conflicts, leadership, etc) will evolve and need to be moderated considering project phase Planning must be incremental  Building bases for the next phase  Details added as project advances Major changes require their own distinctive Total Management  Changing project phases is a major event and needs to be treated as such! Remember: The Main Challenge in Interface Management is Human Interactions
  16. 16. Interface Management Processes using the PMI framework Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Interface management must follow a lifecycle approach, with well defined processes Initiating / Identification Planning Execution Closing Monitoring & Control
  17. 17. Interface Initiation Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Objective: Interfaces are identified and interface management overall strategy is defined based on the characteristics of the project  Appointment of the Interface Manager & Interface Coordinators  Establishment of an official definition of interface in the project  Interface identification based on Project Basic documents (Bulk identification) • Project Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) • Contracts • Specifications • Interviews  Quantify interfaces & preliminary identify risks • Creation of the Interface Responsibility Matrix (IRM)  Draft Interface Management Plan  identification and coordination of static and dynamic interfaces
  18. 18. Interface Planning Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Objective: Refine interfaces information, allocate to corresponding parties and determine communication protocols • Refinement of the Interface Responsibility Matrix (as design is more advanced)  eliminate unnecessary interfaces / identify new ones • Allocation of interfaces into work packages • Incorporation of interfaces in the project schedule (first pass) • Integrate to schedule logic  future interface agreements • Finalization of the Interface Management Plan, including: • Define project interfaces & Interface lifecycle • Define Interface Management organization • Identify / define documents to capture interfaces in all ambits (e.g.: communications plan, RACI matrix, BLTs, etc.) • Define Conflict resolution process • Define Monitoring & control strategy (tools, frequency, details, etc) Warning!! ***Interface management plan should be part of contractual documents***
  19. 19. Interface Execution Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Objective: Formal transfer of the interface to the appropriate parties and drive them to closure • Creation of formal Interface Documents • Obtain full commitment from interfaced parties • Align interfaces with a specific project activities / integrate them to the schedule Example: Interrelation Supplier S1 & constr. Contractor 1 (project Execution phase)
  20. 20. Interface Execution (Cont.) Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd.
  21. 21. Interface Closure Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Objective: satisfy all requirements of the interface as indicated in the Interface document.  Information provided on time and in the format agreed  Interface document closed  interface ceases to exist  Subsequent activities continue
  22. 22. Interfaces Monitoring and Control Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Objective: Ensure a continuous visibility of the interface / enhance its timely resolution Monitoring starts as soon as an interface is identified • The monitoring and control strategy will depend on the size and complexity of the project • Interface register  Leading indicators (e.g.: look ahead) combined with lagging indicators (performance of the interfaces) Warning: In large projects, specialized software may be necessary to integrate and optimize interfaces. It is very difficult to rely on conventional tools (e.g.: MS Excel, Access, etc.): • Interfaces can be significant (e.g. a $10B project can easily have over 5,000 interfaces) • High potential for changes as project advances  scope reallocations, planning adjustments, start-up strategies, etc.
  23. 23. Interface Monitoring & Control Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Example of Interface Management Monitoring & Controlling Strategy in a large project Report Generation Project Schedule Dynamic IA Reporting (look-ahead) Overdue Overdue in Less than x days Overdue in > x days Closed IA generation Tool
  24. 24. Case Study: Oil Sands Mega Project Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Project: 120,000 bbld Production Facility Location: Northern Alberta • 3 Main EPC Contractors • 6 Fabrication and Construction Contractors • Engineering and Module Fabrication in multiple locations within in 3 continents Initial Estimate (end of FEL3): $4B (2008) Interim Estimate (30% Construction): ~$7B (2012) TIC: over $12B (2015) What Happened??
  25. 25. Case Study: Oil Sands Mega Project (Cont.) Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. The Promise: An Innovative & Efficient Interface Management System Interface Management Team was assembled during FEL-3 o Interface Manager o Interface Coordinators allocated to different project areas Module of Planning Software adapted to manage interfaces: o Friendly user interface for Interface Agreement creation o Easy integration of IAs with the schedule Interface management team identified all interfaces prior detailed engineering design phase o Interface Responsibility Matrix o Interface Coordinators estimated and created initial Interface Agreements Interface Management Plan created and approved the end of FEL-3
  26. 26. Case Study: Oil Sands Mega Project (Cont.) Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. The Reality: Interface Management strategy and plan not fully included in contract documents  IM process was rolled-out to contractors after contract award Insufficient contractual provisions for IM in sub-contractors and consultants (logistics, support, personnel) Contractors added change orders with additional fees associated to risks management Different attitudes / reactions towards IM (especially LS contactors) Weak Governance IM function managed by Engineering Consultant involved in the design with “oversight” support from client  Conflict of Interests Interfaces negotiated by client in silos  contracts awarded in different times Problems in enforcing IAs  Engineering Consultant managing Interfaces did not have any contractual leverage over other consultant or construction companies
  27. 27. Case Study: Oil Sands Mega Project (Cont.) Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. The Reality: Issues with the IM Management Tool The modified tool was a prototype Module is originally designed for Contract Management, not capable to manage with multiple interrelations Poor support from software provider / insufficient IT Scope definition Reports had to be manually generated by 1 super user (bottleneck) relying on Excel tools (Macros) Interface Coordinators (Project Engineers with no experience in facilitation/ courses delivery) became trainers for contractors designated personnel Neglected management of Dynamic Interfaces  Only Engineering and Construction interfaces were visible to the IM Team No jurisdiction of IM team over client internal processes Interfaces with external stakeholders poorly managed: Multiple issues with regulators and Government Key fabrication & transportation strategy had to be modified
  28. 28. Case Study: Oil Sands Mega Project (Cont.) Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. The Reality: Deficient project integration Different contract architectures  different performance and progress metrics IAs were never linked to the schedule Project has multiple schedules from each consultant / contractor Integrated schedule never produced Deficient Conflict Management Strategy High turnover in IM team due to conflicts with client and sub-contractors Conflict Management process was designed and implemented late in the project IM function removed from engineering consultant and transferred to competitor in the project Organizational Deficiencies IM seen with different levels of importance in the project  “Power struggles” Inadequate legitimization: IM seen as an “interference” in the Project
  29. 29. The devil is in the details Final Considerations – Key takeaways Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Early identification is critical for the success of an interface Traditional approaches based on project configuration are insufficient to identify and manage interfaces Identify and understand interdependences: Clearly define static interfaces & Manage Dynamic Interfaces Each interface needs to be managed by tangible mechanisms Interface management strategy needs to be adapted to the size and complexity of the project Large projects require specific interface Management Strategies Do not neglect a lifecycle approach to manage interfaces  Select a framework and adapt it to the characteristics of your project!! Implement a clear governance for interface Management across the project and the organization And always Remember: Interfaces
  30. 30. Thank You! Uncertainties ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd.
  31. 31. For more information about strategies to unlock value in your organization or projects, visit us at: ©Septentrion Strategic Solutions Ltd. Septentrion Management Capsules ® Ideas to unlock value and enhance competitiveness in your organization