Frequently Asked Questions

Q1 – Timing for Application of PHC to a Project

The application of PHC™ consultancy, is it for the whole duration of the project, or for a set period during the project? Does PHC™ need to be an integral part of the project at the very beginning?

We think of PHC as “the doctor monitoring a patient”'. We have a variable number of 'probes' that we 'insert into the project' to monitor its progress and its health. Looking at PHC this way allows an understanding that while PHC is in place on a project we can see what is going on. The more probes (related to the number of PHC consultants), the more detail the Project Owner can see.

If PHC is in place on the project at the very beginning and maintained all the way through, it will have maximum effect. But as a 'Doctor', PHC is not integrated with the project and can be applied and removed at any time. The difference between having PHC on your project and not having it can be thought of as opening and closing the 'window' on your project. If PHC is applied in the later stages of a failing project, opening this window will prove very enlightening!

The decision on when and how long to apply PHC to a project is of course a cost/benefit consideration. We strive to maintain tangible proof throughout our involvement in your project that PHC is easily justifying its cost. We do this on a weekly basis in our reports.

To clarify, PHC can be introduced at any stage of the project and used to full effect. When applied at the beginning the chance of things going wrong in the first place is minimised.
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Q2 – Application of PHC service
What kind of problems does PHC™ handle?

The range of problems that PHC can handle is as wide as the range of possible problems on your project. Any problem that arises on a project has to be addressed. PHC provides a place to put information on a problem and track it to completion. PHC is concerned with identification of problems and in the majority of cases simply defining the problem will make the solution obvious. This is what we are good at and what PHC is designed to do. Referring to the two Concern Sheets in our presentation pre-read email, this is an example of some typical concerns. Through our tested methodologies all problems are reduced to a single sheet description (mayfly). We find, in our continual analysis of problems, that the process of definition becomes dynamic, with Concerns being merged with others, split as necessary to arrive at a simplified treatment of all problems.

Part of the PHC processes resolve problems into 'category' maps and associate them to keywords. Creating and monitoring these 'keyword assignments' and maintaining the category map is our skill.

So, literally PHC handles any problem and all problems, from a lack of equipment in a specific office, to project jeopardy due to political unrest.

Concern CategoriesThe example Concerns Category map shows one possible category analysis. This will be different from Project to Project and from Company to Company. Its development and maintenance is an essential activity in PHC.

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Q3 – PHC as a Portfolio Management System
How does PHC™ differ from standard portfolio management systems?

PHC applies to 'Projects' but our perception of what a 'Project' is, can be very loose. For instance, if the Client has a portfolio of 100 projects, PHC would look at each project as a separate deliverable. Of course PHC probes can be added applied to specific problematic areas of projects as separate entities.

LocationssIt is hard to be specific in answering this question without appearing cryptic, but considering a map of Locations in a typical project we can see that for a Design Project (ENI's Wafa Desert Refinery in Libya) the Site Locations are 'geographical regions'.

A PHC Implementation on a 'portfolio of projects' would declare the individual projects as Locations within the Portfolio. This would be quite easy to see if we were to Make a Locations map from the list of projects in your portfolio. If you would like to send us that list, we would be glad to construct the Locations map to show you definitively.
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Q4 – PHC as a Risk Management System
Does a Concern in PHC™ take into account 'Risks' or 'potential concerns'?

One of our first activities in a PHC implementation is to 'absorb' the Risk Register. This forms a link between your risk management system and PHC. We flag Project Concerns as Risks by storing the Risk's reference number.

If your Risk Register is a simple spreadsheet then we find very soon that the PHC system 'becomes' the Risk Register and more importantly, the definitive source of project data.

If your Risk Register is maintained by a formal risk management package like Pertmaster (as an add on to Primavera), then we arrange to pass information between the systems. Of course we monitor all data that passes through the PHC systems and check for errors, inconsistencies and potential problems.

Information passed to the PHC system is given a value based on Severity and Likelihood. Very simply, we identify the risk, give it a value and strive to mitigate it with actions. We track the Actions to completion then mitigations reduce the value of the risk.

We are very serious about the identification and handling of project risk, as this is an integral factor in maintaining Project Health.
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Q5 – Cost of PHC Software Licensing
What does it cost for per licence for access to the PHC™ software?

We have considered charging for licences but made a policy decision that we are a services company that provides support on a continual basis . Access to our systems is by progressive deployment to the staff as a facility that allows us to do our work.

As project staff are granted access (by user/password login) we build up the information flow into PHC systems and carry on with the work. We remove confusion/restriction/resistance by staff, by making access to our systems as easy as possible.

No licences charges, just the simplicity of time billing within a revisable cost ceiling.
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Q6 – Client Personnel as PHC Champions
How does PHC™ work with our Project Office? Can we assign our staff to PHC™ 'duties' and have them work alongside your consultants in a 'trainee' role?

On commencement of PHC on a project, 2 senior PHC consultants will be working intensively on initial set up with some administrative and technical support from our UK base. Set up will take from 2 to 4 weeks., during which time we will be reporting to one of your staff member assigned to the PHC activities.

As we move out of the set up period we will know enough about the project to estimate likely future PHC manpower requirements. Changes in PHC manpower is likely to be gradual but will depend in general on the geographical spread of the project.

As PHC is applied you will see the PHC function as similar to the auditing function and we will be working closely with your Audit team who will use the PHC data as an aid to Action Tracking on their audits.

Our intention is to provide minimal OE presence on your project with Client staff filling in any gaps as necessary. The proportion of Client staff involved with PHC will depend largely on the commitment of our Client to embrace PHC as a corporate methodology. In practice, we envisage peaks and troughs in the OE presence on each project with support from our head office base.
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Q7 – Populating the PHC Systems with Data
Do we have to 'key in' all of the deliverables data?

Absolutely not. The workings of the Project Health Control system are transparent to the Project's staff and are only noticed when discussing outputs from the PHC system. PHC is seen by the staff as a way to report obstacles to deliverables progress as well as pass information about changes in status of deliverables.

On initial set up we identify sources from which to extract data on deliverables and we import data into PHC in bulk. An example. Of data sources for 'documents' would be the Master Document Register, Primavera documents list, 'work to' lists' for individual departments, the Contract, references to documents in minutes of meetings.

All of these sources should correspond, but they rarely do. In practice some documents listed in the MDR will not appear within Primavera data and some documents referenced in Primavera will not be in the MDR or in some of the 'work to' lists. Often documents are removed from the register or new ones added as a result of discussion at meetings but this information is missed by the planning team or individual departments. PHC traps these occurrences and ensures consistency throughout the project during the whole of its lifetime.

During management meetings and technical meetings, information on status changes are captured in 'comments' by the PHC consultant. Also comments are gathered from all project staff and it is PHC consultants together with Client staff assigned to the PHC function that enter the data into the PHC system.
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Q8 – PHC Compared with Project Management Systems
Does Project Health Control perform the same functions as packages already bought and implemented on our Project?

PHC is a service that runs in parallel to your existing systems and staff. The software that you see through screenshots in our product literature is simply the tool that allows the PHC consultants to execute the service. PHC is not comparable to Microsoft Project, Primavera, TakeOver XP or any other "software packages" or “systems of management” currently in use. Instead PHC is a consultancy service that is paid for through time billing. The project staffs the PHC function in much the same way that it staffs its HSE or Admin department.
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Q9 – Training Requirements for PHC
Is PHC yet another system for staff to learn, with associated training costs and Project time lost during the implementation process.?

PHC is rolled out to project staff gradually with practically no training involved at all. Your staff work on the Project's own control and administration systems. Their interface to PHC is limited to login and simple navigation through items assigned to them. Information is gathered through a system of simple 'comment' submissions, either during individual access to the system or at technical and management meetings. We do all analysis and meeting facilitation work leaving your staff to work on the project, not on PHC.
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Q10 – Optimum Project Size for PHC Implementation
Is PHC is aimed at large Projects? As ours is relatively small, we feel it may not be suitable for the imposition of a particular methodology like PHC.

As PHC is a service where time is expended on the project, the cost will tend to rise in loose proportion to the size of the project. We say a practical minimum Project value for effective deployment of PHC is £10M, but it can be used on Projects even smaller than this at our discretion. The overhead of initial set-up and implementation is at our risk as the beneficial effects of PHC on your project become apparent very quickly (within two weeks).
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Q11 – Best Time to Introduce PHC to a Project
Should PHC be introduced to a Project right at the beginning? As our Project is already under way and has all its control systems in place and working, is it too late to apply PHC?

PHC does not need to be in place at the beginning of a Project. Certainly, it is better for theProject if it is deployed early, but it can be applied as a quick fix for wayward Projects at any time during the Project's life. The more of a 'foothold' PHC has early into your project, the more money it will save and the quicker the project's finish.
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Q12 – Projects Run as Lump Sum Contracts
Our projects tend to be run as lump sum turnkey contracts. This presents various difficulties including a tendency for restriction in the flow of reliable, accurate, good quality data. Does this affect the effectiveness of the PHC service?

We maintain that the overall purpose and ultimate aim of a project is to deliver a defined set of Deliverables. The PHC systems work around a database structure that defines (and continually refines) the project's deliverables and their status.

During set-up we use standard project information (plot plans, contracts, scope descriptions, work-to lists etc) to establish the database structure that identifies project deliverables and gives us a place to record status. At the beginning of the project the status for each deliverables is 'not started' and throughout the project, the status of each deliverable changes as it progresses towards 'achieved' state.

In a Lump Sum contract environment it is the contractor's responsibility to achieve the contract's deliverables, and so the contract becomes a 'closed box' for delivery at the contracted time. Any 'interference' from the project owner in the execution of the contract can result in claims based on deviation from contract terms. This is frustrating for the project owner who has no option but to watch the management (or mis-management) of the contract, along with periodic notifications of slippage on delivery.

There is however, a tool that the project owner can use to influence the course of the contract. The posing of 'clarifying questions' that the contractor is obliged to answer under the contract's requirement for 'reasonable update on status of the contract's deliverables'.

The PHC systems are designed with the capturing of 'reasonable status updates' at its core. The deliverables lists that the Project Owner maintains in the PHC systems act as a check list of deliverables and their status. This is of course perpetually out of date and represents the dissonance between recorded and actual status that gives the project owner a continual bank of information against which to request 'reasonable updates' from the contractor.

As obstacles to deliverables progress become apparent during status updates, the cause is captured and solution developed using the PHC Concerns Management facility. Concerns can arise from any project activity and the existence of each Concern provides a means to ask the Contractor a 'clarifying question' which of course must be answered!

Often, the inescapable solution to a Concern is for the contractor to co-operate and engage fully with PHC facilities provided by the project owner. This allows a more direct window into the contractor's activity, and allows other Concerns such as management training and staff personal development issues. To be raised in a natural way and in a spirit of mutual interest in the project's successful completion.
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Q13 – Projects Run in Accelerated Mode
Projects in Middle East tend to be run in a way that follows a direct line to 'early as possible' production. In other words, the project rushes to the field before detail engineering is fully complete. This leads to confusion and the potential for massive expansion of project costs in terms of the need for re-work and inevitable consequent manpower standby, How can PHC provide effective 'solutions' against a background of incomplete or inaccurate project data?

One of the principles of PHC is to establish a fundamental understanding in each and every project staff that the phrase (or mantra) 'What is where, how is it and how do we know?' is the key to getting the project complete on time.

The 'what' and the 'where' in this phrase refers to 'deliverables' and 'locations'. The PHC consultants work inthe background to establish continually the definition of deliverables lists and recognise that each deliverable as an individual item. We do this by comparing and contrasting different sources of deliverables information in the project documentation.

The 'how is it' and 'how do we know' refers to 'status' and 'certification'. The PHC consultants are aware of status from daily reporting and the 'certification' catches up with the reported status as the paper trail completes.

The fact that estimates are incomplete, and quantities unknown at the time of initial construction, as far as PHC is concerned, simply means a greater flow of Concerns and a bigger project iceberg (the Project Iceberg principle is explained in our brochure, on the website and during the initial presentation). PHC systems work to reduce the confusion and organise the Concerns into good order for effective resolution.

We have experience of an 'accelerated mode' project - the WAFA Desert refinery and gathering facilities part of the West Libyan Gas Project – Agip Gas. PHC was used on installation and commissioning of the Integrated Automation Systems (Scada, ESD, F&G, DCS). First Gas was achieved as a result of enabling / commissioning just those parts of the plant required for product flow. Secondary trains and ancillary equipment was installed, tested and commissioned while the plant was producing.
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Q14 – Capability of Subcontractor Staff
Varying levels in Subcontractor capability leads to management and performance quality issues that increase costs and tend the project towards delay. How would this impact the effectiveness of PHC on a project?

PHC is a 'people oriented philosophy'. It is the People in a project that makes the project work or fail. Most project Concerns arise through lack of communication. PHC systems contain within them the means to 'force' good communications in the project.

The outputs of PHC are available for all project staff to see and encourage the staff to maintain an understanding of their workload in the context of the whole project. Knowing his own scope (in terms of the ownership of deliverables and concerns) and having a way to report on difficulties is key to the way PHC works on the project.

Each staff is provided a login facility for the PHC systems, which he uses every day. The system shows him what is 'on his plate' and gives him a chance to comment on the changing status of those items assigned to him. These comments stream into the PHC system and flow past PHC administrative staff who update the system with trivial changes and pass more involved comments to PHC consultants.

This screened information made available to the PHC consultant is valuable in determining how to adjust existing Concerns or create new Concerns. Concerns are organised into categories and presented for management discussion. One significant category is always the 'people' category. Staff training being a significant subcategory.

PHC therefore addresses the 'capability' problem in two ways. First to force good communications. Second, to identify requirements for training, workshops, and other communications (project bulletins, 'lessons learned' memos, etc.) for all project staff.
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