This is particularly true when the scope involves a large-scale, multi-contract, multi-phased complex project. Most projects, whether public or private, domestic or international, experience schedule slippage and cost overruns. The application of a formalized Configuration Management Methodology during the planning, design, construction, maintenance, and operations phases of complex projects can mitigate schedule slippage, cost overruns, claims and litigation. The decision to apply Configuration Management Planning (CMP) to a construction project can make the difference between a successful project verses a failure; turning a profit verses taking a loss; and a satisfied client verses a disgruntled one.
The optimal adaptation of Configuration Management entails the integration of a specialized software solution. Using a software driven process guarantees repeatability, enforcement of standards, and provides customized business rules governing the steps required to track, manage, and approve (or deny) change.
In this context, change refers to any measurable deviation from the project baselines and scope mutually agreed upon by the contractor and client. The larger and more complex the project, the greater the likelihood and impact of change. Change, in turn, is the primary reason for schedule slippage, cost overruns, and claims.
To the untrained eye, budget overruns and schedule slippage occurring during a project often come as a surprise to the unsuspecting project manager and client. CM practitioners, however, are quick to point out that these events are not unforeseeable at all. Non- practitioners of CM simply lack the proper tools to recognize and manage seemingly trivial scope changes before they become unmanageable and impact a project’s schedule and budget. And it is not the changes that non- practitioners of CM see so much as the affects they have on a project. These individuals spend a great deal of time analyzing a project’s history to unearth the cause of a schedule slippage or budget overrun. To the non-practitioner, seemingly trivial changes often go unnoticed, or even worse, are ignored because of their presumably inconsequential nature.
Unfortunately, these types of changes are given their due recognition only after having grown large enough to negatively impact the project schedule, budget, and client relations. By the time an unsanctioned change is recognized and dealt with, a project manager is often forced to enter a reactive mode and perform damage control.
If a formal CM system were in-place, the causal chain of events permitting the non- sanctioned change to grow and overwhelm a project would have been documented, reviewed, and curtailed before ever causing a problem. So, it comes as no surprise that projects performed without a formal CM strategy are often the victims of change.
Establishing, maintaining, and updating the baseline status for a project is a fundamental CM precept. Baseline management involves the capture and archive of the exact status of a project from inception and throughout the project’s lifecycle. The baselines are established by referring to the project’s contract and identifying the Scope, Budget, Schedule, and Deliverables. The Document management process plays a key role in managing a project’s baseline states. Every version of every document is archived, and the relationship between documents is captured.
This level of detail permits the re-visitation of any phase of a project’s history for change validation, auditing, and lessons learned purposes. Effective baseline management provides the project team and client with a virtual paper trail of all documents and written communications from project conception through close-out. This comprehensive archive enables the project team and client to review all supporting documentation and communications that existed at a particular time. Each project baseline is a virtual snapshot in time of every step of a project’s history.
The Cost Management Process consists of establishing the project baseline budgets for the project deliverables, resource allocation and overall cost control. This critical process of tracking the spending and ensuring accurate expenditures do not exceed the cost baseline. The work breakdown structure (WBS) establishes the work elements which are related both to particular deliverables/activities and the cost account.
This facilitates tracking, monitoring, reporting and trend analysis. Changes to the baseline budget are tracked by linking the Change Management and Document Management processes that originated the change and provides an audit trail for revisiting. The business rules and parameters are defined during the Cost Management Process in order to define the management reports to be used for controlling the project’s performance.
Change management is the process of approving (or denying) changes impacting project scope, schedule, and budget. Change management formalizes the processes for issuance of approved or denied Change Orders, documenting the Record of Negotiations and Decisions, and initiating the Claims litigation when a notice of intent has been filed. As a general rule, once a determination of merit is made, scope changes should be defined, estimated, negotiated, and settled in an expeditious manner.
In the context of this methodology the CMP documents the rules governing change management, while document management and baseline management provide the detailed project history substantiating and defining the impact of the change management process.
Under the principles of CM, all documents generated within a project are closely managed, tracked, and archived. This process includes tracking and archiving all document changes, versions, and approval communications. This level of detail is necessary to avoid the inclusion of ad-hoc document changes without following a formal document approval process. Managed documents include schedules, diagrams, drawings, plans, specifications, training material, manuals, requests for information, change requests, and all written daily project correspondences, including pertinent emails.