At the beginning of year 2012, I went to Casablanca, to work for JACOBS Engineering. It was a question of planning a phosphate treatment plant aiming to filter and dry the phosphate pulp transported by the future pipeline of the mines of Khouribga with an aim of obtaining dry phosphate intended for export. It was part of a huge project in Morocco.
This project was of EPCM type (Engineering, Procurement, Construction, Management), it is the equivalent of a project of “control of work”. The contracts with the contractors had the characteristic to be mainly sign with a fixed price.
Of course, I applied WBS 3D method to structure the project with the prototype software “WBS Matrix” which I developed. We had only very little time to carry out this schedule, also, we had chosen not to detail the Zones enormously and moreover detail the Products and the Activities, in order to build the WBS and a first version of the coordination schedule of the project. We thus wished a rather macroscopic planning.
But, because they were contracts with a fixed price, therefore related to the results, i.e. with the Products: for a level of Zone given, we had detailed the Products more than the Activities, that seemed logical. Indeed, as a Project engineer, which counts more it is that the object of the contract (Products) is realized in time and hour. But the project engineer must nevertheless have a glance on the way in which the contractors work, i.e. on their Activities, from where importance to detail them, but in less of the Products, moreover that each contractor perform his way of working. The choice to detail more the Products was also related to the fact that it acted for the Project engineer of knowing which penalizes which, in the event of delay and of data input.
I understood well on this project the concept of “extended Products”. In other words, one manages (what, or Product Breakdown Structure) varies according to the phases of the project. For the design, one manages functional systems and subsystems, but there, as a project engineer, for the procurement phase one managed contracts, whereas in construction phase equipments are installed somewhere, therefore one managed Products in construction phase. These changes of significance of the objects managed on the Product axis obliged us to produce matrices of logical links between each phase, to define for example which contract (Procurement phase) provides which equipment in construction phase, in terms of schedule logical links, idem between the detailed design and the procurement phase.
On this kind of project, a factory, the Geographical zones useful in construction phase and integrated into planning must be accompanied by a diagram which defines each Zone clearly. It is simply a drawing accompanying the schedule; the goal is well to locate the works just by reading the schedule. It is the second lesson which I learned from this mission.
We spent relatively much time to fill the WBS matrix (Prototype software), perhaps two weeks. I usually filled the WBS matrix in two days with an expert. But on this project, we were to seek information to define the whole of the Zones, of the Products and Activities, i.e. to define the WBS, and it is what took time to us. But the day when we considered that WBS matrix was sufficiently ended, we generated schedule PRIMAVERA P6 of 1,200 tasks of the factory in the course of the day. My mission was then finished.
At the beginning of spring 2012, I carried out a planning mission on the project “BALARD”, for BOUYGUES Bâtiment in Paris. This new pentagon of the Ministry for Defense is currently the most emblematic project of building in France, only because it costs a few 3.5 billion euros!
At the beginning, I had 6 months to carry out about ten schedules of buildings. It was a question of being limited to 1,200 tasks approximately per building’s schedule, in order to remain reasonable and to have manageable schedules.
I worked with an expert of the discipline of the building and planning, and we applied 3D WBS method to generate the schedules. We used the prototype software VBA EXCEL “WBS Matrix” which I developed, and, finally, we succeeded in finalizing 10 schedules with PRIMAVERA P6 in only one month! The client was satisfied, since the mission lasted 5 months less than envisaged, but on the other hand my employer who invoiced me by days spent was not so happy, because he lost money, but I must say that he understood the technical performance. The most important, even for my employer, was that the client is satisfied.
On this mission, we also tried out the result of the prototype software “WBS matrix” concerning the identification of the interfaces; and, indeed, the expert with which I worked, recognized the interfaces of his projects! And it was completely natural, and reassuring even, taking into account to the fact that the schedules came from his head.
On my side, I filled the “WBS matrix” under his directives, by directing him with a training about the 3D WBS method. All that to say that this concept of identification of the interfaces works well, it is not only some theory and a magic notion!
At the end of the mission, we sit together on my PC during 1 hour, to fill the variations of a building compared to another within “WBS matrix”, and 15 minutes after, the schedule of 1,200 tasks was generated under PRIMAVERA P6! 3D WBS method makes it possible to generate schedules at an extraordinary speed, it is revolutionist indeed.
Of course, there remained still important finitions to finalize schedules completely, but these 20% remainders are a basic work which can take very a long time, sometimes even throughout the project…
Recently, I planned a project of a factory whose main problems was piping; we had to provide an estimate of the durations of the schedule’s tasks and to have a vision of the remaining workload over the three months to come.
What is characteristic in the 3D model, it is that even the figures have three dimensions!
Thus, we calculated the durations of the schedule’s tasks according to a metric on the 3 axes of the cubic project:
- For the Zones, one used the number of isometric per room;
- For the Products, one used the number of hours to carry out the two main Products of the project for each building, I mean the supports and the pipes;
- For the Activities, one used volumes of work in % calculated by the number of hours necessary to carry out the installation of a support or a pipe.
By multiplying these three quantities, we obtained the relative durations of each of 2,500 tasks of the schedule. It remained us just to multiply them by a coefficient calculated with the duration of the critical path of the project, and also with pipes installation’s rate, to obtain a correct estimation of the durations of the whole of the tasks of this project which had already lived. This weighting was used to adapt the initial budgetary estimate to reality.
To measure the physical progress of a group of tasks on the 3 axes (Zones, Products and Activities) or of the project, one has to weight the tasks of the schedule, by using the well-known technique “weighting of items”. On a schedule of 2,500 tasks with some 600 different resources, it is not realistic to proceed by allocating the elementary resources on the elementary tasks of the schedule. This is why the 3D project management method recommends an approach “Top-Down” for the weighting of the tasks of the schedule, rather as the traditional approach “Bottom-up”, which does not work in practice on big projects, so much there are data to manage.
And the weight of each schedule’s task has 3 dimensions also!
The Zones were calibrated by to the number of hours necessary to carry out each room, and for the Products and the Activities one applied the same principle as for the durations. One applied the “technical” weighting on this project, and the result was a number of hours per schedule's task.
Finally, one obtained with PRIMAVERA P6 a planning system allowing to consider periodically the workload to come in men.hours, and thus to obtain a vision of the workload versus resources - what met the need perfectly.
Former state of the art of planning
Previously, when a schedule had to be built, the planners started to open a software dedicated to the project planning such as MS PROJECT or PRIMAVERA P6 and defined and built the schedule directly within the software.
They structured by iterations their project according to a top-down approach by breaking up the project into simple elements and manageable (classical WBS) directly within the planning software.
The schedule of the project was built gradually to lead to the final result.
Technique of planning with the 3D WBS
The 3D WBS method proposes a different approach of planning.
It results the observation that information must be structured before being integrated within the planning software.
The development of the WBS of the project or its breakown structure is not obtained anymore by an top-down approach or a bottom-up approach but by a mix between the elementary structures which compose the project, I mean: Zones, Products and Activities. The structure of project (WBS), I mean the whole of the tasks of the project coded, is obtained using the “WBS matrix” (prototype software).
The project is entirely defined within matrix WBS, then the resulting database is exported into the planning software to generate the schedule, in other words to create it.
To create a schedule with the 3D WBS method is 10 times faster than a classical method.
The Project Manager is generally not the manager of the data of the project. On big projects, there are often a cost controller, a planner, an quality engineer, a risk manager, etc., who manage the data of the project. The tasks of project management are distributed to specialists. These managers give periodically the result of their analysis to their Direction, which can then make decisions. The project manager generally does not manage the data of the project, especially on a big project, he coordinates. Often, on a big project, the project manager is attached to a project Director.
In the reality of the big projects, it is often difficult to coordinate methodically and by the use of the computer technology all the disciplines which work together with an aim of managing the project as well as possible.
How many times as a planner I tried to link the costs and the times to apply the method of the Earned Value (EVM). The dates and physical progress come from the schedule but the expenditure and the budgets come from the cost controller, and costs must be spread out over the schedule’s tasks. The communication between the cost controller and the planner must be strong, and there must be common points between the costs and the planning in a computer point of view.
Often, there is also a person in charge of the risks. But the quantitative risks come directly from planning - they are even calculated by the planner and his tools, the risks which relate to the costs come from the cost controller, etc., the communication between these various actors must be strong, same thing for the structure of the information which must have common points.
For technical documentation it is the same thing. How to build a planning system without correlation with the Electronic Documentation management system? How the planner can make to calculate the physical progress of the design deliverables without strong connections with the cost controller and the person in charge of technical documentation?
Of course the contract manager must be in relation to the other actors of the project, in order to carry out claims for time delays or over costs for example. And so on…
Each actor needs information coming from other actors, and it is absolutely necessary there is an overall coherence, knowing that the management of the confidential data like the costs must be managed. All the disciplines are in interaction, and their common point is the WBS of the project (Work Breakdown Structure, or the structure of decomposition of work).
It is appropriate that the Project Manager has an information system powerful and effective, connecting all the disciplines of the Project Management in a coherent and systematic way, capitalizing also progressively. Moreover, the project must be managed methodically, as well as the planning, the technical documentation or the costs, etc.
The success of an “integrated project Management”, connecting all the disciplines together, is linked to the coding of information.
After about fifteen years of consulting on big projects, I understood well how the projects are structured and I translated it in a method which I called “3D WBS method” and by extension “3D Project Management” - this because all the disciplines of management are turning around the WBS.
3D WBS method is meta-method which can be applied to all the projects, I mean services projects, IT projects, or product development projects, infrastructure or industrial projects. The 3D Project Management is compatible with the existing methods such as the critical path, the PMI methods or PRINCE2. In the 3D WBS model, the project has the shape of a cube representing the work, on which the organization is assigned to it (colors of the little 3D cubes), and the time interacts. The more the project is large and complex, the more 3D Project Management brings value, but it can also be applyied to more modest projects.
The 3 dimensions of the WBS are the physico-functional Zones, the Products and the Activities. The organization forms the fourth dimension. The time is the fifth dimension.
I suggest to the Project Manager to set up a coding of information on all the disciplines intervening on the project: quality, contracts, planning, costs, risks, communication and documentation, resources, global project management and scope management. The codes of the various managed elements must imperatively have a code: Zone, Product, Activity and Organization. Thus, this makes it possible methodically to connect all the disciplines of the Project Management, which facilitates the exchange of the information.
Independently of human dimension, the Project Manager must be “well surrounded” in terms of methods and of tools, it is the vocation of the 3D Project Management or 3D WBS method.
The preferred alternative according to table is 3D model. This is because the WBS level of details and number of design activity phases are the top ranked attributes and the 3D model is the best of all over the two attributes. This will have a positive impact on reducing the possible change orders by refining the scope and eliminating any possible omissions or errors.
When I work on the concept that Jean-Yves develops long time ago, it was specially because I was “fed up” with the hierarchical approach that imply most of the WBS, and the fight about its standardization.
I study conception for management software engineering in my youth, and I always keep a fascination to the relation database model.
So my eager was to find a way to modelize something and respond to everybody in the company by turning it up in every senses in one instant.
So as I work mainly in my youth with Artemis, with the very structured codification environnement of oil and gaz (Mobil and then Exxon), I simply use without knowing it this 3D approach to do the trick.
Then I met Jean-Yves, that push the concept so far that new frontiers appears (in addition to the speed to develop a schedule).
In particular, what is very important for me is the following:
- 2 of The 3 type of codification (ABS & PBS) are fully able to be standardize in the company without fight (even if you should be careful with” PBS” that in fact is 2 codes and decompose it for the exercise in pure PBS and FBS to match the need of some of the phase of the ABS because you began to think functionnaly, then you go through the product, before finishing functionnaly)
- ZBS (Zones) is specific to each project and can support the instantiation of the product (but could follow some guideline in its definition in particular the unicity of each code - no overlap-)
- Different level of each of the structure could be mixed at different stage of the project and depending the use of your WBS to create the project WBS (you can have a detail difference in your WBS for procurement and manufacturing because you manufacture some items for example), and the approach is still coherent,
- When you create your mix with the OBS to obtain the share of work, you obtain as more difficult interface than the fundamental dimension of the WBS component are far in the concerned branch of the code (that lead to create an allocation of the package reducing those gaps to simplify the interface).
Thus I without knowing it implementing it till many years, but with the full modelization of Jean-Yves is able to succeed in standard codification in my company because I say no more froze hierarchical WBS, just ABS, PBS, SBS/FBS and rules to create your ZBS. Then NO PACKAGE WITH TOO GREAT GAP ON EACH OF THE DIMENSIONS (or with logical huge gap like company who you subcontract high level specification and functional test & commissioning).
WBS is dead, because 3D WBS allow you to keep it “relational” instead of hierarchical and this does the trick with a lot of things, specialy with those “fuc…” computerized financial management systems called ERP that most of the time impose to you a 20 digits codification (when not more) to link everything when a anonymous code will be greater if you use the 4 codes composing the 3D.
ALSTOM Renewable Power Hydro, Head of Planning & Load Management HEU Projects