What the Star Wars Movies Can Teach Us About Project Controls

In case you’re one of the two people who hadn’t heard, there’s a new Star Wars movie opening this Friday. In the US, pre-orders for tickets have broken the previous record (Hunger Games) eight times over. A thousand shows sold out within 12 hours of tickets becoming available.

The excitement got us thinking about some of the messages offered by the movies that have come before: hope, good vs. evil, destiny, friendship, and yes, even project controls. Below we offer just a few of the lessons the movies can teach us about effective project controls and improving project performance.

“Stay on Target” with Regular Forecasts

Completing a capital project within sight of your original budget and deadlines is a lot like hitting a 2-meter exhaust port with proton torpedoes while being chased by a dark lord of the Sith. It’s pretty hard. You probably aren’t going to pull it off unless you have help. And since most of us can’t just close our eyes and trust in the Force, we need the tools to provide regular, accurate forecasts.

For a lot of projects, the stakeholders don’t know if a project is going to go over budget until it’s already gone over budget, sometimes even months after the project is completed. With the right forecasting tools, you’ll be able to predict where your project is going and make the necessary changes to line things back up.

Eliminate Subjectivity from Progress Measurement

From watching this scene, it’s pretty clear that Moff Jerjerrod is fudging the numbers and the Emperor is calling his bluff. You would think, with a project as massive as the Death Star, that the project owners would leverage some software tools to measure and report on progress. “I assure you”, in contrast, seems like the wrong approach when you want to ease the mind of someone who can suffocate you with a thought. If you want to make a strong case, make sure you have solid data backing you up. With an accurate measure of current progress, it’s relatively easy to make predictions about future performance. “I assure you, because of this minimal schedule variance,” is an approach that would probably extend an Imperial officer’s lifespan.

Having the data there also brings in the question of how easy it is for Jerjerrod to agree to double the efforts of the project teams. How hard were they working before? Is the cause of the delays due to labor efficiency? Can overtime solve his needs? The whole thing just sounds suspicious.

Watch Out For Scope Creep

Because of the time required to complete a large scale capital project, there’s plenty of opportunity for someone to come up with “just a little change” to add on. And while it can be hard to say no, it’s important that everyone involved understand the risks inherent with increasing scope.

The trouble, of course, with agreeing to one scope change, is that it can leave you vulnerable to additional scope changes. Effective change management is necessary for measuring the impact and designating clear responsibility.

Keep an Eye on Your Cash Flow

In the real world, you can’t just blast everyone who comes around to collect payment. A successful project depends on maximum visibility into both the sources of funding and when that funding needs to go out. How accurate is the time phasing of your costs?

This scene also raises questions about contract negotiation. Unless you’re doing business with a Hutt crime lord, you should be able to establish guidelines regarding liability. An Imperial cruiser is the smuggling equivalent of a force of nature, the cost of doing business. Who’s responsible for that cost? Are the terms clear?

May the Force Be With You

The force of project controls, that is! If you can think of any project controls words of wisdom in the movies we might have missed, please share them below.

2015 EcoSys User Conference, Day 2 Recap

After resting up from an intense and content-packed first day of the User Conference, attendees (the highest number we’ve had so far, by the way!) were ready for more, and this time they had their choice of three separate session tracks: In addition to sessions on both the technical and solutions-oriented sides of EcoSys EPC, partners Accenture and Pinnacle Management Systems both offered presentations related to their expertise. Pinnacle spoke first about approaches to yield the greatest returns from investments in EcoSys EPC, including a wave-based approach that generates quick wins and internal support. Accenture then provided insights into the Energy sector and particularly, what activities should be pursued during down economic times that can position a company more strongly when the economy rebounds. EcoSys-presented sessions covered such topics as optimizing system performance, EcoSys EPC analytics, cloud-based solutions, and integration, just to name a few.

The conference culminated in a panel discussion that included members from American Electrical Power, Bechtel, Gulf Interstate Engineering, Haskell, San Francisco MTA, SunTrust, and Quanta Services. They discussed topics including techniques to promote user adoption, making the business case for a commercial project controls solution, unanticipated benefits of an EcoSys EPC implementation, and opportunities for leveraging the upcoming mobile apps.

User Conference Panel Answering Audience Questions

User Conference Panel Answering Audience Questions

EcoSys CEO Javier Sloninsky concluded the conference with thanks to everyone who attended. And while many attendees needed to return to work right after the show, we’re glad that some had the opportunity to enjoy the very hospitable environment at the Four Seasons and visit the numerous attractions in the greater Orlando area.

Officially, EcoSys will be sending out a survey to all attendees to get their impressions of the event. Unofficially, we’ve already received overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees, ranging from the quality of the accommodations and receptions to the detailed content of the presentations and extraordinary networking opportunities.

If you were there, please accept our warmest thanks for attending. If you weren’t, we hope this encourages you to attend next year.

2015 EcoSys User Conference, Day 1 Recap

Sunday night kicked off the 5th annual EcoSys User Conference at the Four Seasons Orlando. The early arrivals competed in an afternoon golf scramble. Congratulations to Sandra DeLaGarza (Columbia Pipeline Group), Darren Metherell (EcoSys), Jeff Wells (Atkins), and David Padgett (EcoSys). Then, guests gathered for a welcome cocktail & networking reception out on the King Meadow Lawn. The author of this blog post was particularly fond of the mini-grilled cheese bites.

Monday morning, after a breakfast hosted by Turner & Townsend, the EcoSys Leadership team brought the users up to speed on the state of things at EcoSys: 81% revenue growth in 2014, 100% revenue growth in the first half of 2015, and Inc. magazine’s acknowledgment of our position as one of the fastest growing companies in the USA. Since the last User Conference, EcoSys has expanded global presence and introduced new cloud and SaaS offerings, not to mention the addition of new enterprises adopting EcoSys EPC for project controls.

Of course, one of the most pressing topics everyone was hoping to hear more about was the announcement earlier this month of Intergraph’s intention to acquire EcoSys. CEO Javier Sloninsky, accompanied by Intergraph’s Executive Vice President of Business Development, Patrick Holcomb, ensured everyone present that EcoSys would remain as an autonomous, stand-alone operation, maintaining the same team, the same roadmap and long-term plans. At the same time, they said, the acquisition would allow EcoSys to leverage Intergraph’s substantial global operations and infrastructure.

Christen Bergerud, EcoSys COO, talked about cutting-edge engineering technology and how EcoSys keeps ahead of technology trends to support customer innovation. Neely Hemassi, Executive VP of Product Strategy, shared the newest features and improvements, including plans to develop integrations with Intergraph PPM’s 3D modeling solutions to support 5D BIM, while Noah Parker, CTO, along with Levi Browde, VP of Software Development, revealed a few hot items on the upcoming roadmap. Levi then offered a live demo of an upcoming mobile app on his phone.

"Finally, my son thinks I do something cool at work." EcoSys VP Levi Browde demos new mobile apps

“Finally, my son thinks I do something cool at work.” EcoSys VP Levi Browde demos new mobile apps

Following the introduction, EcoSys presented four guests from Bechtel, the largest engineering firm in the US, to share the details of their highly successful implementation of EcoSys EPC. They spoke highly of both the software and the EcoSys team members who worked with them throughout the process. Their overarching theme: staff and run an EPC implementation like a project, drawing on the experience and best practices that are fundamental for our customer’s core businesses.

In addition to delicious food and incredible hospitality from the Four Seasons staff, the rest of Day 1 offered multiple session tracks for attendees to follow. Track 1 included sessions from EcoSys clients discussing their various challenges, successes and lessons learned: Quanta Services, Air Products, American Electric Power, and Gulf Interstate Engineering all shared case studies. Alternately, users could attend sessions on getting the most out of EcoSys EPC, with perennial favorites like EVM and Forecasting, along with sessions on Contracts and Payments, Workforce Planning, and finally a discussion about EcoSys EPC’s current “out of the box” capabilities.

The evening concluded with a cocktail reception, sponsored by Accenture.

What else happened?  Read our recap of the second and final day of the conference.

Three Reasons I’m excited about the EcoSys User Conference

We’re just over two weeks away from the 5th annual EcoSys User Conference, and the excitement here and among our registered attendees is palpable. For the first time ever, we’ll be hosting the event at the Four Seasons in Orlando, Florida, and we’ll be featuring many of the top names in capital projects alongside our leadership team. People are traveling from all over the globe to learn how to better harness the power of EcoSys EPC to boost project performance, while expanding their social networks. Plus, since we’ll be right in the middle of Walt Disney World, we might even offer up a few Disney-themed project controls jokes while we’re at it!

There’s so much I could say here, so let me pick three things worth mentioning:

  1. See How We’re Taking Project Controls Software to a Whole New Level. If you’ve been considering EcoSys EPC as a project controls solution, we’ll show you why we think it’s the best choice on the market. If you’ve already invested in EcoSys EPC, we’ll remind you why you made the right choice. Neely Hemassi, Executive VP of Product Strategy, will point out the features that put our product years ahead of the competition, along with the features to come that will keep it that way. I can neither confirm nor deny the rumor of new mobile capabilities. Guess you’ll just have to be there!

  2. Don’t Just Take Our Word for It. Hear from our impressive list of guest speakers how EcoSys EPC made tremendous impacts in their project performance. Bechtel, Quanta Services, Haskell, American Electric Power, Gulf Interstate Engineering, and Air Products all have case studies laying out the positive change EcoSys EPC has made in their capital projects.

  3. You’re Going to Make Connections. This year we’re delivering Four Seasons-level hospitality, starting with the Sunday evening Welcome Reception on the King Meadow Lawn. You’ll find an ideal environment to network with other project controls professionals. Find out what kind of challenges other organizations face, and how they’re using EcoSys EPC to implement better processes and leverage their talent. Plus I heard there will be dessert.

I haven’t even mentioned the sessions on EVM, workforce planning, contract management, integration, and forecasting. We’ve worked with a long list of clients over the years, and we’re eager to show you all that we’ve learned about best practices for nearly every aspect of capital project controls.

If you’ve been thinking about attending, I hope you’ll end up being one of the many people over the years who have told us what a great experience it was. You’re dealing with multi-million dollar projects, and if even the smallest bit of incremental knowledge can boost your performance, then imagine how much you’ll get out of our upcoming User Conference.

If you’re there, I look forward to meeting you.

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