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New Video - Contract Management for Field Engineers

  • By: pcadmin on 09 May 2016

Procept Associates senior consultant Morley Selver provides an overview of contract management for field personnel on construction/engineering projects in this one-hour webinar. This webinar is an overview of the concepts, taken from Procept's 2-day course of the same title, available in classroom and self-paced online format.

The Amazing World of E-mails

  • By: pcadmin on 06 May 2016

by Morley Selver, P.Eng., IPMA-B

Isn’t technology wonderful? I have a friend who works in Papua New Guinea and through the wonders of e-mail we have instant communication. I just type out a few words and hit send and within seconds he receives my musings. That is truly amazing. However, as you are well aware, there is a good side and a bad side to everything and e-mail is no different. We have all had times when 2 seconds after hitting the send button we have second thoughts about what we have sent and at the speed of light there is no getting it back. If not handled properly, a miss-sent e-mail could cause you untold grief or even ruin your career.

For Your Eyes Only

Have you ever typed an e-mail with information for the eyes of the recipient only, then find out that they have forwarded it on to someone else without editing the e-mail first! This could be embarrassing. If you are going to forward an e-mail with a thread, read the complete thread and edit if necessary. A lot of trouble can be caused if the wrong information or privileged information is sent to the wrong person.

People say things in e-mails that they regret later when the words fall into the wrong inbox, like their bosses. Be very careful what you say about people or clients, etc. You have to be very careful not to put something in an e-mail that could have negative consequences for you. You can not depend on the recipient not to forward your e-mail unedited.

Be Careful Out There

If the subject matter is of a sensitive nature or private, then phone or do a personal visit. Keep in mind, in the case of legal problems, the project e-mails can be subpoenaed by the courts and what you have written could come back to haunt you.

Before you fill in the “TO” field of your e-mail read and re-read it to make sure it is the way you want it. Only after you are happy with the way it is written and any attachments added should you fill in the “TO” field. It has happened that e-mails have been accidentally sent before the body of the e-mail was finished.

If you have to write an e-mail of a contentious nature, it may be better to sit on it for a day before sending it. Write the draft, don’t fill in the “TO” field and then let it sit. Look at the next day and see if it still applies.

Who Sent This E-Mail?

Look at some of the e-mails you get! They have no contact information on them at all. If you need to phone the person you have to go out of your way to get the number. Don’t be that way. Always use a signature with contact information, phone number and extension, cell phone number if you have one, fax number, and business address. It’s not like you have to type this every time. You should have a business signature for external e-mails and a personal one for internal e-mails. Any business e-mail should have the business signature and not your personnel signature.

Always read and reread the “TO” to make sure you are sending the e-mail to the right person. It is not uncommon to have several people with the same name in your contact list. I have two, one internal and one external to the company. The only difference is their middle initial. With e-mail programs there is the chance it will automatically insert the wrong person into the “TO” field. Force yourself to read the complete name to ensure accuracy. Think about the information in the e-mail, have you included everyone in the “TO”. It’s okay to use the “CC” to include people who should know about what you are discussing in the e-mail, however, be very careful how you handle “BCC”. In business, do not hide who you have sent the e-mail to. Doing so will come back to bite you. If found out, it’s only a matter of time, people will question your character and you will not come out of this situation looking good.

The Ball Is Not In Their Court!

One issue you will come across is someone looking for information, sending an e-mail requesting the information, then sitting back and waiting for the e-mail to get answered. You know what it’s like with your own e-mail. You may get numerous e-mails every day, so you go through and pick out the ones that you think are important, answer them and maybe get around to the others. So, just because you have sent an e-mail does not mean the ball is in the other persons court. If your e-mail is important and you are looking for an answer, then phone the recipient and tell him to look for your e-mail as it is important to you and your project. It’s your responsibility to chase it down.

This Is Confusing!

A long time ago, when I started out in my project management career, e-mail had not been invented and faxes were the main method of instant communication. Each fax would have a company logo or letterhead on it and they were easily recognized and remembered. Today, when you print out an e-mail, they all look the same. Print out several that you have and see how ‘confusing’ they appear. The subject does not jump out at you. You have to search the document for the e-mail subject. If left on the computer, finding the e-mail subject is relatively easy and you can search to find what you are looking for. Some people print out e-mails for follow-up or for a hardcopy record. Finding the subject on the printed e-mail can be a real pain to do, so in order to save time and effort, when you print out an e-mail, write across the bottom what the subject is. This way you just scan the bottom and there is the information you need. This also applies to other documents as well, not just e-mails. By writing the subject on them it saves you time scanning for information hidden in the clutter.

I’m Really Old

I’m old school and prefer to have face to face conversations with people rather than send e-mails. I like to get the body language from the conversation. It’s also more personal and harder for others to ignore you. For distant communications I prefer to phone. As a project manager it is important for you to go out and talk to the designers, draftsmen, tradesmen, etc. working on your projects. It is important to them that you show an interest in them. This will do more to motivate your team than any e-mail you send out.

These are just a few e-mail tips to help you communicate in a more professional manner.

Q1 2016 PMI Certifications Update

  • By: pcadmin on 27 Apr 2016

The Project Management Institute (PMI) just released the latest figures on the number of holders of each of its certifications as of March 31, 2016. The figures show solid growth in most certifications:

Total Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential holders:


Total Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® certification holders:


Total Program Management Professional (PgMP)® credential holders:


Total PMI Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP)® credential holders:


Total PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)® credential holders:


Total PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® certification holders:


Total PMI Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)® credential holders:


Total PMI Active Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)®:


New Online Course: Operators as Part of the Project Team

  • By: pcadmin on 15 Apr 2016

Your Operators are the life blood of your project. For a project manager caught up in the frenzied bustle of his or her work, this can be an easy fact to overlook. However, the Operator has tremendous influence over project success. The PM who has a deep understanding of the role is in an excellent position to create an effective ally.

In order to protect the Owner's investment, Operators must provide input into the design, construction, startup and operation of a project. Engineers, vendors and contractors all rely on Operator feedback and so the PM needs to take steps to reliably document and record Operator input.

In this short, e-learning course, participants learn about the role of the operator and how to effectively incorporate them into the project team without leading to disruption.

New Online Course: Introduction to Agile Requirements Using User Stories

  • By: pcadmin on 15 Apr 2016

Agile teams use Use Cases and User Stories to define requirements, but what other… Wait a minute... What’s a User Story?

Not everyone has heard of them but even those who have may benefit from complimentary tools that highlight patterns in the roles of stakeholders, putting a face on the users with personas.

This 1-hour e-learning course will provide an introduction to user stories, highlight what is a terribly-written user story, and how to fix it. Don’t do a perfect job of building the wrong thing; use these agile tools to ensure that you build the right thing.

New Online Course: Fundamentals of Capital Project Cost Control

  • By: pcadmin on 15 Apr 2016

Project budgets can vary from $5,000 to whatever size a company can handle. The problem companies have with capital projects is how to allocate the scarce resource (money) to the maximum benefit of the company. Some factors that go into choosing which projects get done include what the competition is doing, the company’s long-range plans, return on investment (ROI), and risk. ROI is critical to making a decision, as a company is only going to undertake a project if it can make a return on its money by doing it. Think of all the projects you know about that were over budget. What affect did that have on the ROI and did it add value, or cost the company money?

As you know, it is very important to keep a project on track and within budget. It is imperative that costs be controlled during all phases of a project, and you can only control costs if you know what goes into making up the total project budget. You have to set up a project so that costs can be easily identified and controlled.

Project cost control is a lot of work and requires a team effort. In theory, project cost control sounds easy but it is a lot more difficult to put into practice, especially if basic financial information is not correct.

Sign up for this course today and learn the fundamentals of capital cost control for your project.

New Video - Strategic Career Planning for PMs: Position Yourself to be Tomorrow's Leader

  • By: pcadmin on 13 Apr 2016

Recent changes to PMI's standards and certification paths mirror changes business leaders want to see in their project managers. These changes are not random, however, they fit along an evolutionary roadmap. Supported by compelling research, this presentation will show you the emerging pattern and projects it forward to show you what skills project managers will need to get ahead of the crowd and position themselves to be the the leaders of tomorrow.

This new video is presented by Procept senior consultant Kevin Aguanno during the first ProjectTalks event in Toronto, April 5, 2016.

New Online Course: Entrepreneurial Thinking and Customer Management

  • By: pcadmin on 13 Apr 2016

Entrepreneurs naturally tend to gravitate to product development and in the process can overlook the benefits and minimize the challenges of consistent and comprehensive customer management. This new self-paced e-learning course looks to apply to the discipline of customer management the same elements of entrepreneurial thinking that are commonly applied to product innovation.

This unique course examines the benefits of comprehensive customer management through the use of five case studies involving ancient Roman entrepreneurs. Four of the five entrepreneurs achieved great success by focusing their talents for innovation on the customer more so than their products. Each case study presented will analyze the ancient businessperson’s approach to dealing with their customers and insights gained will be extrapolated to the modern business world. At the conclusion of every module, participants will be tasked with applying the lessons learned to a modern market situation.

Customer management demands much more than a tweet, an apologetic email, text, or a posted press release on the home page of a supplier’s website – good customer management requires the ongoing application of entrepreneurial thinking. Study this course to learn ancient techniques that can be applied to today's business world.

New Online Course Launched: Contract Management for Field Personnel

  • By: pcadmin on 13 Apr 2016

Each project is different in the way field contracts are managed. Sometimes there is a dedicated contract administrator, other times it is a field engineer who has to manage the contract and still others it is the construction manager or the project manager. On a daily basis they have to make decisions to act or not to act. These decisions could materially affect the Contractor, the Owner, and others.

In the end, no matter who is managing the contract, the same contract management activities apply and the field personnel require knowledge of these activities. Knowing these activities will go a long way in minimizing claims during the contract management process as well as lessening problems in the field.

This new 12-hour self-paced e-learning course looks at 16 different activities associated with managing a field contract. Each of the 16 activities is important to the whole effort of managing the contract. If you leave out one, the whole contract management effort falls apart.

Hidden Contracts

  • By: pcadmin on 10 Apr 2016

by Morley Selver, P.Eng., IPMA-B

They Want How Much?

We were in the process of buying the electrical equipment for a new plant when the electrical engineer came in with the bad news. They had been told by the electric utility the project would have to buy the transformer from the utility company. We could understand hooking up the transformer, but to actually have to buy the transformer was crazy, which we told him in no uncertain terms! The transformer we needed cost $750,000 from our preferred supplier, while the utility wanted $1,250,000 for basically the same thing. They put a few bells and whistles on it but the cheaper version would work just as well. Was there any way around this? Apparently not. It was the law in this jurisdiction. So just like we were, $500,000 over budget. Unfortunately this scenario is all too familiar and is just one example of what I call “hidden contracts”. These are contracts your company has with outside suppliers / agencies / government bodies that you are not usually aware of until the bill comes in.

Utilities are just one of those hidden contracts. Whenever you are tying in to a government service, such as water, there are strict standards that have to be followed as well as a cost associated with them. You always have to check and see who has to do the actual work, your contractor or the city employees. If the city has to do it, you now have schedule and coordination issues. There are specifications you will need to follow and they will be different than the industrial ones you are using. In some cases your engineers may not understand what they are. The utilities you are typically associated with are power, potable water, sewer, natural gas, and fire water. Always be prepared to question any utility hook ups you require as the cost and schedule can have an important affect on your project.

18 Months? Are You Kidding Me?

Another hidden contract is permits. It seems that no matter how hard you try there are more permits than you have allowed for. There is nothing you can do about the costs, your project has to cover them. There always seems to be confusion as to what is required as the different stakeholders have their own interpretations of the regulation. As with most government regulations they are written in an ambiguous manner and are open to interpretation.

We were looking at adding a fire pump out on a dock in the ocean and we required 12 permits. One of them was an environmental permit and the schedule was 18 months to get it. One other permit prohibited the dumping of fresh water into the ocean! What did they think happened to all the fresh water from the rivers flowing into the ocean? There are times when the permitting process is just not worth the cost nor the aggravation. In this case the fire pump project did not proceed.

I’ve Been Working On The Railroad

Sometimes the requirements do not come from a government organization but a private company. If you have to work with the railways you will have to follow their requirements and seek their permission in order to work on or near their tracks /right of way. Even if your company owns the track in your plant, if you need the railway to bring their locomotives on your site, the tracks have to be up to their standards. Their requirements are going to be a lot stricter than what you are used to.

You Need A Permit For That?

As you are probably aware, permits are not standard across jurisdictions. Every province, state, country have their own permits and it is up to you to find out what is required. This means you will have to depend on local personnel to help in identifying what permits are required. In California we had to bring in the building inspector to count the screws in the drywall before we could tape and mud the joints. I had never heard of it before and if my on site structural inspector had not been aware of it we would have had to do a lot of rework.

Here are some permits that I have had to get at one time or another. Some of these you are familiar with and others probably not. Your project has to have funds to cover the cost of all the permits so you need a handle on what permits are required. You have to know what permits are needed before you can start construction work and what permits need to be signed off or obtained to startup equipment or occupy a building.

  • Building permits; no problem with these. You pay your money up front based on what you know at the time and adjust it later when you know the true cost.
  • Environmental permits; there are all kinds and schedule is usually the bigger concern than cost. Permits that can get expensive are ones that need environmental modeling or hearings.
  • Electrical permits; there are the usual electrical inspections required as the work progresses, however in some places there are additional requirements. One client requires UL / CSA stamps on anything brought into the plant. This can sometimes require on site UL certification. In Washington state they require a Gold Seal on any building brought into the state. This is a seal certifying that anything hidden in the walls is code compliant. This requires a Washington state inspector to travel to the manufacturers plant to inspect the building before the walls are sealed up.
  • Transportation permits; in most cases the transportation company will get any transportation permits to ship a load to you. There is the odd time when you may have to get a permit to cross a highway but these are out of the norm.
  • Police & fire departments; in California we actually had to pay a permit fee to get police and fire protection. This was a first for me and I have not come across it since.
  • Radio licenses for 2-way radios; most plant sites use 2 way radios for communication. Your plant actually pays a fee for the radio channels. This is okay as long as you are on your plant site. If you have to set up another location where you need different channels you may have to pay a fee to get another frequency.
  • Boilers branch approvals; typically with pressure piping and pressure vessels, approval from the Boilers Branch is required. This involves sending drawings for approval and could include a meeting and of course a fee.
  • Department Of Labour approvals; in some provinces you are required to obtain approval of your structural drawings from the department of labour. This involves sending drawings, having a meeting and a fee.
  • Fire marshal; for buildings, plans need to be sent to the fire marshall for approval along with the fee. This could be more of a schedule issue than cost. I installed a thermal oil heating system in a plant and had to get fire marshall approval. Just by chance, I got the fire marshall who had previously approved a thermal oil system at another plant, and the plant burnt down due to the thermal oil. Needless to say, he was not happy when we showed up with our plans. We had to hire a consultant to work with him to get it approved. It took about six months to get his approval.

There may be other permits that I haven’t mentioned, but the point I’m trying to make is ask questions to find out exactly what permits are required as each jurisdiction has their own permit requirements.

I Didn’t Know That!

A third hidden contract you have to be aware of is demurrage. Whenever something is shipped to you, no matter how it comes, you are basically renting a piece of equipment. As part of the rental agreement, you have a certain amount of ‘free time’ to unload the item(s) from the equipment. After this ‘free time’, you will be charged a hourly or daily fee called demurrage. This is a charge for the late return of a piece of equipment supplied by one party to another for the purpose of carrying a cargo This cost is part of all shipping agreements your procurement group makes with the shipper. You have to be aware of what your ‘free time’ is, what the load is, when will it arrive, and how you will get it off. Typically for big loads you plan well in advance and advise the shipper when you want it to arrive. Otherwise, you will get a nice big demurrage bill. The same applies if you are shipping something and the cargo carrier has to wait for you to load the vehicle. Some ships can have a demurrage cost of $85,000 per day whether loading or off loading.

Plan Well Or You Will Be Surprised!

You have to be vigilant when dealing with utilities, government bodies (permits) and shipping as you don’t want a costly surprise. Its a matter of asking questions in the planning stage to make sure you have your costs covered.

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