Successful Program Delivery


Successful Program Delivery Starts Long Before the Program Does – Part 1

Frank R. Parth, MS, MSSM, MBA, PMP

CEO, Project Auditors

Rancho Santa Margarita, CA, USA


Multiple independent research efforts are beginning to show a more consistent approach to developing successful mega-projects in the areas of oil/gas, mining, major infrastructure, and construction projects than has been used in the past. These mega-projects are characterized by high value (often defined as greater than US 1$ billion), comparably high benefits, years-long time-lines, and correspondingly high risk. While there have been great advances in both project management methodologies and in the tools the project managers have available (such as CAD/CAM, BIM, and advanced project scheduling and budgeting tools), the complexity of these multi-year programs has advanced even more quickly than the tools have. Construction and large engineering projects (called LEPs by Miller and Lessard) have become more complex and ambitious faster than our ability to manage them. These “mega-projects” now are much longer in duration and far more complex than even ten years ago, with concomitant increased risks and failures. Projects costing tens of billions of dollars are no longer rare. The International Energy Agency estimates that meeting global energy needs will require investing more than $17 trillion by 2030 (van der Veer).

“Costs are becoming too high,” Christophe de Margerie, CEO of Paris-based Total, said Friday in an interview from Switzerland. “Projects of $50 billion leave one thinking ‘Isn’t it crazy?’ ” (Margerie)

This paper examines the common approaches identified by both academics and real life approaches by private industry. It then expands on both the theory and practice to develop a more effective way to approach the early management of these projects. It suggests starting each new megaproject the way you would start up a new business, and developing a strategic planning document to guide the stages of the project, from the early study/feasibility stages through engineering/ architecting and through construction/commissioning.

The emphasis of the approach is on effectiveness, not on efficiency. We can be truly efficient only if we can perfectly predict the future. Since we cannot do that, we must build adaptability into the process, flexibility, to respond to changes and to unexpected events. To effectively produce these projects we need a different approach than the traditional project management approach than has been promulgated by professional organizations for smaller, less complex projects. This approach begins long before the traditional project management approaches and extends into the early operations stages.

In Part 1 of this series of three articles we will look at some of the problems faced by large complex projects. We will discuss the critical emphasis on the external environment on making these projects successful or not, and we will look at the normal approach commonly used more successfully on simpler projects.

In part 2 of this series we follow up on the discussion of part 1 by examining the current approaches to these mega-projects being used by both private industry and by the academic community. We then review two common assessment approaches to determining the thoroughness of the planning and execution stages of the projects.

The final paper in this series follows parts 1 and 2 by proposing new approaches to developing these complex projects. The emphasis is on treating these projects not as projects, but as starting a new business. We will also examine changes in the risk management, stakeholder management, and the procurement process to make these projects more successful.

To read entire paper, click here



About the Author

Frank R. Parth

Rancho Santa Margarita
California, USA


Frank Parth
, MS, MSSM, MBA, PMP is the President of Project Auditors LLC, a past member of PMI’s Board of Directors, and is currently on the core management team for PMI’s PMBOK Guide version 6. Mr. Parth brings 35 years’ experience in project and program management to his teaching and consulting work.

He had a first career designing satellite systems for the US government and in 1993 he set up a consultancy and began consulting in program management and systems engineering. He has created PMOs for several Fortune 1000 companies and for companies internationally. He consults to clients in multiple industry sectors, including telecom, construction, high tech, chemical processing, utilities, government, healthcare, mining, financial services, and aerospace. He is currently supporting Saudi Arabia’s Saline Water Conversion Corporation in improving their project management processes and in developing a PMO.

Mr. Parth teaches project management courses throughout the world and has taught over 4000 students worldwide in preparing for the PMP certification exam. He is a guest lecturer at USC’s Marshall School of Business, the University of California, Irvine, and at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) in the UAE, is an accomplished international speaker, and does pro bono teaching of project management in Vietnam.

He has co-authored or contributed to multiple books on project management and has published numerous papers in project management and systems engineering. He is actively involved with PMI, serving on local and national committees and was PMI’s Project Manager for the Standard for Program Management, 2nd edition published in 2008.  Based in California, Mr. Parth can be contacted at [email protected].

To view other works by Mr. Parth, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/frank-parth/