Title: Project Management Plan (PMP) Development
Phase(s): Pre-Preliminary Engineering and Preliminary Engineering
Date: March 2, 1998
The Fort Worth Transportation Authority (the "T") is embarked on a major capital program to develop the westerly segment of a 35 mile commuter rail line between downtown Fort Worth, Texas and downtown Dallas, existing mostly within the RAILTRAN (Cities of Dallas and Fort Worth) right of way, and consisting of approximately 25 route miles, 5 stations, and the expansion of an equipment maintenance facility. The separately funded Fort Worth segment will connect with the easterly segment of the line developed by DART. While DART is an experienced developer of rail transit and has veteran staff thoroughly familiar with project management functions and federally funding requirements, the "T" has limited experience with fixed guideway capital programs and virtually no technical staff to manage and administer a major development. Accordingly, the "T" opted to engage a program management consultant to provide the project management expertise that will be required on a one-time basis for this project. The consultant's scope of work includes the management of preliminary engineering, final design, and construction phases of the Project.
The Fort Worth segment is expected to cost approximately $135 million, which will come from both federal and local funding sources. Since the Project is considered a major capital investment, FTA requires an approved Project Management Plan. This has proven to be difficult to achieve because the grantee has not yet acquired staff knowledge in all of the functional areas of project management that are required to be addressed in the PMP. Indeed, many prospective grantees are reluctant to gamble scarce financial resources to obtain such permanent or semi-permanent staff capability without assurance that they have a funded project. In some cases, the fall back has been to have consultants develop the PMP, but this alternative is less than desirable if it is intended that, ultimately, the grantee's staff is to administer and/or execute the Project Management Plan. Experience has shown that the most successfully implemented PMPs are those which are developed, primarily, by the staff that must administer them.
Such was the dilemma of the "T". Recognizing the need to have a PMP in place, not only to meet federal grant requirements, but also to guide the project from its inception, the PMOC urged the grantee to utilize its on-board consultant to assist in developing the PMP, and to create an agency environment that left no doubt that this consultant and the agency staff were all part of the same project team.
The PMOC urged the grantee to first develop an outline of the plan which addressed all of the FTA requirements and which delineated all the functional areas of project management. The PMOC reviewed this outline and, in an informal working session with the grantee and consultant, discussed matters of format, completeness, and schedule for development of the Plan. The grantee and consultant then commenced to draft the document which was reviewed in groups. The guidance given by the PMOC was simple; "for each project management function, ask yourself: ‘What is to be done?’, ‘When is it to be done?’, ‘Who is to do it?’ and, ‘How is it to be done?’ Certain parts of the Plan, applicable to the later phases of the Project, where the project management methodology was dependent on yet to be made policy decisions, the grantee was encouraged to cite the most probable alternative methods which would be used, including a statement as to when and how the decision on alternatives would be made. In areas of the Plan that were descriptively weak, the grantee was urged to obtain help from its on-board consultant. When the PMOC was satisfied that a draft PMP submittal to the FTA would likely be approvable, the formal review and approval process began.
The advantage of this technique was to eliminate the potential delays in the time-consuming formal submittal and response process usually encountered with a grantee that is new to the capital program development process; and to assure the formal submittal of a satisfactory document - a comprehensive PMP. In this instance, the informal review and discussion technique utilized during the PMP development required approximately 2 months and set the tone for future cooperation between the grantee and the PMOC by achieving mutual respect among the participants.
2. The Lesson
- PMOC teams of veteran project management personnel can provide valuable early guidance, and help a grantee achieve an understanding of FTA's project management objectives without compromising its role in the Project Management Oversight process.
- The technique of grantee/PMOC informal working sessions to achieve a joint objective early in the PMO process encourages cooperation, a spirit of team work, and mutual respect that brings about an advantage in resolving oversight problems which may occur during the remainder of the project.
- Completion of an approvable PMP helps to avoid delays in filing a completed Grant Application.
- With the grantee's clear understanding that an acceptable PMP is expected to be maintained and adhered to, the Plan becomes a management tool for the grantee and a useful tool to the PMOC for monitoring the Project.
The lesson has general applicability to Grantees and the PMOC working on major capital projects and wherein an approved Project Management Plan is a prerequisite for obtaining a federal grant for final design and construction.