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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Key Factors of Successful Project Implementation

Title: Key Factors of Successful Project Implementation

Phase(s): Project Development, Engineering, and Construction

Category:  Management

Date: Revised November 2015

1. Background

Although many transit construction projects are ultimately completed on time and on budget, a closer examination is likely to reveal that the original budget and schedule were revised/increased, and the original goals were not achieved. Since Federal Transit Administration’s Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGA) of major transit projects generally require grantees to complete the work within the terms outlined in the FFGA, the Grantee bears the responsibility to complete the project in accordance with the budget and schedule specified in the FFGA.

With increased competition for transit project funding, there is likely to be a sharper focus to achieve the initial project budget and schedule. The FTA Project Management Oversight Program was created to provide independent feedback to the FTA regarding the project status including scope, budget, schedule, management practices, quality assurance and to ensure that the grantees’ Project Management Plan (PMP) is adequate and being implemented. Various State and Local agencies that provide funding for major transit projects also have implemented similar oversight programs.

2. The Lesson

Based on the experience of several PMOC staff that held a variety of leadership positions in the transit industry, the following 10 key factors that contribute to a project being successfully implemented relative to completing the grant scope within budget, on schedule, and meeting quality requirements, were identified:

  1. Project participants are realistic about to the project’s team performance, i.e., clear recognition as to what can be achieved with the resources available at each phase of the project.
  2. Adequate Project Management Plan and supporting documents including:
    • Well developed change order procedures and documentation. Often changes mandated by operating departments should be controlled. In some cases the change order process does not include features to categorize the reasons for the changes permit the identification of trends associated for such increases.
    • A well-developed PMP at the beginning of the project phase should be undertaken.
    • Well developed supporting procedures with good checks and balances.
    • Adequate safety procedures and practices.
    • Adequate QA/QC procedures and practices.
  3. Adequate input during planning design and scoping, i.e.,
    • Good relationships with outside agencies, such as utilities, local political units resulted in timely and adequate inputs during the design, and timely implementation of their responsibilities.
    • Agencies are able to control and document project scoping issues.
    • Timely and unchanging input and continuing coordination and participation from the agencies operational staff.
    • Timely and decisive decision making relative to processing of change orders and other project issues.
    • Strong control and documentation of project changes.
  4. Adequate project management and project control capability that includes:
    • Experienced staff
    • Adequate number of staff positions
    • Define Succession or Attrition Plan
    • Adequate project management tools and systems
    • Strong control over project scope changes
    • Good QA/QC program and implementation
    • Good safety management program and implementation
    • Timely acknowledgement and respond to project issues, submittals, requests for information, change orders, and other unanticipated issues
    • Acknowledging and addressing issues quickly
    • Use of partnering techniques and quickly resolution of disputes
  5. Well managed ROW acquisition/project access
    • Adequate plan for determining required permits and obtaining these permits as early as possible (Project Development or early in Engineering)
    • Experienced Real Estate professionals part of project staff
  6. Adequate Schedule
    • Well developed and documented schedule logic, basis, and assumptions
    • Flexible contractor interfaces to accommodate mitigation of potential delays
    • Realistic schedules with adequate float to accommodate unknowns
    • Adequate schedule contingency.
    • Well developed schedule trend identification and analytical tools
  7. Adequate cost estimating and budget
    • Well developed, documented, and implemented cost estimating process including trend identification, risk analysis, and forecasting
    • Adequate contingency is provided considering the level of project completion and related project risks.
    • Appropriate construction delivery process and contract packaging process to achieve project and agency goals and objectives
  8. Comprehensive public outreach, information and communications program
    • Good management of the public outreach programs to identify issues important to project partners.
    • Good public relations with timely identification and mitigation of project issues.
  9. Well developed, fair and comprehensive contract documents
    • Plans and specification are complete.
    • Contract documents with adequate project management tools.
    • Fair contract documents that allocate risks to the parties who can best control the risk.
    • Design changes are controlled and acted upon on a timely basis
    • Tools to facilitate partnering concepts and dispute resolution are supported.
  10. Adequate underground investigation during preliminary engineering of:
    • Private utilities
  11. Public utilities
    • Soil conditions
    • Hazmat conditions
    • Physical location utilities that are likely to impact the project
    • Record drawings to verify and identify actual conditions
    • Environmental issues
  12. Realistic constraints
    • Transit Agency Board/senior management/political leaders understand and support the project, project staff with realistic expectations of the project staff.
    • Independent internal project management oversight is used as a positive management tool.
    • Design consultants are encouraged to provide independent input and creative ideas and solutions to project issues.
    • The project scope, budget and schedule are not artificially constrained to inhibit achievement of the project goals and objectives.

3. Applicability

Major transit related projects are among the most complex type of planning, design, construction, and construction management activities. Use of the best practices in these areas is essential for successful implementation of such endeavors. This is especially true for major transit projects where scope, schedule, cost and quality are strongly influenced by outside forces. A continuing record of successful projects will increase transit agencies’ support for additional future projects from the public and funding partners.

The "Key Factors for Successful Project Implementation" are not intended to be a complete list of factors that will have positive impacts on a project nor are they intended to be a "Silver Bullet" that, if implemented, will guarantee the success of a project. However, if these factors are implemented during the project planning, development and implementation they will reduce the risks and increase the likelihood of achieving a successful project goal. These factors are applicable to all projects regardless of size.

4. References

  • 49 CRF Part 633 - Project Management Oversight; Final Rule
  • 49 CRF Part 633 - Project Management Oversight; Final Rule
  • International Standards Organization (ISO) 9000 - Quality management and quality assurance standards - guidelines for selections and use.
  • Project and Construction Management Guidelines 1996 Update, June 1996 Final Report, EG&G Dynatrend, Inc.
  • Best Practice Procurement Manual, December 1998
  • Comments submitted to FTA by John Holak, Risk Manager for Urban Engineers, November 2015
Last updated: Friday, January 29, 2016