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Time vs. Quality in Projects

Time vs. Quality in Projects.

As a Project Manager, I am sure you have dealt with this issue before.  To either get the project completed on time with a few kinks in it or finish a bit later but with little-to-no kinks.  While many people would generally say quality is more important, there may be instances where time is actually more important.  Why?  Well each project gives rise to it’s own unique set of issues and challenges.  Here I relate one of my projects currently ongoing and why quality does indeed work best for this particular project.  But again, each project is different and knowing which one applies better for the situation at hand is important.  How important?  Choosing rightly can greatly effect the continuity of a project.

Currently I am in a project where the as-built drawings have to be completed by a specific date as per the contract. While there is nothing wrong with having an end-date in mind for completing the as-built drawings, in this project we are talking approximately 25 thousand drawings not including the Operation and Maintenance manuals.  That’s a lot of work.  And while it can get done, getting it completed in the stipulated time-frame is a feat in and of itself!

To deliver this magnitude of as-built drawings within a period of a few weeks, including the review and submission process, it is a tremendous burden to the process control teams who perform the updates of the drawings. Typically the drawings which are used for construction are just re-numbered into as-built drawings without the actual checking in the field if the system has been installed as per drawing or if there are changes, hence we call these drawings ‘built.’

In my opinion, the quality of the as-built drawings should have the priority before the delivery to the client or end-user. Even if it takes one month longer to produce quality as-built drawings,  it is and will be worth the wait.  It is in the Client’s interest that these drawings are reflecting the system as it is built and performing in the field and not necessarily as it is designed.  Here, it is my opinion that quality should come before time.  After all, these drawings are sort of like the foundation of the project!

Every project is different, but with something as important as this, it is critical to have it done rightly first.  Why I am stressing this so much is that when there is an extension to the current project, i.e. phase II, or upgrade of the current system etc, if the as-built documentation is not correct, the new project is already planned to fail as there are wrong assumptions and interface issues.  In addition, the maintenance and trouble shooting of the operational system is difficult and will cost the Client a lot of money to correct the as-built drawings.  Money that they may or may not have.

Concluding the above, I suggest that the operation and maintenance manuals are essential before project completion to train the Client or operator for revenue operation of the system. However, at the end of a project there are so many parallel activities ongoing, that it is almost impossible to provide good quality as-built drawings.  In other words, we need to take care of the as-built drawings now!

A drawing master-plan is required to reflect the essential drawings which are required for operation and maintenance and to be completed at the practical completion of the project, while the other drawings can be finalized after the practical completion within a specified time of course, but without negative impact to the certificate of practical completion or penalties as the quality of the as built drawings is more important than the delivery date for it.

The work package of as-built delivery even after the practical completion means that there will be resources required which need to be calculated as costs of the project including the required infrastructure to deliver the drawings. However, this typically goes together with the Defect Liability Period which need to be factored into the project anyway.

That being said, for this particular project and the phase I am in within this project, quality trumps timeliness.  I am starting from the foundation of this project, and if the foundation isn’t set right there will be a lot of problems with the rest of the project.  However, I would love to hear your opinions.  Each project gives rise to new challenges and issues~ what are your thoughts?  Is quality or time more important here and why?

You may be asking yourself, “Where would time ever come before quality?”  Well I do have an example, but that is an article for a later date!