As anyone who has worked on a large DOE O 413.3B project can attest, the upfront planning involved is very rigorous, and construction funds are not released until the plans are solid. Much of our work is first of a kind, and it is not surprising that changes to the plan are encountered at every turn during a project’s lifetime. Controlling these changes in a systematic way is one of a project’s most intensive management processes. In a formal project management system, changes cannot be implemented until they are formally approved. Sometimes the volume of proposed changes creates a backlog, which can potentially delay project activities.
One of the goals of the Office of Project Support Services is to increase the efficiency of routine project management tasks such as change control. For example, we are working to provide an integrated, centralized toolkit to save project teams the trouble of inventing their own.
The latest tool, “fBCR” (Fermilab Baseline Change Request), is a web application that has just been implemented by LBNF/DUNE and is available for other projects. The purpose of fBCR is to provide traceability and approval workflow for tracking changes to a project’s plan. fBCR is based on a tool developed by US ITER at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, who kindly provided their code to us. OPSS developer Julian Badillo worked with the Core Computing Division to adapt the US ITER code to Fermilab’s computing systems and with LBNF/DUNE to define their requirements, add some enhancements, and accommodate a rather complicated workflow. This type of cooperation between labs and within our own lab is one of the hallmarks of our field.
The opss.fnal.gov website provides links to information on our current project tools. The next OPSS application will replace unmanageably large project cost and schedule spreadsheets with a web accessible database, which will allow project team members and lab managers to easily access and sort project data for troubleshooting project performance issues. The job of managing projects, like any other job, requires the right tools. There is still much work to do in realizing the vision of a complete toolkit, but we are off to a good start thanks to a collaborative effort.
Marc Kaducak is the head of the Office of Project Support Services.