What is the leading cause of capital project cost & schedule overruns?

The undisputed answer the world over is poor scope definition.  Check out this infographic detailing the 10 commandments of front end planning based on CII’s implementation resource, “Front End Planning – Break the Rules, Pay the Price.”  Each of these 10 practices are proven ways to improve scope definition during front end planning.


Introducing PDRI for Small Industrial Projects

Historically small projects represent 70% or more of an organization’s capital spend. Often minimal emphasis is placed on front end planning for small projects.  We assume they carry lower risk than large projects, and if a project team goes over budget or over schedule the impact seems negligible. The truth is, the cumulative effect of limited planning in small projects can have a significant impact on our overall bottom line. It’s the classic “death by a thousand cuts” scenario…

Introducing…drum roll please….


PDRI for Small Industrial Projects

PDRI for Small Industrial Projects follows the same methodology of all other PDRI templates (Infrastructure, Building, Industrial) as outlined here: What is PDRI?


It is a collaborative, facilitated process involving key stakeholders from a project, working through a rigorous checklist of project elements in order to mitigate risk by improving scope definition and identifying and documenting gaps. It covers:

  • Basis of Project Decision
  • Basis of Design
  • Execution Approach

The PDRI methodology is proven to reduce risk in capital project delivery.  It promotes rigorous scope definition and a collaborative review process during front end planning.

How is PDRI for Small Industrial Projects used?
The PDRI for Small Industrial Projects should be used as early as possible in the project life cycle.  Rather than a gating tool (focused on the score), the emphasis is on supporting small project teams in early risk identification, capturing action items and revealing scope concerns through open and honest discussion.

Our experience has shown that a PDRI for Small Industrial Projects assessment averages between 1 to 1.5 hours.

CII defines a small industrial project as:

  • less than $10 million USD in expenditure (we recently did a session for an $800K project)
  • 3 – 6 months in construction duration
  • less overall complexity than large projects
  • Includes both process and non-process projects (e.g. replacement of an industrial elevator, SCADA systems upgrade, pump replacement etc.)

By improving scope using PDRI for Small Industrial Projects, CII research has shown projects perform:

  • 16% better in terms of COST
  • 15% better in terms of SCHEDULE
  • 3% better in terms of CHANGE ORDERS

Can Carve help in implementation of PDRI for Small Industrial Projects? Yes!

Successful implementation of PDRI for small projects will likely mean more PDRIs are conducted every year, and more trained facilitators are required.  Carve makes it simple to address these needs with:


Fit-for-purpose configuration of element descriptions.  When your PDRI template fits how “Bruce Power” does small projects, it will be simpler to train facilitators, and they will deliver more value to every project team.

Consistency in facilitation.  PDRI facilitators generally have another day job.  So, Carve makes it as simple as possible to conduct a quality session. It also minimizes their effort to prepare actionable results (risks and action items) for a project team.

Portfolio leading indicators.  With one system used to manage all PDRIs, portfolio managers gain an aggregate view of front end planning risk, and visibility to consistently low definition elements.

Want to learn more about PDRI for Small Industrial Projects?

Contact CMCS today and learn about our PDRI training options and our PDRI Roadmap to Success program.

We look forward to hearing from you!

By Sandra MacGillivray
Managing Director
Valency Inc.

How to go from project zero to project hero…

Front end planning may be the most important process in the construction and operation of a capital asset. Industry research shows that projects with intensive front end planning efforts and a well-defined scope perform markedly better in terms of total cost, schedule performance and change orders than those with less intensive front end planning efforts. Front end planning is the process of planning and design that takes place early in a projects lifecycle “at a time when the ability to influence changes in design is relatively high and the cost to make those changes is relatively low.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Front-end_loading)

As a project moves through front end planning, three cornerstones of success need to be established: people, processes, and systems. But how can you best get there? How do you know if you have the right people, the right processes and systems in place to complete a front end planning effort that increases the likelihood of a successful project?

If only there was a process you could adopt that would give you a definitive score and risk profile on the scope definition of your project…

This is why PDRI was created.

PDRI is an acronym that stands for Project Definition Rating Index.  It is an index that helps score the level of scope definition on a continuum that will change as you progress through the stages of front end planning.  PDRI is one of the most comprehensive risk management tools available for front end planning.  It is used by organizations around the world in both greenfield and renovation and revamp capital projects.


The PDRI methodology was developed by the Construction Industry Institute, or CII.  CII is a non-profit research consortium of over 140 members that includes owners, engineering and construction contractors, suppliers and academic institutions that specialize in construction management and engineering.  CII’s mandate is to “measurably improve the delivery of capital facilities.” 

Over the past 20 years, ten research teams have worked collaboratively to develop industry best practices in front end planning, including the PDRI methodology.  To date, over $96 billion in projects have been used to create industry benchmarks using CII’s front end planning best practices.

There are three primary benefits for project teams that have adopted PDRI:

  1. It is proven method to quantify the level of scope development during front end planning.  After a PDRI session your project team knows what and where gaps exist.
  2. It is an excellent method for promoting alignment between everyone on your project team – regardless of whether you represent the Owner or a design contractor.  When we work together through the PDRI session, we have an opportunity to highlight any poorly defined areas or gaps in scope definition in an objective manner.
  3. All of our efforts in this session help to identify risks and feed into the project’s risk assessment process.

PDRI sessions are held at multiple points in the front end planning processes.  The first session, or PDRI-1, is typically held at the end of feasibility, prior to a gate review.  The second session, or PDRI-2 is held at the end of the concept stage.  In large projects, a PDRI 2-i, meaning an intermediate session, can be conducted as part way through detailed scope.  And finally, a PDRI-3 session is conducted at the end of detailed scope and immediately prior to your gate review to proceed into execution.


Not all organizations use all four-application points.  In practice, organizations that successfully implement PDRI as a stage gate deliverable generally conduct a minimum of two sessions for each project.

PDRI provides a comprehensive scope definition review spanning the basis of project decision, the basis of design, and the execution approach – effectively determining how well you have defined the Why, Who, What and How of the project:

Why – why are we doing this particular project? Are there better places for us to spend our time and capital?

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

Peter Drucker

Who – have we got the right people involved? Are there human resource gaps that will prevent success?

What – what will it look like? What equipment, regulatory, environmental, site and technical design elements need to be evaluated?

How – how will we build it?


PDRI provides a comprehensive scope definition review spanning the basis of project decision, the basis of design, and the execution approach.  Each of these three sections is broken down further into categories and elements.  The Infrastructure template that we see above includes 68 elements.  As shown in our pie chart, the basis of project decision represents almost half of the total risk we’ll evaluate for each industrial project.

There are three versions of PDRI that are available:


  • Industrial projects.  This includes a broad range of capital projects that typically have extensive piping and mechanical equipment considerations. This includes power plants, chemical plants, refineries, water and waste treatment, and manufacturing just to name a few.
  • Building projects.  This template is tailored specifically to commercial building projects, such as offices, medical facilities, institutional buildings and government facilities.
  • Infrastructure projects. This includestransportation, pipelines, transmission and distribution just to name a few.  These projects typically cover a large geographic area with many stakeholder groups, right of way and environment considerations.

No one will argue with the fact that wise capital expenditure is critical to the success of any business, yet history is riddled with projects going well over budget, well past schedule, and failing to meet operational objectives. Most companies have recognized the need for proper front end planning to ensure successful project execution, but getting there seems almost unattainable. Improving the success rate of your capital projects, even by a few percentage points can turn you from a project zero to a project hero. PDRI is here to help.

By Sandra MacGillivray
Managing Director
Valency Inc.