Basis of Understanding

The BOS, BOE and the Challenge Ahead! 5th September 2019

It isn’t enough to simply produce an “estimate” or a “schedule”. We must record how we have built up our schedule from first principles and what the constraints and drivers are, amongst other requirements. So why do we need to do this? And how do we do this?

The why is easy to explain, as anyone with experience of working on projects will recognise the following common problems: (1) The schedule doesn’t match the scope of work. (2) The schedule doesn’t match the estimate. (3) Assumptions have been made to deliver work on time, but they are not clear. (4) Risk is not mitigated by activity.

By documenting how the schedule or estimate is built, we provide clarity and improve the quality of our deliverables through proper integration with the scope of works. Furthermore, we are able to demonstrate our adherence to the project management discipline. This helps Joe (or Joanne) Blogs to get up to speed when you hand over your project. The Basis of Schedule (BOS) and Basis of Estimate (BOE) are needed now more than ever as global clients require an auditable approach at a reasonable price. And this is where the real challenge lies! How do we produce basis documentation and keep cost down?

So the how in our second question, "How do we do this?" becomes “How do we produce project control basis documentation efficiently?". The following approach is recommended to keep costs down by reducing unnecessary duplication and reworking.

1. Acquire a holistic approach to project control - move away from specialising in one area (planning, or estimating) and consider the project in terms of the phase of work and the integration points between the project manager’s documentation and project control documentation. This is done by reviewing the PM framework and procedures within a client's organisation.

2. List the common integration points of our basis of understanding - typically this will be found in the PMP (Project Management Plan), the BOE (Basis of Estimate) and the BOS (Basis of Schedule). Is any information duplicated? It is highly likely that it is. Often information in these documents is duplicated further within the periodic management reports, such as approved budget changes, contingency draw down, organisation charts, risks etc.

3. Eliminate duplication in Project Control documents - this requires the stakeholder buy-in to amend a document, delete unnecessary elements or refer out to an existing document. In smaller projects this may be termed “scalability of approach”. For instance, a project of £100 million over 3 years will likely require a more comprehensive BOS than say a project of £50,000 to be delivered over 4 months.

4. Pass on the workload to our workforce (contractors) – try to pass on project control requirements on to contractors. For this to be successful all of the requirements must be within the signed contract. Not after the event! This requires business buy in from client Procurement and Finance, as any flow down will put demands on the contractor. Some contractors will be able to rise to the challenge, due to size and business maturity. Others, your smaller contractor who supplies a low cost specialist piece of equipment may not be able to adhere to demands, such as a fully resource loaded programme with EVA metrics. The Project Control professional must be flexible in approach to pass on requirements through a real “basis of understanding”.

This basis is only achieved through knowledge of your contractor and of course your relationship. To be technically competent, we must be able to communicate properly in the working environment.

Dailey Consultancy Ltd encourages communication and flexibility to achieve project success for our clients.