By: Gary Gosling; Project Manager CoLAB

Many organisations, when they green-light a project, have an idea of how the project will affect the business: it will speed up operations, improve the bottom line, cut lead times in half, etc. But few fully consider the changes that might occur within a business as a result of the project. Is the operations team suitably trained to operate the new asset? Do they know what is required to maintain the asset? Are the operational responsibilities defined and clear?

These are all critical questions that are too often overlooked and this is often where the value that the project should offer the business is destroyed. Handover problems such as skills shortage, start-up delays, equipment and maintenance failures, scope clarification and systems readiness can damage the value that a project should be offering. Additionally, changes at this late stage in a project become a costly exercise.

Operational readiness provides a structured approach to the transition from project to operations, ensuring that the transition is managed in a structured, orderly fashion so that the asset can provide maximum value for the investment.

Planning With the End in Mind

Operational readiness starts on day one of the project and needs to be an integrative approach between project and operations for the duration of the project. Operations should be intrinsically involved during the project planning phase to ensure alignment between the business need and the solution – planning with the end in mind.

Once the OR plan is established and there is alignment between the project and operations, it is not the time to back off. Rather, this plan needs to be driven to conclusion. Experience has proven that the “driver” of the OR plan should ideally be independent. Operations typically have their own burning platform issues to deal with and can’t handle future problems now. The project manager is focussed on delivering the scope of the project and can’t also be plagued with operational preparedness.

The value of operational readiness

The value of operational readiness can be quantified by answering the following:
What will a delay in ramp-up cost when the entire project budget has been spent? What value is destroyed by delaying ramp-up?

A good way to look at the value is this: it will have to be done anyway, but you get to choose to do it in either a structured o chaotic fashion.


Operational readiness summary:

  • Ensures that the project solution fits the operational requirements
  • Ensures that the operations are sufficiently prepared to receive and operate the solution
  • Increases the benefits experienced by a business from the investment in the project

Points to remember

  • Consider OR from the beginning of every project – it starts at day one
  • Operations must be consulted from the beginning of a project
  • For large projects, an OR manager should be appointed to ensure that the head of every department that the project touches is represented.
  • Review operational readiness at every gate of the project
  • Operational Readiness will give Exco confidence in the project and ensure that maximum value is gained from the project.