Managing project information

Interview with Grégoire Martin

Project Director for the design and construction of CSSG GALILEO for Spie Batignolles

For this interview, we invited Grégoire Martin, Project Director for the design and construction of CSSG GALILEO for Spie Batignolles, to talk to us about the challenges of managing project information.

Could you remind us of the background of the CSSG GALILEO construction project?

The French Defence Infrastructure Service organisation (Etablissement du Service Infrastructure de la Défense – ESID) put out a call for tenders in late 2018 for the design, construction and maintenance of the Security Monitoring Centre for the Galileo European satellite programme. Spie Batignolles was selected by the Ministry of Armed Forces to design and construct a building to house the monitoring centre.

It’s a medium-sized project, but is part of a wider strategy. It involves numerous stakeholders and businesses and the centre is approved by ANSSI (French National Agency for the Security of Information Systems) with Tempest security.

How was the design phase able to progress through 2020, given the changing COVID situation?

The design was approved as planned, just before the first lockdown, on 5 March 2020. As we were partnering with multiple organisations, we were already working remotely, which allowed us to limit the impact caused by changing ways of working. When we went into lockdown, we still needed to complete the initial design, detailed design, and supplier selection phases of the project. We were then able to kick off the construction phase remotely.

The schedules were very strict, but despite the changing situation, we were able to start the construction phase on time.

“If we don’t communicate effectively in this type of project, we just won’t be able to stay on schedule.”

What challenges does this project bring in terms of information management?

The context needs to be taken into account. This is a medium-sized design, construction and maintenance project. There is no administrator or document controller dedicated to managing the data and documentation. This means we face major challenges in ensuring the solutions and organisational structures we put in place are flexible and efficient. We need to manage the important information and our interactions with the client while retaining an agile approach in the way we work. This is why we have organised our information management system into three levels.

The first level handles the exchange of non-structured information in the initial stages, mostly for internal use. We use a classic intranet solution for this. The second level is a simple platform for sharing information relating to the digital mock-ups, also used in the initial stages.

The third level is the most critical: the Common Data Environment (provided by Thinkproject via their TP CDE platform). The solution and its configuration were defined with the client at the beginning of the project.

The solution will provide a central repository for all of the important information related to the project and allow approval and distribution flows to be managed. It’s a project workspace that centralises communications and organises and indexes information on an ongoing basis. Users upload their documents onto the platform. The Project Director gives proxy approval and the information is then sent to the internal contractor or the architect for their approval.

“One of the challenges in this type of project is finding the right balance between formality and agility.”

Can you share some of the lessons learned with us?

From the beginning, we identified the need to balance formality and efficiency. This balance can vary of course, depending on the maturity of the documents, contractual requirements, the need to engage with the client or to consolidate the data for the remainder of the project.

During the project, we continued to advocate this approach as new requirements arose. For example, we created a document status of ‘accepted without comment but with reservations’ for certain non-critical documents. The document has some issues, but progress is not hampered. This avoids having to restart the process from scratch. The TP CDE solution is configurable and can be adjusted while the project is under way, which is a real plus-point.

Getting the client to adopt the tool is another challenge. It’s not just a case of giving them access. We need to communicate with them and let them know how to use it, what it can do and the benefits it can give them. We should also bear in mind that document management systems also carry out a project steering function and can track schedules for delivery and approval.

The challenge of using the tool applies to the entire project team. For example, we have changed our information emails to make them more intuitive and to standardise the filters. With hindsight, my advice would be to set the alerts from the outset so they are consistent.

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