Explorations in Application of PPM – Digital Infrastructure

Embark on a transformative exploration of project delivery optimization in the construction industry through Brian Green’s engaging presentation. Gain insights into tackling key challenges and implementing effective strategies for success in project management.

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Overview

In the symposium, Brian Green, a seasoned construction professional, shared key insights in “Navigating Time and Complexity: A PCM Journey.” His presentation traced his company’s evolution, emphasizing Project Production Management (PPM) to improve development yield. Green addressed the industry-wide issue of project delays, highlighting the critical role of PPM.

Focused on demand signaling and the project lifecycle’s back end, Green’s PPM approach was illustrated through a production system model, stressing optimal capacity utilization. Real-world examples, like a permitting challenge in Chile, emphasized the importance of early identification of third-party risks and systemic information sharing.

Navigating commissioning complexities, Green emphasized proactive issue prediction for effective time control. Transitioning from schedule management to production control, the presentation outlined strategies to reduce cycle times and enhance predictability.

With optimism, Brian Green foresees success in minimizing project variability and optimizing cycle times, calling industry professionals to embrace a cultural shift toward efficient project production.

Transcript

[00:00:00] Brian Green: Thank you very much. I hope everybody’s doing well this afternoon. This is right at the point where as your students watch it start to settle in, you start thinking, you know, thank you very much. But I’m very pleased to be here today to have the opportunity to talk about our PCM journey and sort of the level set.

[00:00:23] Brian Green: We were very early in our tour and I first had opportunity to sit down with the folks at, SBS about four or five months ago and just sort of paint the picture of how I sort of, how I ended up here. As, you know, when I was a kid, one of the things I was really excited about was science fiction. And the thing about science fiction that I really appreciated was this whole notion of time travel.

[00:00:53] Brian Green: And being able to make decisions or understand what was going to happen before it was going to happen. And ironically, now, as We look at our projects in delivery, but one thing that we never really have control over is time. And one of my favorite, concepts or characters, as I did study about science fiction, was on Slaughterhouse Squad, where the lead character, Billy Pilgrim, was in a situation where he lived his life over and over again, and he was in the middle of a situation he had to figure out.

[00:01:27] Brian Green: And for anybody that’s been in the program for project management space, It always seems like, hey, I’m going to walk you through this project, the same challenges and things that hadn’t been anticipated. And this is, this is why it’s more about control that is on schedule. So a little history of our company.

[00:01:47] Brian Green: We’ve been around for roughly 13 years. We were founded our two founders. Basically, I’ve had a bit with a couple of companies previously. This is circa 2011, 2012, right from the space where a lot of the cable companies were looking at on demand programming, and it was all about having technical implications at the edge and providing that bandwidth for on demand watching TVs whatever content people wanted to watch.

[00:02:23] Brian Green: So, we started off working with key partners, such as Sprint Time Warner, and just building those out at the edge and over time, we’ve migrated from that business, specifically this concept of digital infrastructure, into larger builds we have roughly 60 plus data centers, Across the world.

[00:02:50] Brian Green: And our additional bill is one or two megawatts upwards now of 100, 200, 300 megawatt campuses. And as we look at our challenge, the one thing that’s made us very successful is always raising our hands and yes, we did do what you do for the customer. And that is why we got into this. So, one of the key things as we look at some of the challenges, you know, that Alex just spoke on.

[00:03:20] Brian Green: There’s the high demand of growth in our industry, and it’s sort of popped up all around. There’s extreme demand for resource in terms of how many generators you’re getting out there, what’s the space, what’s the land, and that’s all the key points of deliver. And as we go through this, you know, the challenges that we faced with our teams and building smaller sites around the world and much smaller environments and much smaller sizes.

[00:03:47] Brian Green: Has become extremely complicated in terms of what we’re doing right now. And the other thing as we look at our global footprint, the challenge that we see in, let’s say for example, A build out in Chile in terms of dealing with permitting Might be slightly different than what we see And what we had in the site, we roll out to Jakarta, but fundamentally, as we go through the process, how do we, how are we capturing what we’re doing?

[00:04:17] Brian Green: And I remember sitting in one of our first sessions and like, I’m like, relatively doing this whole, it’s like, well, how do we do work? My head of engineering said, well, we know how to do this. We already have this process. So as, and, you know, as we sort of diving, started diving into it a lot of different people said exactly the same.

[00:04:38] Brian Green: It’s the exactly opposite than how we actually do work. I well actually, we send this permit packaging out at this point, and it takes four days. The same person that was the other side of that process will know it actually takes three weeks, and I’m waiting on input for you. So I think one of the key things as, as we talk about the fact discovery is having decisions information at a very clean way so it’s not a bother.

[00:05:09] Brian Green: So

[00:05:16] Brian Green: our key opportunity here to be successful as we’re looking at our global demand in this space. And I was talking to somebody at lunch where they said, we were just talking about the growth of ChatGBT as a platform driving demand in this space where you go from zero users to 16 million over, you know, 16 million users go overnight.

[00:05:36] Brian Green: And that’s driving extremely a lot of demand. So in the last six months, we’re moving for a space where our growth of our pipeline and demand is 7x or 7 fold. And currently, right now, we have six to seven very large projects that we’re building of various sizes. We look at a pipeline we’ve got roughly 50 that we will be building at the same time over the next six to eight months.

[00:06:05] Brian Green: Whether, all across a lot of different jurisdictions. And the real question is how, you know, it’s a happy problem. How do you get this stuff? So one of the, like I said, the very, very, you’re really into this journey. And the only variability that I sort of controlling right now is how often do you yell that about my customers for not delivering on time or during the days.

[00:06:30] Brian Green: I thought I was a jit, something like that. But anyways strategic purpose that we’re trying to get out of our employment, that And as you guys are thinking about how you move forward for PPM, for if you’re deciding whether or not you’re going to move forward, or for folks to fit around in this space a long time, I’d love the input.

[00:06:50] Brian Green: But our purpose here is to identify and exploit hidden opportunities to to increase our development yield. And what really brought us into this conversation basically I was mentioning previously about the pressure for guaranteed investment returns. I are, you know, private equity investors and owners and with the cost of capital growing dramatically, and scraping pipelines or extended pipelines and doubling over, you know, going from a 50 week period or 48 week period to 80 weeks for key components of the bill, and time and understanding that and then also incorporating the fact that labor is going up in the space of everybody’s life with the same resource.

[00:07:37] Brian Green: And then tying back where we said the very first Gary talked about very beginning about, less than 20 percent of all the work showing up on time. If you’re not thinking about this in a guaranteed manufacturing style way, then we’re feeling our customers as a, as a, we’re feeling our customers, which, which we at, which we need to earn the right every day for business, but we’re not supporting or trying to do an industry.

[00:08:04] Brian Green: And our T objective out of this. Is really trying to learn and maximize our opportunities as they present themselves. Fundamentally, as PPM, it raises up awareness to things you hadn’t seen before or understand about your business. Whether it’s where your work is sitting from a time perspective and where you want to allocate resources.

[00:08:23] Brian Green: And our key focus of this has been really looking at two key areas. One, as we look at the front end of our process, i. e. the demand signaling as we develop and build sites. And two, the back end. And one of the things, one of the things that we noticed, or I noticed coming into this role, was that it always seemed like we were three or four months behind on projects.

[00:08:49] Brian Green: And going back to the time control, i. e. if you knew that was going to happen, your customer wants to know that, on a systemic point of view, what were all systems going to do, because they have plans, they’ve got commitments to their customers, and we also need to understand that before it can happen. So our two areas We’re looking at the demand signal coming from sales, our customers, where they want to be in the world, as well as the back end.

[00:09:13] Brian Green: Because as you look at the entire system, and I think somebody mentioned this earlier, about there’s a whole system of work that happens from commissioning. Well, there’s, there’s the planning, procurement, engineering, design, you have the actual construction. But once you actually hit the, end of construction, hit the commissioning phase, that’s particularly correct because One of the interesting things about, this space is that we own and operate and we deliver and it’s a fully, it’s life safety, it’s fully living and breathing the entire time.

[00:09:47] Brian Green: And the, one of the challenges that we face as we go through this process is that the same engineers that we’re looking at building out or doing the design are also the ones you’re pulling into the commissioning and then also with the program management organization heading off to operations. So that’s why we’re taking this focus.

[00:10:08] Brian Green: And the other, the other key challenge that we have as we’re going through this is that there’s all kinds of work churning through the system as we have this. So, as we configure the SOAR approach, it’s been how we produce across the project life cycle of investing in talent development. So as we look at our production system model, our objectives work process with a capacity utilization.

[00:10:36] Brian Green: It’s who are the resources are actually going to work and understanding where it’s stopping. And then also with regards to the status of process of how it’s going through to the production control system. This is the most difficult challenge that we have right now from a cultural implementation because going back to what we’re talking earlier about the difference between schedule management and control.

[00:10:59] Brian Green: Control means that you want to do work as it’s required and in planning as you’re pushing the work through. As opposed to, hey, there’s a schedule, a mandate to it, I should be doing this. Now, I want to say that again, because that’s the most important thing that we think about production control, in the sense that the decisions that you make drive your variability.

[00:11:20] Brian Green: And you have extreme power on that to affect that variability. An example that Gary used this morning about choosing the time when you leave to go, or execute the work that you have to do somewhere. It’s particularly critical, and to the extent that you understand that flows through the systems, the subprocesses, and how everything’s that are linked is very critical.

[00:11:41] Brian Green: And that’s some of the challenges that we’re sort of going through right now, where the talent development comes in. And it’s all about leadership. It’s all about what Sarah talked earlier about, pouring people in and having them understand and changing mindsets that people have done this for years.

[00:11:58] Brian Green: But if we’re going to be successful, this is where the industry has to go, and this is why we’re doing it, because otherwise we’re not going to be able to survive.

[00:12:07] Brian Green: So, how do you make work, work, work, ah, faster through the production system? And I talked earlier about the front end, the due diligence, engineering, permitting, the sales signals I get from, from our sales team, as well as through the back end. And this looks relatively simple, high level as you glance at this.

[00:12:25] Brian Green: One of the things I always love about the presentation we go through, it’s kind of small and you have to pull out the magnifying glass to look at what that actually is. But it’s a great depiction. High level depiction of how the work is actually happening. What this is forcing us to do as we go through this process is really have hard conversations around what’s really happening using these boxes and point out the accountability.

[00:12:49] Brian Green: It’s also a communication tool, fact based, not emotional based, to talk to our leadership, our partners about where we actually stand. And as we go through this process, well, like I said, we’re still going through the initial configuration at the front of the back end of the software. There’s a lot of key insights that we’re getting out of the process and we’re asking the questions we never would have asked.

[00:13:17] Brian Green: So how we engineer going through the process into the typical, you know T6 work, waterfall scheduling and what going through and I’ll take a step of the due diligence process. And, you know, the due diligence process that we talked through right now, Hey, there’s two conversations between our market development teams, our engineering teams, and there’s an output to it.

[00:13:42] Brian Green: But ultimately, you know, we said, you know, two weeks or however many days or or how many days to go through it. There’s actually 40 to 50 conversations or handoffs that are happening into that if you look at your overall capacity, this is just one project as you go through. If you look at your whole fleet.

[00:13:59] Brian Green: Projects we’re developing going back to what I talked about from 7 to 50. And you understand who the key people are doing that work. You can allocate and have a more effective utilization of the work as it actually flows through. And this like I said, this is one of our disciplines in engineering, but it’s an entire ecosystem.

[00:14:21] Brian Green: And where we’re trying to take this is as it would process the system, it’s all about. Information sharing across the system. Who, who participates in our whole delivery cycle? And it’s the manufacturers, it’s the commissioning agencies, it’s the general construction, it’s our customers, as we share information.

[00:14:39] Brian Green: And as we build out, that information helps us collectively as a system work better together. As, as we looked at how much we’re totally buying, when we need these resources, this work is not going to happen, and I can’t do this job for you, here’s why. If you give me six months, I can take it on because of where I am in the site.

[00:14:59] Brian Green: That’s a much more powerful conversation because you would much rather know going back to predictability and variability, that you were going to be late on a project. I hate talking about being late, the old sailor in me, but you would rather know that six months in advance you were the jackpot as opposed to a month before you were able to talk to your customer.

[00:15:19] Brian Green: Because that can be adjusted and that eliminates variability on their part.

[00:15:26] Brian Green: I’ll use a permitting example. We had a, and sort of getting into this. We had a permitting challenge at one of our sites. We were going for our customers in Chile. And I, and I was new, sort of talking to my team. And I asked, are we going to deliver on time? And it was, it was the, you know, the tap dance.

[00:15:46] Brian Green: Yes, no, maybe. You know, I, I come from a world of. But I was running data. was a star band. It what? Every single thought and it would just forget that pit in your stomach, a project where, you know, everything looks right, but I know there’s something just not quite underneath. And you, the permitting example for us was that we had a data on schedule that was supposed to deliver and there was like, we had that 95% chance we’d actually delivered this all on top, which is why I’m chairing this example.

[00:16:19] Brian Green: But, it didn’t, I’m still new. I want to make it my year, right? But anyways, but anyways, you know, I was talking to my, you know, I was talking to my engineering partner and it was a certificate of occupancy. Those of you in the space, certificate of occupancy is, is basically, hey, you have a right for whatever the thing that you just built.

[00:16:40] Brian Green: Lots of capital laying on that. There can be no uncertainty in that because revenues and your investment are tied to hitting that date. Agreed it’s with customers, SLA palliatives. But anyways, I asked a very simple question. Are we going to hit this on time? And the question, and the answer was definitely maybe.

[00:17:01] Brian Green: Definitely maybe is not to keep you in business. But what, essentially what happened, there were two paths to success on that. It was coming down to one, say, a sanitation app that we were relying on our local vendor to pursue. And this was one of those things where The plan was built, we were getting permission to have it come and get checked.

[00:17:21] Brian Green: And then the other one was, should have a good of occupancy, was having a water connection approved by the local jurisdiction. Yeah, which is, I mean, just sort of real. The challenge that we had was the third party risk, i. e. variability of understanding of how long it could take. And when it was going to be yes, and when it was going to be no.

[00:17:44] Brian Green: And particularly what was nutty about the whole process was, Oh, we only planned for two, which serves the province coming back. If you hit the third, you’re not going to hit the day. So we were able to manage through that because of the herculean effort of obtaining accords. But that’s not how we worked the plan.

[00:18:00] Brian Green: We should be able to account for that variability in the system that we give them it. But, this is just one thing as part of the, I thought permitting is a third party risk. There’s all kinds of third party risks that you have no control over in the process. Understanding and identifying that process, or identifying that early, as a collection of work, or information around, or how much work sits behind it, is very, very powerful, because you get planning, minimize that variability as much as possible, because there is uncertainty and an aperture to completely different things to point it out.

[00:18:40] Brian Green: So, let’s talk about commissioning. So that’s on the front end of it already. Let’s talk about something I think it was a question earlier about. The complexity of commissioning, the availability of you know, Carvers, Schneider, Caterpillar, the names that we’re all familiar with and that you wrote. And as we look at commissioning of a product, as we dive into this, and this represents the work that’s needed to do an integrated service test on the back end, you know, the various aspects, let’s say this is the electrical plant you have up here, I think, are you sending the micro, but I’m pretty sure that’s the one we have to talk about here.

[00:19:16] Brian Green: Commissioning in the system actually starts a lot earlier, the digital infrastructure. It actually starts at the point of procure, i. e. as you have your designs and start pulling in the equipment and designing, you need to, and as more, you have more and more complexity is the timing of the stuff, you need to have everything associated with that piece of equipment.

[00:19:35] Brian Green: What batch it was in what was the shipping coming in, and having those as discrete steps. Because you need that. And the construction phase, the construction phase is showing up, but there’s also the connection and there’s, there’s the thing that we’re seeing now the construction part of doing it, and once you get rid of the commission to hand over the customers two completely different systems that are very much integrated.

[00:19:58] Brian Green: One of the things we’re looking at is as we look at people accountability, sort of spliting that up so that the program management team is spoke, you know, or, or you know, they get the handoff from engineering. They’re working through the process. And they start interfacing with the handover teams at the point of, of acquisition and documentation.

[00:20:18] Brian Green: So you can trace that all the way through, because if you get to the end of, if you get to the end of an IST cycle, you get there, you’re all set. And all of a sudden, one of the boards fail in your switch, in your switch breaker. And that piece of equipment comes from China you know, in Indonesia, you’re looking at six to seven weeks of penalties.

[00:20:42] Brian Green: And that did happen, but I’m not going to say much about it because, you know, I could talk about the variability if you’re asked to. But so, that’s what’s causing us to look at that end as well, and pulling that puller in the cycle. So this is, and the interesting thing about this, is that this is not the same project.

[00:21:02] Brian Green: We’re looking at two completely different projects of execution. And one of the difficulties we’ve had is that because we have so much coming through, Where do you say stop and jump in? So, the projects that we’re looking at as we roll out our configuration system, one is in Europe and and the reason we chose this project is a more complicated deployment where there’s, data centers being, we’re building at the same time that we’re building a gas power station.

[00:21:29] Brian Green: We’re also building a substation that all have to integrate together. And one of the benefits we’re already getting out of this is, Understanding, as you hit your RFS date, or your IST, or your IST moving through it, there’s key dependencies that other related projects were managing separately that were integrated too.

[00:21:48] Brian Green: It’s definitely not providing successive input through it. And these are some of the site, this is the example I was using for, mapping our site commissioning process, patrol site commissioning, and mapping our level one, like I talked about. Level one really starts with procurement as you trace through.

[00:22:09] Brian Green: That’s, It’s very complicated for us that we’re moving or the things we’re working on. So, is it complex? Yes. What we’re really looking forward to when I talk about the commissioning is you get to see the various technical aspects. You can see like a crack, transformers, RPD, you know, remote power panels, GPS.

[00:22:34] Brian Green: There’s a lot of steps that have to have it perfectly delivered on time. And the best way to be successful is to predict your problems a year in advance because there’s time to recover. Going back to what I talked earlier about controlling time, which is the one resource as project managers, don’t be, there’s, it’s not another resource is very specific, very discreet that allows us to predict where we want to be.

[00:22:59] Brian Green: So like I said, early in this journey hopefully as we drive our, Our process control from schedule management a year from now, we’re going to talk about our success at work. The street examples of how we eliminated the variability of prior to this astute loan projects. And started way forward, two big steps front end and back end to reduce our cycle of time.

[00:23:24] Brian Green: Cause that’s really what we’re looking at. And then finally, while our project production system, how would the fact that we brought the band where to invest and how to be honest with what we can actually do. So I’ll stop there, take any questions. Alright, that was good.

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Brian Green

EdgeConneX

Brian Green

EdgeConneX

Brian is the Executive Vice President of Operations, Engineering & Project Management at EdgeConneX. He is responsible for the design, build, and operations of all of EdgeConneX global data centers (370MW and growing rapidly). Before joining EdgeConneX, Brian was responsible for the engineering and operations for all of Visa’s owned data centers and leased co-location facilities, including driving and implementing global data center standards and operations, providing 100% availability of data center critical infrastructure 7x24x365.

During his tenure at Visa, Brian was also responsible for successfully leading major retrofit projects, including multi-megawatt UPS capacity upgrades, excavation projects, and new deployments in production environments without impact. He led the team in receiving multiple perfect scores while achieving Uptime M&O Certification for all enterprise-owned facilities. Under Brian’s leadership, the Visa Data Center and Engineering team was nominated for the 2022 Data Center Dynamics Most Innovative DC design award for their modular data center deployment as part of their overall retrofit strategy.

Brian holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from the United States Naval Academy and his Master of Business Administration from the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.