Addressing Challenges and Driving Improvement in Capital Projects and Contractor Performance

Published: 2013

A dss+ Case Study


Our client, an integrated energy company with a diverse portfolio in upstream, midstream and downstream sectors, had undertaken a multi-year capital project to develop, extract and refine bitumen into liquid petroleum for piping to refineries.  This “greenfield” megaproject was particularly challenging, given the extreme conditions in which it was being constructed; a cold, harsh climate posed complications beyond the norm for megaprojects, such as difficulty finding suitable contractors to perform the work. 


From the beginning, the project was fraught with overruns, schedule delays and contractor injuries. To address these problems, the client solicited the help of dss+, an owner/operator with more than 200 years of experience in managing large capital projects. dss+, through its consultancy arm – dss+ – was brought in to conduct a thorough assessment of the project and provide specific corrective actions to put the project back on track.


dss+ consultants first conducted a comprehensive assessment of the project, including the processes through which the project and contractors were managed.  Leveraging dss+ methodologies and best practices for Contractor Selection and Management, the consultants performed a comprehensive gap analysis, provided specific recommendations to the client, and also held rigorous trainings with both the owner and contractor workforce. 


The assessment allowed dss+ consultants to identify several gaps within the project planning, contractor selection and contract development processes, as well as significant inconsistencies related to culture, leadership and communications.  Further, change management procedures were identified as inadequate, thus affecting the ability for both the company and contractors to adapt to the multiple challenges that arose.


To address this, the dss+ team engaged with senior leaders from all concerned parties to instill a more robust safety and management culture.  For safety, this included behavioural training for all supervisory personnel, as well as incident investigation and safety observation training.   Employees were empowered to stop work when safety risks are identified, providing for immediate corrective action to be taken.   For project management, specific trainings were undertaken with key owner company staff focusing on leadership, as well as the functional aspects of the project’s critical processes and permitting system.


Further, the dss+ team provided guidance related to contract development, providing the client with specific avenues for recourse in the event of non-compliance from contractor parties.  Concurrently, dss+ worked with contractor personnel to build capabilities, and set up a safety committee with representation from each contractor party to ensure a continuous dialogue. 


As a result of dss+ recommendations, measurable progress was made in improving the project’s overall schedule, efficiency, quality and safety performance.  The operating culture was notably improved, both in terms of safety and project governance.