Time-to-market vs. time-to-delivery
Managing speed in Engineering, Procurement and
Construction projects
Sihem Ben Mahmoud-Jouini a,b,*, Christophe Midler b, Gilles Garel c
a PESOR, University Paris XI , 54 Bld Desgranges, 92 331 Sceaux Cedex, France
b CRG, Ecole Polytechnique, 1 Rue Descartes, 75005 Paris, France
c PRISM OEP – Marne La Vallee University, 5 Bd Descartes, Cite Descartes, Champs sur Marne, 77454 Marne La Vallee Cedex 2, France
The time-to-market in NPD projects is a key factor in the competition between innovative firms. Research on concurrent engineering has shown that time can be managed as well as a delay and as a speed. Our concern in this paper is to study the time factor
in the case of Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) projects, where a customer initially contracts for a project from a
contractor on the basis of specifications, budget and delay. Is time-to-delivery a key factor? Does its reduction represent a competitive advantage for the client and/or for the contractor in EPC projects? Is project speed a key variable to be managed, or does it
result from other project parameters? We first define an analytical model to characterize a speed profile in EPC projects. We implement this model for six major construction projects developed by a large, international firm. A variety of speed profiles result. We
conclude by showing the relevance of NPD project speed management in EPC projects.
 2003 Elsevier Ltd and IPMA. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Project management; Time-to-market; Time-to-delivery; Speed; Engineering, Procurement and Construction; Speed profile; Construction;
Concurrent engineering
1. Introduction
Since the end of the 1980s, the time-to-market of new
products has become a competitive advantage, particularly in markets where the first mover has a strong advantage such as in the computer industry [1,6,13].
Speeding up NPD projects in these markets reduce costs
and create value.
Our concern in this paper is to study the time factor
in the case of Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) projects where a customer contracts for a
project from a contractor.
Time management in EPC projects has principally
been studied from two different perspectives:
an instrumental approach based on tools for optimizing and identifying critical pathways, achieving the
project planned delay [2,3,5] and explaining the project duration [8,10].
an organisational approach that explores the limits of
these tools or the difficulty of integrating them into
the project structure.
Our aim is to study time management in EPC projects
from a strategic perspective. Is time-to-delivery, which is
the delay between the beginning of the project and the
handing-over of the product by the contractor to the
client, a key factor for EPC projects as the time-tomarket is for NPD projects in innovative competition?
Does reduction in time-to-delivery represent a competitive advantage in EPC projects? What does speed represent for these projects? Is it a dependent variable
resulting from other parameters of the project? Can it be
managed and driven?
In order to study speed in EPC projects, we propose
the concept of project speed profile. We implement this
International Journal of Project Management 22 (2004) 359–367
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +33-1-55-55-86-62; fax: +33-1-55-55-
E-mail addresses: [email protected], [email protected]
(S.B. Mahmoud-Jouini), [email protected] (C. Midler),
[email protected] (G. Garel).
 2003 Elsevier Ltd and IPMA. All rights reserved.

concept for six major construction projects developed by
a large, international contractor.
1 The criteria for
choosing these projects were that they had to cover a
variety of situations based on the following variables:
type of work (building, road construction, etc.), type of
contract (fixed price, unit price, incentive clauses, etc.),
composition of the group in charge of the project (foreign
partners, joint venture, etc.) and location of the project
(domestic or international). In each case, a case study
was drawn up and approved by the project participants.
These case studies were based on an analysis of existing
documentation, visits and interviews with a wide variety
of those involved in the project at different hierarchical
levels (project chief, design engineer, works clerk, general
foreman, etc.) and in different organizations (customers,
project manager, construction firm, etc.) (see Table 1).
The projects analysis shows that a firm can manage
project speed by choosing a planned speed profile at the
preparation stage of the project, and by driving an effective
profile speed, which may differ from the planned one. The
planned speed profile is chosen according to the strategy of
the firm concerning the speed management. The effective
profile is driven according to the terms of the contract, to
the relationship between the customer and to the contractor and/or the importance of the time-to-delivery
factor for them. We conclude by discussing the relevance
of the NPD speeding up model in the case of EPC projects.
2. Time-to-market reduction in NPD projects
Time-to-market reduction is a competitive advantage
for NPD projects Speeding up NPD projects can increase profit margins by reducing the cost and/or increasing the earnings. Time plays a role in these two
ways of generating profit : reducing delay can reduce the
cost by the reduction of the financial immobilisation
[12], and can also, based on an economic analysis of
mover advantage
[9], create value in markets where obsolescence is central.
Thus, concurrent engineering [4] is a project management method that reduces project delay particularly
by using cross-functional teams early in the NPD process and by planning parallel activities on the same
project (for example, marketing and engineering work).
Midler [11] showed that more than overlapping the
project phases, delay reduction lies in the management
of the relation between them. He represents a project by
two curves: a learning one representing increase in
knowledge about the project and a decision-making one
representing a reduction in the possibilities of action on
the project. The first is a process (shown as a dashed
line), where uncertainty about the project characteristics
and its feasibility are gradually reduced; the second is a
process of action (solid line), where the degree of freedom is steadily reduced as the irreversibility of decisions
rises. Managing a project involves trying to resolve this
dilemma : at the beginning of the project almost everything can be done but almost nothing is known; at the
end, everything is known but almost no possible choices
remain (see Fig. 1).
One might think that in order to reduce the delay of
the project decisions must be made as quickly as possible. But at the beginning of the project, understanding is
at too low a level and it serves no purpose to make hasty
decisions. There is a risk of getting off on the wrong
track, possibly resulting in costly and time-consuming
modifications. Accelerating a project thus requires taking time at the beginning to explore and prepare project
Table 1
Main characteristics of the studied projects
Project type Duration Place Object of the contract – type
of contract
Amount of contract
Construction of a railroad
tunnel and bridge
26 months England Construction work
£100 million
22 months Cost + fee contract
Construction of two office
16 months France Construction work 30 million
Fixed price
Construction of civil engineering
work on a highway
24 months France Construction work 10 million
Unit price contract
Construction of four tunnels for
extending a subway line
46 months Hong Kong Design and build 87 million
Fixed price
Construction of a suspension
24 months design Greece Fixed price 585 million
60 months work Build operate and transfer
Construction of an underwater
60 months Northern Europe Construction work 2 billion
1 This research won the companys annual Innovation Award in the
Sharing Knowledge category.
S.B. Mahmoud-Jouini et al. / International Journal of Project Management 22 (2004) 359–367
options as thoroughly as possible before deciding on
them and putting them into practice. Then all the parameters need to be frozen in order to move towards
almost automatic realization. Fig. 2 shows that increasing the average overall speed (i.e., reducing the
overall deadline) involves expanding the initial phase,
synchronizing the decision phases and drastically cutting
the realisation phase.
This analysis points to three important issues:
The model identifies two different processes, learning
and implementation, that have to be managed from
the speed point of view.
Project management can be characterized by the
speed of the three project phases : preparation, freezing, implementation.
Efficient time-to-market reduction can be obtained
through long and extensive anticipation before going
through an automatic realisation.
3. From time-to-market to time-to-delivery
The EPC project is ‘‘a complex transaction involving
a set of products, services and construction works designed specifically to complete a specific asset for a
customer within a certain period of time: a building, a
turnkey factory, a power plant, a weapons system, or the
like’’ Cova and Hoskins [7].
These projects are above all characterized by:
the specific, unique features of each product (a customized project mobilizing specific supplier resources),
great complexity (numerous players from various institutions, a large outlay that occasionally requires
complex credit arrangements, a long duration spread
out over an extensive period of time, and so on),
a contract, set in the early phases of the project between a client and a contractor, specifying the delay,
the budget and the specifications.
Cost, specifications and delay are packaged in a
contract between the contractor and the client, thus
ensuring a definite trade-off between the project parameters (determined jointly by the customer and the
contractor). Each modification of this trade-off necessitates many negotiations of the contract.
Thus, when beginning a project, the contractor anticipates a profit based on payments to be received
(amount and schedule) and costs incurred. In order to
realize this profit, he has to control his costs because he
cannot easily modify the payments specified in the
contract. Moreover, when EPC projects involve very
large products (plant, bridge, etc.), the contractor cannot finance the project and thus depend on the payments. Realisation of the anticipated profit depends
above all on effective cost control and on the realisation
of the planned phase in order to receive the expected
payment. The delay, speed and resources involved play
an important role in controlling the costs. The time-todelivery, therefore, is a key factor in EPC projects not
only in terms of delay but also in terms of the progress
of the project.
It also seems that the contractor in an EPC project
has less room for action than the firm that develops a
NPD project because he acts directly only on the costs
and not on market value, which depends on client
strategy. Indeed, one of the main differences between
NPD and EPC projects is that the latter involves two
actors – the client and the contractor – both of whom
play an important role in the main project decisions. We
will discuss whether the time-to-delivery reduction and/
or its achievement is a competitive factor for these two
Possibilities of action on the project
Knowledge on the project


Process technical
Fig. 1. Project convergence.
Possibilities of action on the project
Knowledge on the project
Process technical
specifications time
A ti
Possibilities of action on the project

Process technical

Knowledge on the project
Fig. 2. Speeding up NPD projects in concurrent engineering model.
S.B. Mahmoud-Jouini et al. / International Journal of Project Management 22 (2004) 359–367 361
4. For whom the time-to-delivery reduction is a key factor
in EPC projects?
We will study under which conditions it is interesting
for the customer and for the contractor to reduce the
4.1. Time-to-delivery for the customer
The customer can consider the time-to-delivery in
different ways.
4.1.1. Deadline and late penalties
Generally, the customer can fix a deadline with late
penalties for the contractor if the deadline is not met.
This situation is most frequently encountered in construction projects. It corresponds to a situation where
the customer has no interest in seeing the work completed before the deadline set in the contract. He wants
to have the project achieved exactly at the planned delay: not before and not after. This was the case with
Hong Kong
s four tunnels extending the subway line.
4.1.2. Incentive clauses
Delay reduction can be a profit-raising factor for the
customer. In that case, he will insert incentive clauses
into the contract. This is especially the case in the BOT
(Build Operate and Transfer) projects where it is worth
beginning the operation as soon as possible. In this case,
a trade-off between the increase in costs because of the
acceleration and the increase in profit because of early
operation of the equipment is made by one global firm,
which undertakes the development and the market risks,
as in NPD projects. The customer manages the time-todelivery in a dynamic way by latching onto opportunities and finding additional funds in order to accelerate
the work and have the project ready in advance of the
planned delay.
This was the case with the office building project. The real estate
developer wanted to take advantage of an opportunity for an
extra year
s lease, since he had found tenants interested in early
occupation. He thus came up with significant additional funds
to accelerate the work. This was attainable despite the large
number of actors belonging to different organizations and because of the partner relation ship and mutual confidence built
up over a succession of projects involving the same players.
(This team, composed of a developer, engineering firms and
construction firms, was on its third project together.)
Finishing early could also be of interest to the customer if this were to enable him to reduce his costs.
It was the case of the railway tunnel project, which was a costplus-fees (8%) contract with bonus and penalty clauses. This
scheme functioned as follows. If a compensation event that
led to revising project targets occurred, it was necessary to inform the customer of the event within one month, propose arrangements for handling it, calculate the impact on costs, and
negotiate an agreement for sharing the adjustments between
the customer and the contractor in accordance with the following rules: if the costs fell below the estimate, the contractor received the costs plus a bonus on the difference from the
estimate; if the cost was greater than the estimate, the contractor received only costs up to the estimated amount. The customer paid the contractor the additional costs after deduction
of a penalty for exceeding the estimate.
Soon after start-up, the tunnel was dug at a pace that was faster
than estimated, gaining three months overall on the deadline
initially set.
This project illustrates the fact that the time-to-delivery reduction yields to project cost reduction, under
these conditions:
the importance of a partnership contract 2 (with an
open-book procedure), and the existence of a climate
of mutual trust between the contractors and the customer, who was aware of the value of finishing the
project early even if the infrastructure could not be
put into operation right away;
a phase of detailed and in-depth worksite preparation;
the importance of a capacity for ongoing progress,
which made it possible to make use of a learning
strategy between the beginning and the end. This
was made possible, in particular, by the location of
the design on the worksite.
In conclusion, the customer can consider time as a
resource, as in NPD projects.
4.2. Time-to-delivery for the contractor
In this section, we will study in particular the case of
projects where the customer is not interested in reducing
the delay. We can report to the section before, in case he
is interested in.
One might imagine that an early completion relative
to the initial schedule would enable the contractor to
free up resources early. After balancing the gains with
the cost of this acceleration, the contractor could be
interested in a reduction of the time-to-delivery. But in
EPC projects, the contract freezes the cost-delay-quality
trade-off based on the project studies and worksite arrangements. This freezing is even more rigid when the
contract includes time milestones that fix the main steps
in the project.
3 Any change in this planning requires
negotiation with the customer, who is often reluctant to
accept any modifications out of fear that accelerating
2 The two parts being governed by the same contract, including the
same incentive clauses.
3 Note that identifying contractual phases can play a very positive
role by obliging the project team to complete steps that the latter might
tend to neglect, with potentially harmful consequences.
S.B. Mahmoud-Jouini et al. / International Journal of Project Management 22 (2004) 359–367
the work could degrade the quality of the end product –
unless, of course, the customer gains from the time-todelivery reduction, which brings us back to the cases
studied above.
So, it is unusual for the contractor to reduce the timeto-delivery. The contractor wants to avoid any urgent
and costly changes in order to complete the project
within the scheduled timeframe. This is particularly the
case when the project encounters problems and does not
take place according to the planned process. The contractor must analyse the reasons and take measures. In
that case, the project might require modifications of
design, methodology, organization and/or resources
committed in order to meet the agreed-upon deadline. It
is often possible to catch up to the initially scheduled
speed with the additional allocation of resources (expanding the teams, working longer hours than scheduled) as well as by modifying the original jobsite
arrangements, but this results in additional costs.
For instance, in the railroad bridge, the original organization of
the works was to build sequentially from the east bank and then
the west in order to reuse the tools and to exploit the learning
acquired during the overall course. When it became clear that
the bridge could not be completed within the deadline, not only
were the initial design revised and the final deadline postponed,
but it was also decided to shift to simultaneous construction
from both banks resulting in doubling up on the tools and cutting the overall learning effect in half.
Such revisions inevitably necessitate negotiation and
partnership relation with the customer.
For instance, in the underwater tunnel project the contractor
quickly proposed changes in the design so as to significantly accelerate the pace of completing the tunnel segments. But the
customer was not willing to accept the changes until it became
apparent that, using the initial design, the tunnel would not become available within the set timeframe.
Therefore, the time-to-delivery reduction is not able
to generate higher margins for contractors unless there
is an initially flexible contract or a favourable climate
for negotiation.
The role played by initial contract flexibility in customer negotiations is highlighted in the BOT bridge project. Here, the original commitment concerned a functional definition of the
work, where ‘‘the only technical fixed point was the position
of the pillars, due to geological tests that could not be redone.’’
A favourable situation for negotiation is found above
all in relationships involving ongoing partnerships between the customer and contractor, like in the case of
the building project.
In conclusion, the projects analysis shows that the
aim of the contractor is to avoid costly changes.
Time-to-delivery reduction for the contractor depends strongly on customer attitude, because it requires
negotiation. Thus, contract flexibility and the relationship between the project actors are important. Without
looking to reduce the time-to-delivery, the contractor in
an EPC project must manage the time-to-delivery in
order to:
achieve it as fixed in the contract,
reap his profit by controlling his costs in case of unanticipated events that may delay the project or force
him to modify the project organization in a costly
answer to the flexibility demand of the customer if he
asks him to reduce the time-to-delivery.
In order to study the speed management in EPC
projects, we propose the project speed profile concept,
that we will define and apply to the projects studied.
5. Managing speed in EPC projects
We propose to break a project down into four basic
phases: a preparation phase, an execution phase split
between a transitory learning phase [14] and a permanent ongoing one and a back-up phase. Each of these
phases has its own specific progression. We define the
speed as the progression of the project achievement per
unit of time, such as the number of
m excavated in a
tunnel per week or the number of floors built per week.
We can represent the speed of the project by the curve
of Fig. 3, where the different phases with their specific
progressions are distinguished. We will call this a speed
profile or scheme.
Based on the six projects analysed, we will show that
the contractor manages the project speed in two steps.
First, during preparation of the project and anticipation
of his profit, he plans to follow one planned speed
profile. Then, as the project progresses, he drives the
effective speed profile and reacts based on his previous
5.1. Planned speed profiles
During the bidding phase and contract negotiation,
the contractor works on a planned speed profile in order
Fig. 3. Speed profile.
S.B. Mahmoud-Jouini et al. / International Journal of Project Management 22 (2004) 359–367 363
to anticipate his costs. He can choose between at least
the three following planned speed profiles (see Table 2).
These profiles reveal the resource deployment strategy of
the contractor and the project organization he has
In the first profile, the
industrial one, the preparation
and the design phase are emphasized. Several processes
are tested during the preparation and the learning phases, and executed during the permanent one. The
industrial speed profile was planned in the underwater
tunnel and the bridge projects. This profile is termed
industrial because the approach to speed is similar to
that of NPD projects for industrial products, where the
firm invests in studies and in-depth exploration before
locking in and freezing the choices in an effort to obtain
a return on the upstream phases. In the case of EPC
projects, this preparation phase is based on a very detailed phase of estimates, risk analysis and alternative
organizations because of the numerous unpredictable
events that may take place.
learning profile is more common in construction
projects: the preparation phase is not long (because
generally the payments begin with the execution of the
work). Optimisation of the processes is obtained after a
long learning phase. Such was the profile of the Hong
Kong tunnel.
In the
back-up profile, the contractor expects a faster
permanent phase than necessary in order to have a backup that will absorb the unexpected problems without
reorganizing the project. A margin, for example, was
integrated into the planned profile of the railroad tunnel.
For each of these planned profiles, several effective
profiles are possible.
5.2. Effective speed profiles
During the project, the project manager must react
and has to drive the effective speed profile. Based on the
six construction project analyzed, we will consider four
effective speed profiles.
5.2.1. Accelerated profile
In this type of project, the project progression expected at the beginning of the permanent phase in the
planned profile is reached before the anticipated time
(see Fig. 4). The learning phase has been accelerated
because of anticipated actions such as very careful
preparation or pleasant surprises (good quality of soil
when excavating a tunnel, for example). If the contractor can negotiate an early completion of the project with
the customer who is interested in this reduction in delay,
he can continue the project at this pace or go even faster
because of the learning process. In that case, the effective
permanent speed will also be higher than the planned
This was particularly the case with the office building
project and the railroad tunnel that reach better speed
than expected.
In addition to contractual aspects promoting speed
and having partner relationship between the actors,
these projects are characterized by a set of factors that
work as a system for achieving this speeding up:
selection of actors for the contractor and/or the customer team that had worked on similar projects,
product design emphasizing repetitions in the realization process (learning curve),
preparation of the realization work and training,
anticipation of potential risks and preparation with
the customer of measures to deal with them (rather
than having to respond after they occur).
5.2.2. Difficult start-up and controlled convergence
This profile corresponds to a case where the project has encountered hitches in the breaking-in
phase linked to technical innovations, surprises related
to the on-site work (e.g., geological, environmental or
social considerations) due to a lack of preparation or
unpredictable events. The start-up difficulties do not,
however, go beyond the initial breaking-in phase,
and the project team rapidly negotiates a suitable answer to this crisis, with all the parties involved. Consequently, the difficulties do not spread to the permanent
phase, which takes place at the planned speed (see
Fig. 5).
It was the case of the BOT bridge project which took
on board a large number of innovations.
Table 2
Planned speed profiles

Industrial profile Learning profile Back-up profile

Fig. 4. Faster learning or permanent phase.
S.B. Mahmoud-Jouini et al. / International Journal of Project Management 22 (2004) 359–367
5.2.3. Difficult start-up and late convergence
In this profile the difficulties of the learning phase
spread to the permanent one and are responsible for the
late beginning of this phase. In order to reach the
planned delay, the permanent phase is accelerated with
deleterious effects on the project cost because of reorganization and/or addition of resources (human or
The underwater tunnel project is an example of this
Two factors are particularly relevant for these two
latest profiles:
the importance of confidence among the project partners, enabling the acceleration of learning throughout
the project and confining breaking-in problems to the
beginning of the project,
the mobilizing impact of the final deadline (‘‘going
flat-out’’). As the degree of urgency increases, difficult
compromises can be worked out more rapidly than
when significant deadlines are distant.
5.2.4. Permanent catch-up
In this profile the project encounters many difficulties
at the beginning, and the permanent phase is constantly
delayed. It is as if the project has no preparation and no
learning phase. It is based essentially on the responsiveness of the actors. The course of the project is a
succession of events to which the actors respond in an
atmosphere of urgency and crisis.
This profile is illustrated both by the four tunnels
project in Asia and the bridge in the railroad project (see
Fig. 6).
6. From speeding up NPD projects to managing speed in
EPC projects
Is the concurrent engineering model relevant for EPC
projects? While it is true that in EPC projects the
overlapping that characterizes the concurrent model
cannot be implemented and projects generally follow a
stage gate model, this does not mean that concurrent
engineering is totally irrelevant in these projects. Some
of its guiding ideas, such as anticipation and time
management, could be very fruitful in EPC projects and
could offer new ways to think about these projects. We
will discuss the relevance of the concurrent model for
EPC projects through the main characteristics of these
projects: the three Cs, the Content, the Context and the
Contract. These characteristics are usually designated by
professionals as obstacles to any transfer of industrial
management methods to the construction field. We will
discuss the three C specifics in the case of the six project
The content: The product is a prototype, a unique
realisation, and there is not a volume-based production
following development, as in auto-manufacturing, for
example. But viewed in more detail, significant repetition can be identified in the components and the tasks,
and learning can take place between the beginning and
the end of the construction phase, resulting in time gain.
Accordingly, adapting the product design in order to
promote these repetitions can result in a speed-up of the
project. In that case, the design phase can last longer
and be considered an investment phase leading to significant learning and time gaining. The projects analysed
illustrate these repetitions.
The railroad tunnel reveals great repetition both in the excavating phase (about 2000 cycles) and in concreting (about 275
The BOT bridge is composed by four highly similar piles.
These repetitions can also be fostered by the preparation of the realization and by the constitution and
deployment of the work teams.
The context: The product may have an impact on a
large scale. Thus, many external actors, especially public
ones, can interfere. The environment also can lead to
unforeseeable events and substantial uncertainty (the
local and regulatory context, geological and climatic
contingencies, innovations in the structure and/or the
construction process, etc).
Fig. 6. Permanent catch-up profile.
Fig. 5. Difficult start-up and controlled or late convergence.
S.B. Mahmoud-Jouini et al. / International Journal of Project Management 22 (2004) 359–367 365
The railroad tunnel benefits from good surprises concerning the
geological conditions and the excavating was faster than
On the other hand, the Hong Kong tunnels encountered hard
geological conditions.
Emphasizing the importance of these contingencies
means that anticipation and preparation must be combined with vigilance, responsiveness and ongoing
learning. While it is unrealistic to think that all disturbances can be eliminated, the consequences they
engender depend to a large extent on the managerial
know-how developed to anticipate, detect and deal with
Even if the BOT bridge project occurs some problems in the beginning, it is the anticipation that permits to react rapidly and
find other solutions. The accelerating of the work in the office
building was not anticipated but the fact that actors had worked
on several problems similar to the speeding up ones help them
to find solutions.
It is probably because of a lack of anticipation and preparation
of the explosive materials transport or the coordination with the
design firm that the Hong Kong tunnels followed a permanent
catch up profile.
We focus here on anticipation as an interactive and
learning process rather than on the planning result.
The contract: The trade-off between specifications,
cost and delay is frozen at the beginning of the project
can. It can often, be optimised in the course of the
project but it involves then many actors and necessitates
lengthy negotiations. The interactive anticipation process described above needs to be supported by flexible
contract and partner relationship.
We studied projects such as the BOT bridge, the
office building or the railroad tunnel, where the time-todelivery was reduced. In these projects, the contractor and the client considered time-to-delivery as one of
the project parameters to be managed, representing a
mean of action and not solely a cost to control. The
speed profiles (difficult start-up with controlled convergence for the bridge and accelerated profile for
the latest) show that the way to accelerate the project
as a whole does not necessarily lie in cutting down
the phases proportionally but in emphasizing some
phases over others and structuring their interconnection differently. Managing project speed thus comes
down to answer the following questions: How much
time should be devoted to the exploratory and the design phases? When should construction work, a costly
and irreversible phase, begins? What should the relationship be between the design phase and the construction phase?
These examples show also that, in EPC projects, the
flexibility of the contract and the implicit relationship
that it permits play a huge role in creating a win-win
situation necessary to manage time as a resource and not
solely as a cost.
7. Conclusion
The management of time in the projects was studied
primarily for NPD projects from a time-to-market reduction perspective. Our goal in this paper was to promote greater understanding of project management by
filling a gap concerning the management of time in EPC
projects from a time-to-delivery perspective.
We have shown how the concurrent engineering
model reduces time-to-market and speeds NPD projects.
We discussed the importance of the time-to-delivery
reduction for the customer and for the contractor. We
showed that in EPC projects, customers can consider
time as a resource and, in that case, they will encourage
the contractor to reduce the project duration. But if they
are not interested in early delivery, the contractor will
generally go with the achievement of the delay fixed in
the contract, reaping profit by controlling costs, particularly in the case of a required reorganization of the
project. The reputation of the contractor consists of his
ability to respect the time-to-delivery and to satisfy the
customer when he asks to speed up some phases.
Based on an analysis of six projects, we distinguish
different phases in a project : preparation, learning, ongoing and back-up, each having its own speed. These
phases represent the global speed profile concept. The
firm chooses a planned speed profile before the start of
the project and then drives the effective speed profile
according the planned one or in a different way in order
to latch on the opportunities and react to surprises.
Managing speed is choosing a planned profile corresponding to the speed strategy of the firm and then
driving the course of the different phases and their
connection. We characterized three types of contrasting
planned profiles: the industrial, the empirical and the
back-up one, and four speed effective profiles : the accelerating, the difficult start-up with controlled convergence and late one, and the permanent catch-up.
This depiction of the variety of possible speed profiles
normally falls apart with general, over-simplified
observations that treat speed as the simple result of
other project dimensions. In contrast, our paper aims to
show that, in EPC projects, time can be considered a
resource and speed can be managed.
The goal in this paper was to remain within the
framework of a structural analysis. In further research,
a subsequent causal analysis might consider the contractor
s ability to manage the planned and effective
speed profiles. We could distinguish external aspects,
such as relationships with the customer or the environment of the project, and internal ones, such as
composition of the team, learning from past projects,
product and process integration.
Subsequent research, which is already under way, will
answer the following questions:
366 S.B. Mahmoud-Jouini et al. / International Journal of Project Management 22 (2004) 359–367
How can project supervisors be trained in order to
handle these aspects?
How can lessons on good speed management practices be shared?
How promote the development of partnership practices which seems to be the cornerstone for effective
speed management?
We thank the referees, Jonas Soderlund and Florence
Charue-Duboc for their fruitful comments.
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