Effective Project Concept and Definition

Constructing Excellence

On Wednesday 21st July, Constructing Excellence and ECI held the first session of the Energy Transition Revolution series. The focus for this initial event was ‘Effective Project Concept and Definition’, the first ACTIVE Principle, with more information about this from Dario Rigaud, Fluor, and a case study example from Stuart Block, Fluor.

The concept and definition phase of a project is crucial as it sets the tone for the stages to follow. It’s important to build a solid foundation when embarking on any project, therefore, Effective Project Concept and Definition is key to unlocking successful project delivery.

During the session, attendees were asked to consider the challenges and solutions within project concept and definition. The results were as below:

What is ‘Effective Project Concept and Definition’ About?

Business Investment

Within the Effective Project Concept and Definition principle, investors are identified as the ‘owners’.

A Managed Process

This principle states the owners should have a managed process in place with stage gates: concept, definition, execution. These identify the why, when and how a project will be executed. All key team members should be involved in this process.

Front End Definition

Front end definition is also essential to this principle. Identifying clear scope, objectives and implementation strategy allows for all parties to understand the needs, tools and goals of the project before breaking ground and should outline the strategies for project management, organisation, communication, information management, safety, procurement, innovation and external interfaces.

It is essential to fully involve the project execution team in this.


Innovative tools, processes and practices have been developed over recent years, yet these remain under-utilised. For example,

  • Lean Construction Institute provides strategies for adding value and improving efficiency and profitability in a safe and sustainable way.
  • Advanced Work Packaging aligns planning and execution activities across the project lifecycle to support successful project delivery.
  • Building Information Modelling (BIM) supports a collaborative process and enables the sharing of information.

Outlining the use of these tools and processes at the project concept and definition phase enables them to fit together and be used effectively in coordination with each other. This supports an integrated, more effective approach.









Case Study: Bacton Refinery Eductor Project

This project needed to be completed in short space of time and was in a remote location in the middle of pipe run, pipe racks and modules. Effective Project Concept and Definition was essential in ensuring scope and objectives were accurate to inform scheduling and enable a timely delivery.

The project definition in this case was:

  • to reduce reliance on running multiple compressors.
  • share outcomes with other site clients.
  • accelerated to take advantage of single site shutdown.
  • remaining project scope over live plant.
  • client incentivised bonus of future work scope.

This project was faced with a number of challenges such as remote location, working relationships, hands off client, live plant working, etc.

The lynchpin in the successful delivery of this project was the relationship between client organisation and incumbent contractors, which was non-existent at the outset of the project. The project manager identified this and asked both parties ‘what is best for the project?’ This simple question enabled them to come together with a common focus and gain a better understanding of the other’s perspective which supported an improved, more collaborative relationship.

By bringing together everyone on the project and building a collaborative environment, the project team were able to tackle the challenges faced and achieve positive outcomes such as no safety incidences, delivered on time, improved relationships, etc.

Recommendations for Effective Project Concept and Definition from the Bacton Refinery Project Case Study:
  • Build good project relationships.
  • Have open and honest discussions.
  • Listen to all parties and use the expertise of individuals.
  • Build realistic schedules.
  • Identify and find solutions for problems/issues.
In Summary

We need a shift in how we deliver projects in order to deliver projects to meet Net Zero targets. This will require a mindset change across the industry. As part of this, we need to put more focus on properly defining projects from the outset to provide a solid basis. If we get it wrong from the beginning, how can we expect success?

Join us on this journey seeking an Energy Transition Revolution with the next session in the series, ‘Effective Project Team Management’. Find out more here.