Front End Planning (Best Practice)

RT-113 Topic Summary
RT 113


Research from RT-113 is unique in that it supports two CII Best Practices: Front End Planning and Alignment.

Research has proven that project success is greater when an increased level of pre-project planning is used. Value includes:

  • Increased predictability of cost and schedule
  • Reduced probability of project failures
  • Improved operational performance
  • Better achievement of business goals
  • Better definition of risks
  • Fewer scope changes

As organizational structures continue to downsize, decentralize, and out-source through partnering with outside organizations, project teams have become more autonomous and responsible for the planning process. As a project is passed from the business group to engineering, operations, and contractors, the original objectives are sometimes lost. Achieving and maintaining alignment is a key factor for successful project planning in this demanding environment. Alignment during pre-project planning is also critical to project success.

Proper scope definition and alignment during pre-project planning will greatly improve both the cost and cycle time needed to design and construct capital facilities. 

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Right Team, Right Project

The central premise of the Front End Planning Research Team effort was that “teams must be working on the right project in a collaborative manner (alignment), and performing the right work (scope definition) during pre-project planning.” (RS113-1, p. 1)
Reference: (RS113-1)

2 : Project Definition Rating Index (PDRI)

RT-113 developed the Project Definition Rating Index to assist project teams in developing a complete project definition package for industrial projects. A lower PDRI score indicates a more well defined project scope, and a higher success factor indicates a more successful project. The PDRI can benefit both owner and contractor companies. (RS113-1, p. 7)
Reference: (RS113-1)

3 : Project Team Alignment

Project Team Alignment is the process of incorporating all of those distinct priorities and requirements into a uniform set of project objectives that meet the business needs for the proposed facility. The research identified five categories that need to be addressed effectively to achieve alignment: (RS113-1, p. 11)

  • Execution processes
  • Company culture
  • Information
  • Barriers to creating and maintaining alignment
  • Tools

Reference: (RS113-1)

4 : Ten Critical Alignment Issues

Achieving and maintaining alignment is critical to project success. The 10 critical alignment issues that have the greatest effect on team alignment and ultimate project success, in order of importance are:

  1. Stakeholders are appropriately represented on the project team.
  2. Project leadership is defined, effective, and accountable.
  3. The priority between cost, schedule, and required project features is clear.
  4. Communication within the team and with stakeholders is open and effective.
  5. Team meetings are timely and productive.
  6. The team culture fosters trust, honesty, and shared values.
  7. The pre-project planning process includes sufficient funding, schedule, and scope to meet objectives.
  8. The reward and recognition system promotes meeting project objectives.
  9. Teamwork and team building programs are effective.
  10. Planning tools are effectively used.

These 10 critical issues are the basis for the "Alignment Thermometer" discussed under the Implementation Tools section.

(RS113-1, p. 17)

Reference: (RS113-1)

5 : Implementation Tool #1

IR113-2, Project Definition Rating Index – Industrial Projects

This resource provides a method for measuring project scope development and the PDRI is effective in predicting project success. The PDRI tool has many uses, including:

  • A scope definition checklist
  • An industry standard for rating the completeness of project scope definition
  • A tool that aids in project team communication

Since its initial release in 1996, the PDRI tool has diversified into multiple versions tailored to serve a variety of industry sectors and project sizes. To learn more, visit a page dedicated to the PDRI Family.

In 2019, RT-361 upgraded the PDRI–Industrial to PDRI MATRS (pronounced “PDRI matters”) by combining two major research efforts:

  • RT-113, the team that introduced the Project Definition Rating Index (PDRI) in 1996
  • RT-331, which proposed and demonstrated the value of the combined assessment of the maturity and accuracy of front end engineering design (FEED)

By combining the efforts of RT-113 and RT-331, the RT-361 research made significant improvements to the functionality of PDRI:

  1. Adding objectivity and consistency to the scoring by giving detailed descriptions and examples for each possible definition level tailored to the 70 PDRI elements
  2. Adding a new FEED accuracy dimension to evaluate contextual factors for the environment in which FEP is being conducted
Reference: (IR113-2)

6 : Implementation Tool #2

IR113-3, Alignment During Pre-Project Planning: A Key to Project Success

Outlines the process required to gain and maintain alignment, and presents the Alignment Thermometer, which can determine whether the team is focusing on the issues and processes that have a substantial effect on team alignment during this critical phase of the project life-cycle.
Reference: (IR113-3)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved cost, Improved schedule, Reduced change, Improved design, Improved predictability

Research Publications

PDRI: Project Definition Rating Index -- Industrial Projects, Version 5.0 - IR113-2

Publication Date: 07/2019 Type: Implementation Resource Pages: 208 Status: Tool

Alignment During Pre-Project Planning: A Key to Project Success, Version 2.1 - IR113-3

Publication Date: 12/2009 Type: Implementation Resource Pages: 89 Status: Tool

Pre-Project Planning Tools: PDRI and Alignment - RS113-1

Publication Date: 08/1997 Type: Research Summary Pages: 34 Status: Supporting Product

Team Alignment During Pre-Project Planning of Capital Facilities - RR113-12

Publication Date: 01/1997 Type: Research Report Pages: 319 Status: Reference

Project Definition Rating Index (PDRI) for Industrial Projects - RR113-11

Publication Date: 06/1996 Type: Research Report Pages: 214 Status: Reference

Supporting Resources

Education Materials

Development and Alignment of Project Objectives - Instructor's Guide - EM113-21

Publication Date: 08/1998 Type: Education Module Pages: 0 Status: Supporting Product

Development and Alignment of Project Objectives - Participant Handbook - EM113-21A

Publication Date: 08/1998 Type: Education Module Pages: 0 Status: Supporting Product

Project Definition Rating Index (PDRI) for Industrial Projects - Instructor's Guide - EM113-23

Publication Date: 12/2009 Type: Education Module Pages: 0 Status: Supporting Product

Project Definition Rating Index (PDRI) for Industrial Projects - Participant Handbook - EM113-23A

Publication Date: 12/2009 Type: Education Module Pages: 0 Status: Supporting Product

Effective PDRI Facilitation: Better Results through Better Delivery - WS1-01

Publication Date: 03/2013 Type: Video Pages: 0 Status: Supporting Product