Project Definition Rating Index Tool for Infrastructure Projects (Best Practice)

RT-268 Topic Summary
RT 268


Previous CII research has found that tools for measuring project scope definition and facilitating alignment between project participants are essential to a good front end planning process; and that the greater and more effective the front end planning effort, the greater the chance for project success. While this earlier research addressed front end planning (FEP) for industrial and building projects, it did not focus on infrastructure work directly, and little research has been performed in the area of FEP for infrastructure projects.

The Project Definition Rating Index (PDRI) for Infrastructure Projects is similar and complementary to two other popular CII front end planning tools, PDRI–Buildings and PDRI–Industrial. PDRI for Infrastructure Projects is an early diagnostic tool that can identify obstructions, bottlenecks, and misalignments that could hinder the efficient transfer of resources to industrial facilities and buildings. As with cardiac health, early detection of problems will lead to closer-to-optimal solutions at lower relative costs. Thus PDRI–Infrastructure Projects:

  • Is a powerful and easy-to-use tool that offers a method to measure project scope definition for completeness
  • Identifies and precisely describes each critical element in a scope definition package
  • Also allows the project team to quickly identify project risk factors related to the desired outcomes for cost, schedule, and operating performance
  • Is designed to evaluate the completeness of scope definition at any point prior to detailed design and construction
  • Using the PDRI method, project teams can capture mitigation action items as well

For the planning of inter-jurisdictional infrastructure projects, the PDRI is valuable as it prompts the owner and design team to conduct an early validation of their business and design assumptions against the will of the public and jurisdictional requirements. This assessment should be undertaken early and then – prior to proceeding with detailed scope development – it should be confirmed in hearings and meetings with the public and with the jurisdictions of stakeholders. Research has shown that the PDRI–Infrastructure can effectively be used to improve the predictability of project performance. However, the PDRI–Infrastructure alone will not ensure successful projects. When combined with sound business planning, team alignment, and good project execution, it can greatly improve the probability of meeting or exceeding project objectives. Note: This research includes SP268-3, which outlines the findings and lessons learned from over the past 20 years of CII research on the importance of front end planning for design, construction, and operation and maintenance.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Weighting PDRI Elements

RT-268 established the PDRI element weights by using input provided by 15 owner organizations and 21 contractor organizations from the infrastructure sector. A complex statistical analysis of the data was conducted to determine the numerical weights assigned to each element. (RS268-1, p. 13)
Reference: (RS268-1)

2 : Infrastructure Project Definition

RT-268 defined an infrastructure project as a capital project that provides transportation, transmission, distribution, collection, or other capabilities in support of commerce or the interaction of goods, service, or people. The central premise of the research team’s effort is that project teams must work collaboratively (i.e., achieve alignment) on the right projects and perform the right work (i.e., define scope) during front end planning. In the context of systems, an infrastructure project in this definition provides the needed services and connections that enable industrial facilities and buildings to function effectively. If any of these vectors are disrupted, the entire system will fail to function effectively unless redundancy is provided. The diagram below illustrates this concept, showing the connection of industrial facilities and buildings (i.e., nodes) by infrastructure such as pipelines, electrical distribution, canals, rail, and highways (i.e., vectors). (RS268-1, p. 3)
Reference: (RS268-1)

3 : Testing the PDRI–Infrastructure Tool

In order to test the usefulness of the PDRI–Infrastructure, and to determine its target value, it was tested on completed projects to verify its viability as a predictor of project success. This analysis revealed a significant difference in performance between the projects scoring above 200 and the projects scoring below 200 prior to detailed design and construction for the PDRI–Infrastructure. (RS268-1, p. 13)
Reference: (RS268-1)

4 : Logic Flow Diagram

The PDRI–Infrastructure was developed as a point-in-time tool, with elements grouped by subject matter and not in time-sequenced logic. It is recognized that there is an embedded logic in the descriptions. Certain elements must first be defined before others can be defined. For instance, Section I elements address the need to perform the “right project,” Section II elements help the team to develop the “right product,” and Section III elements focus on the “right approach” to performing the project all in the context of needed scope definition. The figure below outlines the logic at a section level for PDRI–Infrastructure (RS268-1, p. 18).
Reference: (RS268-1)

5 : Philosophy of Use for PDRI–Infrastructure

Two key points on the use of this PDRI tool for Infrastructure:

  • Assessments should ideally be performed more than once during front end planning (RS268-1, p. 18).
  • PDRI scores will improve as planning progresses, but they may vary on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis as team members realize that some elements are not as well defined as initially assumed. It is important to score the elements honestly in order to gain the benefits of the PDRI–Infrastructure as a diagnostic tool. 
Reference: (RS268-1)

6 : Implementation Tool #1

IR268-2, PDRI: Project Definition Rating Index – Infrastructure Projects

The PDRI–Infrastructure tool consists of 68 elements, which are grouped into 13 categories that are further grouped into three main sections:

  • Section I: Basis of Project Decision – 5 categories/23 elements
  • Section II: Basis of Design – 4 categories/23 elements
  • Section III: Execution Approach – 4 categories/22 elements

The tool provides a method for measuring the completeness of project scope development on infrastructure projects based on the collective professional judgment of the project team. Before detailed design and construction, project representatives make a comprehensive checklist of scope definition elements to be evaluated. These elements are then evaluated on the basis of their level of completeness. After all elements have been assessed, an index is calculated that gives the relative level of definition for the project.

Reference: (IR268-2)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved cost, Improved schedule, Reduced change

Research Publications

Assessment of Effective Front End Planning Processes - RS268-1a

Publication Date: 12/2013 Type: Research Summary Pages: 48 Status: Supporting Product

PDRI: Project Definition Rating Index -- Infrastructure Projects, Version 4.0 - IR268-2

Publication Date: 10/2013 Type: Implementation Resource Pages: 145 Status: Tool

Adding Value through Front End Planning - SP268-3

Publication Date: 12/2012 Type: Special Publication Pages: 30 Status: Supporting Product

Data Analysis on the Implementation of Successful Front End Planning Processes - RR268-12

Publication Date: 12/2012 Type: Research Report Pages: 123 Status: Reference

Development of the Project Definition Rating Index (PDRI) for Infrastructure Projects - RR268-11

Publication Date: 09/2011 Type: Research Report Pages: 250 Status: Reference

Front End Planning Tool: PDRI for Infrastructure Projects - RS268-1

Publication Date: 01/2011 Type: Research Summary Pages: 37 Status: Supporting Product

Supporting Resources

Education Materials

Project Definition Rating Index (PDRI) for Infrastructure Projects - Participant Handbook - EM268-21A

Publication Date: 11/2012 Type: Education Module Pages: 0 Status: Supporting Product

Project Definition Rating Index (PDRI) for Infrastructure Projects - Instructor's Guide - EM268-21

Publication Date: 11/2012 Type: Education Module Pages: 0 Status: Supporting Product

Presentations from CII Events

Plenary Session - Adding Value through Front End Planning

Publication Date: 06/2012 Presenter: Number of Slides: 29 Event Code: AC12

Plenary Session - Completing the Trilogy: PDRI for Infrastructure

Publication Date: 07/2010 Presenter: Number of Slides: 21 Event Code: AC10

Implementation Session - Completing the Trilogy: PDRI for Infrastructure

Publication Date: 07/2010 Presenter: Number of Slides: 66 Event Code: AC10