Master plans are complex, expensive endeavours that plot a course to an organisation's utopia, and justify capital investment over a timeframe of 3, 5 or even 10 years. But, after their initial use in the first few years, their utility often fades because the external environment shifts, organisational capacity for more substantial changes reduces or because it's just too much work. In many organisations, master plans end up gathering dust in bottom draws.
Adjusting the projects in a master plan isn't necessarily a bad thing. Master plans should change over time to match demand and long-term trends. As a case in point, we saw network master planning franticly reconfigured in response to COVID-19 supply chain constraints. Next, master planning will change to avoid urban encroachment reduce climate change risks and drive sustainability.
"Master plans will always be subject to change. But they should not be completely discounted when change happens."
Nowadays, portfolios of capital projects are often built and executed without any reference to the master plan at all – which is a problem. A long-range master plan is about vision and long-term sustainability. A good master plan should have a strong and lasting influence over portfolio build. That's what it's there for.
CAPEXinsights visualises how master plans intersect with capital projects
To allow master plans to influence portfolios and individual projects, they need to come out of the bottom draw and be uploaded in a digitised form, so they are kept in the line of sight of everyone making decisions about strategic planning and capital projects.
Using a cloud-based SaaS business intelligence platform can visually overlay master plans at a portfolio or site level, allowing organisations to:
- Model portfolios over several years
This makes it easy for portfolio managers to run portfolios over more than one financial year. It allows managers to pre-populate future years' portfolios with known projects in network and site master plans, taking asset lifespans into account and booking in replacement projects years in advance.
It ultimately combines the project planning process and long-term goals into future growth and revenue.
- Communicate master plan updates
Any changes to master plans can be quickly communicated to portfolio and site managers, ensuring portfolios and projects can pivot quickly, taking into account new thinking and priorities. Give your people the knowledge and framework to contribute to the organisation's strategy.
- See individual projects in the context of the master plan
A central source of truth allows project managers to load up the network or site master plan to determine what needs to change to align with the bigger picture. When you empower your team to contribute at a local level to the progress of the master plan, they will manage their project with the overarching plan in mind.
- Make future thinking transparent
Often, master plans earmark space in current sites for future plans, only for someone to unwittingly install a piece of equipment there. With the master plan's intent already loaded onto the platform, site managers will know they can't build a car park in a space that next year, is supposed to be filled by a plant extension. Having discretionary funds for capital projects is core to the master planning process. New developments occur regularly and need to be considered to establish a successful dynamic master plan.
- Protect confidential master planning
Important future usage data can be made available without revealing confidential elements of master plans. Being able to create privilege controls that ensure users will only see and access the pieces of the master plan puzzle they are authorised to view is vital.
Rather than allowing your master plan to gather dust, it should be turned into an updatable presence overlaid across every capital project. This will allow it to continue to exert influence over its years of scope, helping capital project portfolios to deliver the long-term vision leaders and shareholders expect.