Team Spotlight: Project Controls
Otak continues to grow the depth and breadth of our capabilities. With the acquisition of Tarr Whitman Group (TWG), an advanced project controls firm, it enables us to unveil a new practice area to better serve our clients and aid them in making informed, data-driven decisions at all stages of a project’s lifecycle.
What is project controls, and what is advanced project controls?
Project controls is scope, schedule, and budget. It is the core of project and contract management for projects. But how does this help our clients?
According to TWG President Walter Tarr, project controls comes down to data management and communication. Our new team members specialize in reporting on projects and programs. They help define the success metrics and reporting systems for project managers, clients, and other stakeholders in a digestible fashion, allowing for quick decisions that are rooted in data science and relevant forecasts on things like cost impacts, notices, timelines, and risks involved in a project. Advanced project controls means our new team can provide the software, systems, resources, and processes for large projects and programs.
See a Need, Fill a Need
Tarr saw the need for this service early on in his career. He noticed while working at a construction management firm that larger organizations weren’t getting the most out of their data, or were often making decisions that were reactive, rather than proactive when it comes to project and contract management. Thanks to existing relationships with owners and decision-makers at other firms and the niche market in which it existed, TWG was born as a one-stop for project controls services with both him and Dave Hawkins at the helm.
An Art and a Science
Tarr emphasizes that while project controls is highly technical, there’s an art to it as well. Professionals in this sphere need to be jacks-of-all-trades, having a deep understanding of factors like scheduling, software, cost, construction management, design, and risk management around a project. Greater still, one must be able to communicate this information so PM’s and PIC’s can make decisions at a glance. It’s a trade that involves both macro-level understanding and micro-level attention to detail. To Tarr, TWG is more along the lines of being business managers, helping stakeholders understand where their project as a business sits, and addressing both known and unknown issues—a concept that’s rare in the industry today.
To tackle the herculean task of making sense of multi-million (and sometimes billion) dollar programs, Tarr created Projectcontrols.online, as simple web app born out of a dissatisfaction with existing project reporting system tools and their pricing structures. Most of these tools try to solve the same problem of how to roll up and monitor projects in an easy way, and Projectcontrols.online does just that in a way that doesn’t require endless input from the user. What’s more, the app allows for easy communication of results which is suited for PM’s concerned with the day-to-day. By utilizing project controls, those same PM’s can look ahead and begin to make projections anywhere from one month to one year ahead of time. Firms immediately saw the value in Tarr’s work, and TWG got brought onto high-profile projects as a result.
To view TWG’s body of work is to become acquainted with some of the most high-profile programs in the Puget Sound region. The Sound Transit Eastlink Program, Lynnwood Link Light Rail, SR 520 for WSDOT, and the Port of Seattle are all examples of the exemplary work TWG has done as part of Otak’s broader portfolio of projects. These huge projects align with TWG’s business model—land programs with high capital allowances and high price ceilings. The combination of the work and the approach have made TWG successful.
The Team and the Future
When asked about essential members of his team that make TWG’s work possible, Tarr immediately recognized Brian Muñoz, Warren Jordan, and Tim Sattler as key players in the project controls division who allow the firm to deliver on its promises. As projects only get larger and more complex, Tarr sees the need to continue to grow his team to meet the demand for project controls in the industry as a whole. With greater access to private work via the merger with Otak, Tarr is confident that the relationship will continue to bear fruit and ultimately make both firms stronger.
Please join us in giving a long overdue welcome to the TWG team, and we’re excited to see how this practice area evolves along with our operations.