Document Detail

Title: RS213-1 - Front End Planning: Break the Rules, Pay the Price
Publication Date: 11/1/2006
Product Type: Research Summary
Status: Supporting Product
Pages: 32
Reports on an investigation into the importance of the front end planning process, the resources required to perform the process effectively, and outlines the key process 'rules.' Provides data analysis that shows effective front end planning can improve capital costs by 10 percent, reduce schedule by seven percent, and reduce change orders by five percent.
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Front end planning is often considered the single most important and valuable process in the capital project life cycle. Also known by such terms as pre-project planning and front end loading, it represents the critical underpinning to any capital project. It is focused on a strong, early link between the business or mission need, project strategy, scope, cost, and schedule and maintaining that link throughout the project life cycle.

CII formed the Support for Pre-Project Planning Research Team to investigate the importance and the value of the process, the resources required to perform the process effectively, and to outline key process “rules.” The research team compiled 17 case studies from projects worth over $1.5 billion and analyzed project data in excess of $35 billion. Its focus was on the effectiveness of front end planning, including how it relates to alignment as well as to the use of the popular CII tool, the Project Definition Rating Index (PDRI). The PDRI is a checklist scoring system that provides users a numerical score that reflects how well a project’s scope has been defined. A total score of less than 200 is highly desirable.

The research team found that upfront investment is required, but the resulting savings are more than worth the investment. The team also developed the following critical “rules” of front end planning:

  • Develop and consistently follow a defined front end planning process.
  • Ensure adequate scope definition prior to moving forward with design and construction.
  • Use front end planning tools.
  • Define existing conditions thoroughly.
  • Select the proper contracting strategy early.
  • Align the project team, including key stakeholders.
  • Build the project team, including owner stakeholders and consultants.
  • Include involvement from both owners and contractors.
  • Staff critical project scoping and design areas with capable and experienced personnel.
  • Identify and understand risks of new project types, technologies, or locations.
  • Address labor force skill and availability during planning.
  • Provide leadership at all levels for the front end planning process, including executive and project, owner and contractor.


Projects teams and organizations that break these “rules” will pay the price in terms of disappointing results.