Q&A: Interview with Louis Ng, Head of Project and Program Controls
We live in the age of digital disruption and we need bold digital and technology leadership more than ever. Leading this change requires knowledge, imagination, a new way of thinking, an appetite to reinvent and the courage to defy convention.
In this series, we celebrate our team of digital and tech experts and visionaries spearheading the development and delivery of our cutting-edge solutions for smarter work and better lives in Asia Pacific (APAC ).
For this feature, we caught up Louis Ng, our Head of Project and Program Controls, to talk about the importance of project controls in project delivery, emerging trends in this area, and how digital delivery technologies are critical to executing projects. projects while respecting time and budget constraints.
Tell us about your role at Jacobs.
I am responsible for project and program controls at Jacobs for the Tuas Water Harvesting Plant Project – a major infrastructure program in Singapore that is essential for safeguarding the precious water resource. Jacobs provides professional services to the client covering design management, program management and construction management. I lead the team that provides the full range of project and program control services including planning (which includes 4D building information modeling simulations), progress monitoring, estimation and cost control, risk management, document control and trend and data analysis. We manage level 1 subcontractors in collaboration with the client, using appropriate technology and digital platforms. My team and I also manage internal controls using both the latest company tools as well as the processes and tools we have developed to effectively report, monitor and control the financial position, change management, invoicing. customers, cash flow and forecasts for this large and complex project.
In addition, I am co-chair of Jacobs OneWorldIn the APAC region, the Employee Network has focused on providing an inclusive environment that actively nurtures and supports our diverse employees and clients from all cultures.
What role do project controls play in the success of large projects?
From my perspective, the interrelated success factors of the project are like a pyramid, with security at the top of the pyramid and the base comprising time, cost and quality. Project management encompasses many other areas beyond these components. Project managers manage all project stakeholders and are also the single point of contact for decision making. It is simply overwhelming for project managers to be experts in all areas. Project controls provide an essential service to the project manager and the project team to achieve this delicate balance between the factors of success of a project. The planning, monitoring and control service provided by project controllers is essential to enable key decision makers and stakeholders to access the right level of information on time to carry out their roles. This is particularly the case with large projects where the interfaces are more complex and the deadlines much longer. Without having integrated project controls with standardized tools, processes and services, it will be difficult to deliver a project of this scope on time and on budget without compromising quality and customer satisfaction.
How do digital delivery technologies support project controls in the execution of critical projects while respecting time and budget constraints?
The main goal of project controls is to effectively summarize complex information to enable decision makers to make informed decisions, which is also one of the biggest challenges. Project controls use inputs from all stakeholders, collecting information such as volume of work for a particular scope, amount of effort to complete the task, type of risk associated with the tasks, cost breakdown for hours and materials, and many more. The amount of data to collect and summarize in dashboards and reports can be overwhelming. Digital delivery technologies dramatically improve the collection, structuring, extraction and analysis of data, so that the outputs and visuals required are much more efficient and comprehensive. We have successfully deployed some of these technologies like BIM 4D on our projects which are much more integrated and informative than traditional Gantt charts. We are also testing data analysis and reporting software as well as automation tools to make reporting and data integration more efficient. These efficiencies then help meet long-term time and budget constraints.
Looking to the future, what are the emerging trends in the field of project control?
Automating the collection and extraction of data from multiple sources is the current direction in the industry. Digital transformation occurs at the source, even at the site level where progress data is recorded via sensors or augmented scans; at the end of data analysis and visualization, such as robust data modeling and augmented and virtual reality; and every step in between. Future project control professionals will use tools to integrate and use all of this data in a multidimensional way and bring it to decision makers in an efficient and user-friendly way. Feature Manipulation Engine (FME), bot automation, machine learning, quality control, and data authentication using blockchain technology are all key trends that will strongly influence project controls in the future. We pride ourselves on honing our skills in these areas and testing how this could bring value to customers.
Tell us about an exciting project you worked on and what you enjoyed about it.
I have worked on many exciting projects in my career. I worked on the Tuas water recovery plantin Singapore for five years. I love working on such big projects because of the people. The camaraderie and fantastic team achievements allow me to rejuvenate myself even though there are always new obstacles to overcome.
But if I had to choose one exciting project, it would be from the early days of my career as a planner. I worked on an incredibly difficult project where we only had 24 months to do the engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning to complete the delivery of a rig weighing 18,500 tons, consisting of of six levels of steel structures, three bridges, 150,000 inch diameter welded pipes and 124 miles (200 km) of cables. It was a complex project for a young engineer like me at the time. We completed the work on time thanks to our planning, referral and rigorous monitoring efforts. It was exhilarating to see the project progressing according to plan and ending on time and it made people understand the importance of good project management and good project controls.
If you’re not in the office, what would we likely find you doing?
I’m a bibliophile, so I really enjoy reading. I could easily immerse myself for hours in a good book at home or in a cafe with a cup of coffee while my wife is busy cooking at home or attending her classes. We also like to look for good cafes to spend quality time together on the weekends.
Tell us about your most interesting career moment.
Difficult to choose just one! Being selected for the Jacobs Next Horizon program, a structured program to develop leadership and professional skills, and the experience I have gained are certainly among the highlights of my career.
The most exciting would be when I had my first opportunity to lead a team. I realized that my main goal was no longer to perform tasks on my own. Instead, it was about making sure my team was motivated, developing their capabilities and reaching their full potential. It was my eureka moment. I cherish the opportunity to lead a high performing team and help them achieve ambitious goals as a cohesive group.
People would be surprised to know that …
I completed my national service and gradually entered the Singapore Military Reserve as a captain in the army. I worked as a combat engineer in the intelligence service, which was an extremely rewarding experience.
What attracted you to Jacobs?
Jacobs’ projects in Singapore and the region and their focus on sustainability impressed me a lot. In addition, its international presence makes it possible to be part of a global team that provides opportunities for networking and learning from various subject matter experts. I was also impressed with Jacobs’ core values as they aligned closely with my values regarding people, innovation, diversity and inclusion, and challenging the accepted.
What do you love most about being a part of #OurJacobs?
The focus on people and their growth. Thanks to the opportunities and resources within the company, I have seen tremendous growth in the capabilities of my team, others in the project and the region. I also benefited from this people-centered approach. Knowing the potential within the company and our goal of creating a more connected and sustainable world makes me proud and excited about what can be achieved in the near future.