Re: ECOs

Subject: Re: ECOs
From: Niebergall Peter-APN001C <apn001c -at- EUROPE -dot- MOT -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 10 Sep 1998 18:22:09 +0200

Shannon Folena wrote:
> I'm wondering if ECOs are common place, or if I've been blissfully
> naive.

I don't know if "engineering" processes in the US are much different
from those known to multinational European companies, but here's a
snippet on project management that I experienced with a very large
multi-billion dollar refinery project not too long ago:
In this refinery project, a joint-venture of three "big engineering
players", the basis of all activity was the so-called EPC-contract, EPC
meaning Engineering-Procurement-Construction. This monster, spanning
about 26 wide-backed folders, basically spelled out in every detail
which services provided by whom to which extent is awarded with a
partial payment of the agreed lump sum. Since these contracts are pretty
theoretical - many costly, not-so-predictable factors evolve in the
course of the project - it is very important to track who initiated
changes to the EPC in great detail, this happens by means of change

In the IT world this is less pragmatic, since systems management change
control (as defined in ISO DIS 10040/10164) just focusses on tracking
changes for the purpose of rollbacks in case something doesn't work, big

Engineering change management needs to be backed by a rigid and well
working document control in order to chronologically document the most
minute changes, as these may have disastrous financial consequences to
the suppliers involved.

Example: Supplier adheres to tank specification V2.42, and paints a
dozen tanks (diameter 400 feet, height 150 feet each) in white according
to the given tank specification. Cost: 12 mega$. Meanwhile the tank
specification was changed from Version 2.42a to 2.42b to comply with VDE
standard xyz to be painted in silvergray, the change was initiated by
representatives of the project sponsors. Due to slow propagation of the
paper involved, this change was overlooked by all approving instances,
the supplier had to repaint the tank farm, cost: 15 mega$. Without a
working change management they would still be arguing about the
chargeback, with the existent change notifiers in place and
chronological order nobody objected. You see that Change Control/Change
Management is definitely the only means to fair play in complex

On the other hand there are companies who dislike change control as too
much paperwork, but these companies are usually of a size where the CEO
personally knows all staff members by name and birthday...and if one
project bombs the company is out of business, and afterwards they can't
even put their finger on what went wrong...


To summarize: if you have never seen ECOs before, you have not worked
for big industry players yet (too bad, since they pay very well - in
Europe, at least...) Have fun in this job, keep your ears wide open and
think thrice before objecting to a workflow, but with a little common
sense you'll be fine... BTW, I consider "common sense" to be the most
desirable characteristic of a good tech writer, too bad that common
sense can't be certified <stitch>...;->

> Best regards, Peter
> CORPORATE , Telecommunication & Information Security EMEA
> External Contractor eMail : apn001c -at- email -dot- mot -dot- com
> Peter Niebergall Phone : + 49 (0)6128 70-2023
> Heinrich-Hertz-Strasse 1 Fax : + 49 (0)6128 72920
> 65232 Taunusstein
> Germany

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