By Joseph Khan
Becoming a global leader and achieving a competitive advantage
in todays era of rapid change and development requires
More importantly, it necessitates a plan and a vehicle to
realise that vision. Unfortunately, we have become known for
conceptualising wonderful and innovative ideas and leaving
them as just thatmere ideas, not progressing beyond
the actual blueprint nor exploring options to achieve success.
Why is this so? Is it that we are not adopting a feasible
approach that would ensure fruition of these ideas and dreams?
Or could it be that we are deficient in basic skills of developing
action plans and structured approaches?
Project management is one feasible approach for ensuring
that our dreams are realised, and abstract thoughts are conceived,
specifically from a business perspective.
This approach is by no means new. Project management is
defined by the International Project Management Association
as the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques
to project activities that advertently bring about a desirable
Project management is both an art and a science of managing
related and unrelated undertakings of varying complexities.
It is certainly not confined to the construction environment
alone, as is often believed.
As knowledge areas such as cost, time, risk, procurement
and scope management are applicable, the art of project management
can also be used in the areas of accounting, public sector
administration, social community projects, information technology
or even addressing a crisis or disaster situation.
As a tool, project management can be seen as a tactical
scheme for accomplishing tasks with which many organisations
would usually have challenges. Once executed effectively,
it usually produces successful outcomes.
Project management gives relevance to organisations that
are cost leaders, as well as those that are aiming to differentiate
their products in the market. Both are attempting to accomplish
one common goalsatisfy customers demanding their goods
or services as of yesterday.
Wanting a product as of yesterday, causes the
performing organisation to operate within the parameters of
an unforgiving environment. This means delivering
at the lowest cost, by a deadline, within the quality specifications,
as well as providing an acceptable customer service. These
constraints by no means reduce the stress and anxiety of the
performing organisations human resource.
Competing with project constraints and increased customer
demands requires a more systematic approach to achieve project
objectives. This approach adopts procedures and processes
especially in the areas of cost estimation, scope and time
management. The Piarco Airport project, still a topic of controversy
and debate for the project management fraternity, is the result
of doing otherwise.
The controversial nature of this project, in particular,
is owed to the fact that it was associated with excessive
cost and schedule overruns, as well as questions on the quality
of its deliverables.
Cost overruns, scope changes and poor quality in simple
undertakings such as road resurfacing, construction of the
Tobago hospital, construction of the Biche High school or
even the never-ending Water for all project are
inexcusable in the information age.
That a fire from a shack wiped out several businesses in
Port-of-Spain and threatened the entire capital city screams
the need for proper planning and risk management.
In applying the project management methodology, we must
first recognise that we are actually embarking on a project,
especially within functional organisations where departments
such as marketing, research, engineering or maintenance exist.
Within these departments we are commonly faced with developing
a marketing plan, improving customer service, planning for
a major overhaul or designing a training programme.
These are all projectstemporary endeavours undertaken
to create a specific and unique product, service or result.
Projects may be divided into phases to provide better management
control. This is referred to as the project life cycle.
Futhermore, there is a body of knowledge which should be
religiously applied to each phase of a project to ensure conformity
to procedures and standards. Flexibility is built into the
process as projects can vary in both duration and level of
complexity, making the technique applicable to almost all
BpTTs recently completed Cannonball platform is an
example of a successful project management approach of great
magnitude and scope.
Cannonball cost approximately US$139million and was the
first of its kind in T&T with 65 per cent of the project
management, engineering and fabrication works executed by
Cannonball was completed on time, within budget and satisfactorily
met all international requirements.
It is obvious that T&T has the potential for becoming
a global leader in this aspect of construction. Our approach,
however, is a critical factor in the equation.
As a country, we are presently attempting to create our
own Cannonball, commonly known as Vision 2020.
This massive undertaking may be viewed as a complex but achievable
series of projects.
The project management approach is helpful here, bearing
in mind that Vision 2020 means increased road development,
new housing projects, expansions of hospitals and the alleviation
of crime and poverty, which all translate into a huge outpouring
of government spending.
Embarking on large multiple projects over the next 15 years
will be a challenge for T&T. It will involve a number
of associated risks that could be difficult to overcome, but
the prudent use of project management techniques could ensure
that our vision is accomplished.
Project management methodology is here and we should take
full advantage of the opportunities to tap into the wealth
of information, resources and tools that it offers.
It is time to stop accepting the ad hoc approach to project
implementation and apply order so that positive outcomes can
be attained. Let us make better use of our available resources
by utilising project management techniques that will ensure
successful completion of our tasks and projects within budget
and on time.
As business organisations, we must remember that a successful
project depends on structures, systems, procedures, planning,
as well as appropriate and efficient use of people.
Moving from a functional mode of operation to the application
of project management will help us to move our ideas from
the drawing board to successful implementation, ensuring that
our visions are realised.
Joseph Khan is a senior associate, project management
at the UWI-IOBs Centre for Training and Development.
He can be reached at 662-9894 ext 123, e-mail address: [email protected]