Executing effectively

SUKAD's Mounir Ajam asks how effective are we when it comes to executing projects?

COMMENT, Projects

In his final article on project management, Mounir Ajam, chief executive officer, SUKAD, focuses on ‘project environment' and the importance of the bigger picture.

In a previous article, I posed this question: with the construction boom in the Middle East, how effective are we in managing projects? We hear about quality challenges, delays in projects, fires and safety concerns, but are these normal signs of doing business in a dynamic world or are we lacking in certain aspects of our project and construction management? Could project management help us achieve things faster, more cheaply or economically? Some say ‘yes', while others raise concerns that you can only achieve two out of these three objectives. Which two? It depends, and I'll leave it at that.

I will not directly answer these questions; rather I will present some thoughts and concepts for the reader to consider and will leave the answers to be attempted by the various executives and project managers who are leading this amazing boom. It is up to each of us to make our own considerations about this controversial topic.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) - the largest project management professional association in the world - advocates a framework for managing projects. One of the concepts presented is what we call the ‘Five Areas of Expertise' that are required for project management - and I will now focus on one of them.

PMI tells us that in order to effectively manage projects we need the various stakeholders of the project to have collective expertise and knowledge in project management, the application area (industry of the project, i.e. IT, construction, oil & gas), general management, interpersonal skills and the project environment.

What do we mean by the project environment? We can agree that projects are not done in a vacuum. They are being implemented where many factors impact their development; whether these are internal organisational factors or factors from the region, or even globally.

Factors such as politics, culture, market conditions, the race to be the best, tallest and largest will all have an impact on a project. The facts are clear about the major growth that is happening, not only in Dubai or the region, but also around other parts of our small globe.

Can we agree that all of these factors are impacting our local projects?Another concept also advocated by the PMI framework related to the environment is that in planning our projects we must consider the environment and how our project impacts other projects, or whether it will be impacted by other projects? When we plan projects, are we considering the boom in China?

When we fund projects, are we evaluating the small, limited, or even restricted pool of resources? Are we planning our projects based on historical data and traditional planning tools without consideration of the dynamic market? What percentage of our projects are achieving their objectives in regard to cost, schedule, quality and customer satisfaction? Are we considering the risks of inadequate resources, such as equipment, tools, materials and people?

A project in ‘normal' times could take ‘X' months or dirhams to complete, but in such an existing environment, is ‘X' enough? Do we need ‘X' + 20%, 30%, or even 50%?

Delays, quality challenges and fires are not the problems, rather they are the symptoms of many deep-rooted issues. So what is the root cause of these challenges?

If you would like to write for Construction Week in this column, please email angela.giuffrida@itp.com.

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