Management skills that make or break projects

Husain Al Omani, Vincotte International (Saudi Arabia and Bahrain) business development manager, discusses crucial project management skills.

Vincotte International, COMMENT, Business

In Saudi Arabia, job opportunities for project managers are everywhere if you know where to look.

Most project management jobs here are in the construction, oil and gas, and chemical fields. Job opportunities are plentiful for both locals and foreigners. In fact, about 5.5 million foreign workers are employed in Saudi Arabia, particularly in the oil and service sectors.

The country holds 25% of the world's proven petroleum reserves and ranks as the world's largest exporter of petroleum.

Project managers are also in demand for large-scale construction projects to build roads for expanding oil and gas companies and to create new facilities for power-generation companies.

And if you're looking for project management work in Saudi Arabia, think big. Focus on the large companies that require higher qualifications rather than the smaller firms.

At some of the very large organisations - Saudi Aramco and Saudi Electricity Company, for example - project managers are well trained and have advanced skills.

But many smaller sub-contractors hire less-qualified project managers, a move that sometimes causes some problems.

Some recent projects in Saudi Arabia have hired project managers without strong qualifications, who have managed the projects poorly. This has been costly for the companies they work for.

There are examples where a contractor has had to leave a job unfinished because he lacked the expertise required to complete it.

Organisations in the country are searching for experienced project managers with cost estimating and planning skills.

Some project managers create rough budgets for projects without truly understanding the entire business situation.

They aren't sufficiently skilled at creating solid overall plans for projects.

Additionally, credentialled professionals are a hot commodity.

Professional project management is vital. It brings together a set of tools and techniques performed by people to describe, organise and monitor the work of projects.

Project managers are responsible for managing the project processes and applying the tools and techniques used to carry out the project activities.

In professional project management there are five major phases: initiation, planning, execution, control and closing.

These five phases interface and depend on each other, as there are inputs and outputs for each phase.

It is necessary to verify the outputs at the end of each phase before starting the next one because some missing items or mistakes could be killer points for the project even if it goes ahead.

There are also major skills every good project manager needs to make a project successful.

These skills are:

  • Communication skills (the most important skill for the project manager)
  • Organisation and planning skills
  •  Budgeting skills (Project managers establish and manage budgets and therefore need some knowledge of finance and accounting principles)
  • Conflict management skills
  •   Negotiation and influencing Skills. Negotiation is necessary in almost every area of the project)
  • Leadership Skills
  • Team-building and motivating skills

Poor skills can kill a project and make it unprofitable.

I know of a company that signed a contract to do a project in Riyadh.

The project didn't finish on time and was over budget, with the company losing more than US $500,000 (SAR 2 million). The reason was poor planning, communication and budgeting.

Many people think that if the project manager finishes before deadline or below the estimated cost, that they are successful. But the fact is, that it is not always the case.

Time and cost are constraints and are very important to any project. The manager needs to be informed if he is ahead or behind the planned schedule and budget.

A successful project manager must achieve the objectives of the project to the full satisfaction of the users, have all closeout activities completed and have all designated interests - including the project's sponsor and initiator - officially accept the project results or products before closing the job.

Husain Al Omani is the business development manager of Vincotte International (Saudi Arabia and Bahrain).

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

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