Magazine article New Zealand Management

Saving Time and Money? Then Manage the Project: Author Marion Haynes Wrote. "A Managed Project Is an Undertaking with a Beginning and an End That's Carried out to Meet Established Goals within Cost, Schedule, and Quality Objective." So What Is It about Project Management That Is Critical in Today's Time- and Cost-Conscious World? (Project Management)

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Saving Time and Money? Then Manage the Project: Author Marion Haynes Wrote. "A Managed Project Is an Undertaking with a Beginning and an End That's Carried out to Meet Established Goals within Cost, Schedule, and Quality Objective." So What Is It about Project Management That Is Critical in Today's Time- and Cost-Conscious World? (Project Management)

Article excerpt

Once regarded as the accidental profession that people fell into, project management has become a standalone career in its own right. Emerging from the engineering world, the practice had its 15 minutes of fame when the IT industry latched onto it during the Y2K frenzy.

Technology projects still abound, but the disciplines of project management have since become cardinal skills for all aspects of business change--from launching a new product, staging a customer event, through to relocating an office.

With the growing realisation that project success is more about engaging strong, experienced project managers than having sophisticated methodologies or software, it's hardly surprising that project management has become a leading university and workplace training topic.

More enterprise-wide projects

What's also driving the growing reliance on exceptional project managers, says Jane Farley, senior project manager with IBM, is a gravitation from functional to more enterprise-wide projects that touch all parts of the organisation. If there's any notable sea changes in project management dynamics in recent years, says Farley it's these:

* A greater acuteness over complexity and timing. * Project management techniques now used in change management.

* Greater emphasis on communication and interfacing with individuals.

She says with Australasian corporates now working on projects that are truly multinational there's a greater need to handle more complexity and diversity. "For example, we're currently working with a Swiss-based pharmaceuticals company that's rolling out an ERP system. With 60 countries involved, many of the complexities are less technical than cultural. Growing realisation that large project failure can catastrophically impact a company has re-emphasised focus on project benefits and heightened commitment."

Farley says efforts to deliver benefits way beyond the business case alone have triggered a significant change in project management methodology. Whether they're delivered or not, meeting basic business benefits is now seen as a given for any project. "With organisations now looking for improvements on less definable, albeit real benefits [for example, happier customers], there's a lot more attention being given to benefits realisation, scope management and project governance," says Farley.

In other words, it's now deemed not only acceptable, but prudent to shift the goalposts once a project has started. With the acceptance of change requests and controls, now second nature within projects, she says it's possible to drive much more rigour into all aspects of any project's inherent constraints: scope, cost, time and quality.

Better project governance

"Greater attention to project governance ensures that the right people are making the right decisions at the right time. It also ensures the necessary structures, controls and audits are in place. A lot of difficulty on projects centres around poor decisions. This suggests that a project's steering committee isn't working properly," says Farley.

What weak participants and those who aren't doing what they're charged with fail to bring to projects, she adds is a necessary rigour. In short, bad selection of project governance participants can mean insufficient knowledge to ask the right questions. "This can place the project manager in a difficult position, especially when it comes to dealing with third party providers--which is where outstanding communications skills come in."

So what are changes to project methodology really telling companies today? Farley's IBM colleague Kevin McCaffrey says management needs to realise the importance of the projects they undertake. He says having the best people working on projects, while they're operating "business as usual"--is a paradox many Kiwi firms struggle with.

Admittedly, the competencies required of project managers are better understood within large companies. …

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