July 2005

ICTD Project Newsletter

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Introducing project management perspective in developmental projects
Successful project management involves balancing the triple constraints of scope, time and cost. The high cost of development projects has created a need to equip, prepare and create more capacity among the development sector for ensuring smooth implementation of the project in a transparent and efficient manner. Also it has become necessary for the project managers to possess knowledge in the area of project management processes.

Organisations across the globe are recognising the value of implementing formal project management processes and disciplines in their workplace. Project management can help them to reach their stated work goals on time and within budget. But the use of these project management procedures and processes is currently limited to the corporate sector. It is now time that these proven techniques and processes spills over to the development sector.

Though there is no dearth of material on project management and well-defined guidelines for project implementation, information about project management in relation to development projects is lacking. But slowly awareness about this so called corporate practice is seeping into the development sector, and introducing the need for adopting a project management perspective in the area of a service delivery/intervention, irrespective of the sector it stems from.

Need for project management
Many organisations attempt to apply project management when the organisation has not yet standardised the project management process at the project level. Government organisations, unlike the private sector, do not have a choice on whether to initiate a project. Government agencies cannot start or end projects simply based on the Return on Investment (ROI) or the value to the organisation. Most public sector projects are prescribed either by law (e.g., parliament, legislature, or other law-making body) or by political influence.

Development projects, on the other hand, are often handicapped by the fluctuating human elements (final target audience) that are part of the project. Also the size and scope of diverse interventions provided make it difficult to cast project management under a specified head and state predefined processes for the same. Lack of accurate assessment and failure to document projects also makes it difficult to measure project metrics.

Issues that commonly crop up when there is no proper project management are often related to resources, time management, lack of organisation of capacities leading to under-utilisation of capacities, lack of right knowledge and skills, dissatisfied users, lack of training, project information dissemination, etc.

The important thing, while implementing project management in NGOs and other organisations in the development sector, is to address core issues and their implications. The success of the project will be measured in terms of the qualitative and quanti-tative differences in the lives of the stakeholders and target audience at the end of the project period. Addressing issues in operations and the activities thus involved is an essential ongoing activity.

Relation of project management to development sector
Successful project management involves balancing the triple constraints of scope, time and cost. In relation to ascertaining the success metrics for developmental projects, defining it in monetary cost is, in itself, difficult. But measuring the qualitative increase is even more of a challenge. Also it becomes necessary for the project managers to possess not only knowledge in the domain area of the intervention/service being provided, but also to possess knowledge in the area of project management processes.

But the high cost of development projects has created a need to equip, prepare and create more capacity among the sector in relation to the creation of standards for ensuring smooth implementation of the project in a trans- parent and efficient manner.


Understanding project management and programme management
Projects in all sectors get executed irrespective of the methodology used or despite the lack of a separate project management unit. Where the development sector is concerned multilateral agencies have a defined set of project management guidelines for the implementing agencies to adhere to during the period of funding. The guidelines are replete with information relating to the entire project implementation, evaluation as well as documentation. But there is a lacuna where information about executing projects in a structured manner is concerned, and this results in problems such as projects not adhering to timelines, going beyond budget, etc. This is where a proper understanding about project management and programme management becomes important, and the need for a project management unit/office in the organisation becomes evident.

Project management
The Project Management Institute (PMI), an international professional society, recognised currently as the leading certifying agency for project management professionals, has created a 'Project Management Body of Knowledge' (PMBOK Guide). PMBOK defines project management as 'the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities in order to meet or exceed the stakeholder needs and expectations from a project.'

Project management stems from the fact that project implementation has become increasingly multi-dimensional and multi-functional and needs the services of professionals who have expert skills in monitoring the project in terms of tasks and sub-tasks, time and cost overruns and the effective management of project resources. Due to the multitude of varied skills and knowledge a project manager must possess, project management is increasingly being recognised even in academic circles as a specialised branch of management. 

Programme management
PMBOK Guide defines a programme as 'a group of related projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits and control not available from managing them individually'. Programme management is a concept larger than project management. It is the centralised management of a portfolio of several analogous projects to achieve the strategic objectives and benefits.

Project management, from a strategic or an organisational pers- pective, however, includes programme management, portfolio management and project management office. In the context of project management, there is a certain hierarchy of strategic plan, portfolio, programmes and projects. Generally speaking, a programme consisting of several associated projects contribute to the achievement of the strategic plan.

Determining the need for establishing a project management office in the development sector
In an organisation which only has a couple of ongoing projects at a time, it becomes quite easy to enhance organisational standards by building capacities of the few project managers who would then follow similar processes. However, for a large organisation, managing numerous projects simul- taneously, it would become difficult to ensure and enforce organisational consistency in implementing a common project management methodology.

Many organisations have attempted to solve this problem through a centralised department or a specific team of individuals who would be respon- sible for varying aspects of project management and establishing the methodologies. Many companies call these groups a 'Project Management Office' or PMO. Other names include the Project Office, Programme Management Office, Enterprise Project Office, Project Management Centre of Excellence and Project Management Resource Team.

A typical project management unit is responsible for deploying a consistent project management methodology within the organisation, including processes, templates and best practices. Establishing this project management unit though is not a one-time event, but a broad initiative that could take a number of years to implement.

Is the project continually off schedule? Do the project managers find it difficult to sequence the project tasks and assign proper resources? Do the target audience often end up waiting impatiently for the project to get completed?  Posing questions such as the above will aid an organisation to determine to what extent the need for establishing a Project Management Office exists. Smaller organisations with few employees may benefit only from training the project managers.

Creating a project management approach: framework for development projects
A project management approach can be made part of the organisation by following the below mentioned steps. It is essential to remember to always implement project management processes in a phased manner and not introduce something which hasn't been discussed with the project managers.

  • Define Project Management
        From a management and strategy perspective define what project management is and what it means to your organisation. What exactly do you think it will help your organi- sation to achieve? Will it help you to ensure that your resources (human and monetary) are effectively utilised? Creating a vision for project management is essential at the initial stage itself.

  • Identify the 'God-father'
        People are always resistant to change. While implementing any new process in the organisation it is essential to also undertake a change management plan. The need for creating a project management perspective and its benefits must be informed to the other organisational employees while ensuring that their fears and inhibitions are suitably addressed.

        It is hence beneficial to first identify one employee in the organisation's management who takes the initiative to guide the organisation towards implementing professional project management. This project management champion must guide the project team, help them enhance their skills, and also help them to take responsibility to implement these new procedures. He must be able to help the team to relate to the possible results on the field by use of project management processes.

  • Isolate your performance areas for implementation
        This is a very crucial activity to undertake as it involves determining what project management procedures and processes to undertake and implement initially. Project management can be viewed as a number of interlinked processes. Standard project management process include initiating processes, planning pro- cesses, executing processes, controlling processes and closing processes.

        Conduct a gap analysis to establish the areas in which the concerned organisation lags behind during project implementation. Consult with project managers, project personnel in the organisation to receive an unbiased opinion on the problems faced during project implementation, and seek inputs from them about possible ways to correct these issues. Based on the feedback received arrive at a few processes and activities where project management procedures can be established. This process of involving all employees encourages participation in the end and helps to create an atmosphere conducive to the implementation of project management internally in the organisation.

  • Determine the initial project management procedures
    The PMBOK describes the key competencies that project managers must develop in 9 knowledge areas:

        –    4 core knowledge areas lead to specific project objectives (scope, time, cost, and quality)
        –    4 facilitating knowledge areas are the means through which the project objectives are achieved (human resources, communi    cation, risk, and procurement management)
        –    1 knowledge area (project integration management) affects and is affected by all of the other knowledge areas

    Using the above mentioned knowledge areas as a reference, the lessons learnt from the employees must be included and new procedures arrived at for implementation. These procedures, be it in planning or procurement, must work towards enhancing only some and not all of the current process. These new project management procedures should be created to arrive at a new approach.
  • Integrate these procedures into a new/existing project
        The procedures arrived at must be relatively easy for the project managers to implement in already existing programs or can be implemented on a project which is just about to begin. It is necessary to train the employees to use the new procedures and ensure that everybody is on a common platform in terms of use of standard project management processes and tools. Building project management capa-cities across the organisation will ensure its effective and accurate implementation.

  • Create mechanisms for up-scaling of PM initiatives
        Once the efficacy of the new procedures has been established, it is important to upscale the scope and size of the project management initiatives being introduced in the organisation. For larger organisations, introduction of project management tools may ease the burden of the project managers and aid in monitoring and evaluation.

        Project management tools and techniques assist project managers and their teams in various aspects of project management, such as defining Work Breakdown Structures (scope), Gantt charts, PERT charts, critical path analysis (time), Cost estimates and Earned Value Analysis (cost), etc.

  • Kaizen in project management
        Not only is it necessary to enhance the delivery of services and inter- vention being provided by an organisation, it is also essential to continually study the use and benefit of the implemented system. Anything redundant must be done away with. Project management processes must be continuously improved and adapted to suit the focus of the organisation and meet its requirements.

Conclusion
Good project management provides assurance and reduces risk. Project management provides the tools and environment to plan, monitor, track, and manage schedules, resources, costs, and quality. It provides a history or metrics base for future planning as well as good opportunity to document the project on an ongoing basis. In India, today the government spending on development alone is around USD 12 billion as per last social welfare department budget estimates. The 20,000 plus NGOs in the country further raise and disburse hundreds of millions annually. The amount of money spent every year in the development sector is in truth no indicator of the grim reality that is development in India. Most organisations are plagued by problems such as lack of skilled manpower, lack of funds etc. And these problems often tend to overlap into the organisation's functioning. Caught up in executing projects and programs, few organisations are able to pay attention to inculcating project management perspective into their existing activities. Though interventions are provided, they either come late or when faced with situations like the recent Tsunami, the lack of organisation in effective aid delivery becomes evident.

It is nevertheless essential to bring in some project management perspective into the organisation. Implementing project management processes can no doubt be a slow endeavour but its benefits are very hard to ignore. Not only does it increase the organisation's accountability and visibility but it also helps streamline activities. In the long run this not only results in projects that are implemented quickly and for a much lower cost but also gains the trust of the people from whom the projects are being implemented.

References

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