ENGINEERING: Mega Projects Will Be Few
Recent Western Cape Business News
Project managers should not engage in wishful thinking about returning to the way things used to be – in the post-crash world, mega projects are likely to be few and far between. The “new normal” for projects is smaller, faster and focused on what is essential with a reduced level of investment.
This is according to project management consultant Dennis Comninos, who co-directs the UCT Graduate School of Business’ (GSB) five-day course Strategic Project Management – for senior project managers in August – and directs the GSB foundation Project Management course in April. The two courses impart tools and techniques that empower project mangers to achieve success in the context of the challenges they are facing today.
“In business, there’s a bit of buzz about getting things back to on track; back to the way they were before the global financial crash of 2008/9. But let’s pause and take a breath. Maybe it’s time to reflect on what we have just been through and think about what we need to do differently, and better,” argued Comninos.
“For one, we are unlikely to see more mega projects. ‘Bang for buck’ is taking precedence. Market forces are also more dynamic now – there is constant, rapid change. This requires business strategies to be constantly realigned which in turn leads to dynamic ever-changing projects.”
As an example, Comninos said that before the crash, a business would look at getting a new IT system and wouldn’t really be deterred by the cost, while today the same business is saying, ‘hold on, perhaps we can keep our existing system, and maybe we should improve it or train people to use it better which would be more affordable’.
“A region that illustrates the shift in project thinking is the Middle East,’ he said.
“Culturally, so much emphasis has been on time and cost: having it now, making it the biggest and spending the most. Now, they're starting to realise that value – and project return on investment – are important, and they never spoke about that before. It's been a rude awakening.
“And in many other regions it is much the same story to varying degrees: it’s no longer about being the best, the fastest, the most expensive. It's about what project managers need to do right now to bring value and benefits to the business. And really, that means one needs to stop thinking purely about managing a project and start thinking like a business strategist. Make a project agile, show that it can produce value, and then you can accelerate when things improve.”
This new economy means that Chief Investment Officers and senior managers should approach their boards for smaller amounts of funding – it is about micro-projects that will deliver demonstrable value to the business.
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