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Keynotes and Special Addresses

It is often said that India is a country of paradoxes, where opposites co-exist. Such paradoxes are visible as much in the standard of living here as in the country's urban infrastructure. Mr. Arun Maira, member, Planning Commission, uses such a contrast to illustrate how a "nation of doubt" can sometimes produce something of excellence and pride. "On the Delhi-Gurgaon road, there is a junction that is in a terrible state of disrepair. And just above the junction I see a Delhi Metro train chugging along. The metro train reminds me of the China that we want to be. But just below is the India of confusion and muddle," Mr. Maira said.

Mr. Maira is a corporate honcho and a management consultant turned planner, who has worked on the country's 12th Five Year Plan. Highlighting the importance of adopting project management, he said, "We didn't finish the 12th Plan on time. This time we took a lot of public feedback that we incorporated in the plan. Some of it told us what people thought (of government functioning). One feedback said, 'Don't make another plan; just do it'. Another said, 'We don't want any more foundation stones; just give us finishing stones'." These comments show how India has become a "nation of doubt", where Indians do not any longer believe that the country has a lot of promise. They instead see only confusion and uncertainty.

An initiative that the Planning Commission has started to bring people and organizations with different capabilities together is the India Backbone Implementation Network (IbIn). Through IbIn, partners with different strengths will coordinate, collaborate, and help implement issues, projects, and policies in India. Explaining the concept, Mr. Maira said, "IbIn has been conceived like the Total Quality Movement in Japan. It is a network and a learning mechanism where there are no bosses or budgets, and it is not under any ministry. One of our first partners in IbIn is PMI. We are hoping we will convert contention to collaboration, and confusion to coordination through this network.

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Times are changing, and organizations and professionals who recognize it and change with the times will find it easy to fit in. Mr. Bhaskar Pramanik, chairman, Microsoft India, spoke about the need to reinvent to stay ahead of the curve. "There are changes in the business environment with new technologies emerging and there are changes in the socio-economic space with people's aspirations rising. Volatility is the keyword today and we must embrace it to manage change," he said in his inaugural address.

Indians, who have a propensity for reason and rationale, prefer all the answers before they want to take a decision. Now with uncertainty and ambiguity all around, that approach has to change. "Look at how technology is changing. Historically, at any given point in time, we had one dominant technology trend. Now, there are multiple technology trends that are impacting the way we do business or transact at a personal level. This is the era of personal computing, where we operate through multiple devices," he said. This change is visible even at the corporate level. Microsoft, which was a software company till a year ago, has now redefined itself as a devices and services company.

However, to drive consistency, a company must follow four core principles that remain the same through good or bad times. He listed them as living a company's culture and values of integrity, honesty, passion, being self-critical and accountability; being consistent, committed, and relevant to customers and partners; adopting new business models; and investing in the country in which the company is present through social initiatives.

He said the four mega technology trends that are impacting business and people are social media, mobility, analytics through big data, and cloud technology (SMAC). "The mobility in SMAC devices will improve agility and provide better user experience, social media will enable collaboration, big data will help improve business insights, and cloud technology will make it more affordable and thereby, delight users," he commented.

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The scope for project management has grown as organizations battle uncertainty and increased complexity on the one hand and reduced profit margins on the other. Ms. Deena Gordon-Parla, member, PMI Board of Directors, said companies earlier had more flexibility in terms of project schedules and resources because of sufficient profit margins but that flexibility has disappeared. There is now increased pressure to be more effective and hence, there is more reliance on project management for better performance.

Ambiguity of project features is one of the main reasons for complexity. "In the case of IT projects, unknown project features are posing a huge challenge. It could be the result of new technology or technology that is not fully developed. Sometimes the project duration exceeds the relevance of the technology being used," said Ms. Gordon-Parla.

The world over organizations are seeking better management through standardized project management practices, effective communication technology, and a strong project management talent base. "PMI has over half a million practitioners in 185 countries (who are active PMI credential holders). Among Asia-Pacific countries, India is number one in terms of PMI membership. The number of Project Management Professional (PMP) certified practitioners in India has overshot that of Japan. By 2020, the demand for new project management jobs in India is expected to reach 8.8 million," she added. She also commended the government of India for acknowledging project management as a key skill in the 12th Five Year Plan.

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An entrepreneur's journey usually makes an interesting story, and if the entrepreneur is addressing an audience where most are his customers, the story gets even more engaging. Mr. Deep Kalra, founder and group CEO, MakeMyTrip.com, is a banker-turned-entrepreneur who tried his hand in the capital market and sports management before setting up what is now India's largest e-commerce company, MakeMyTrip.com.

Looking back at his own journey with MakeMyTrip.com, Mr. Kalra laid out the key factors that go to make a venture successful. "The market has to be ready for the business to take off, hence it's highly critical to get the timing right. Entrepreneurs often get lost in what they are building and forget what problem they are solving. They have to continue to be in touch with the market. Analytics is very important for business decisions. Hire better talent than yourself so that you get the best people to work with you. Create the right work culture and remember that your team works with you and not work for you," he said. Another factor that entrepreneurs in India must remember is that businesses here take much longer to take off than in the west.

Right decision-making needs its fair share of data, experience, and gut feel. "During tough times, one needs to be resilient but not stubborn. We had three close shaves between 2000 and 2002 after the dot-com bust and 9/11 attacks in the United States when we ran out of money. We came out of these times. Whereas during my stint with AMF Bowling, I stubbornly stuck around expecting the company to take off and it didn't happen. I just lost time," Mr. Kalra added.

He follows the life stories of successful entrepreneurs. "Apple founder Steve Jobs' story has left a lasting impression on me. The other story from which I have learned a lot is that of South West Airlines. The airline has managed customer service by empowering front-line staff and has seen great success. And in e-commerce, there is the story of Amazon that is highly inspiring," Mr. Kalra said.

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Healthcare is usually seen as a service that enables social good but going by the impact that inadequate healthcare has on a country, it must be looked at as a service that facilitates economic good. Mr. Vishal Bali, group CEO, Fortis Healthcare Limited, spoke to the large audience of project practitioners on what he called "the biggest project in the country of getting healthcare right".

He provided an overview of some of the fundamental challenges that healthcare delivery in India and around the globe faces. "Healthcare providers seek to use new technology to deliver efficient healthcare at affordable costs. To make healthcare affordable, we need to enhance its delivery mechanism and that is where the role of project management comes in," Mr. Bali said.

Globally, consumer health behavior is the prime determinant of health. Poor health habits contribute to 50 percent of diseases in the world. "In India, changing consumer health behavior will be the biggest project (for healthcare providers). Productive people translate to a productive nation. Hence, for a nation, healthcare is as much about economic good as it is about social good," he remarked.

A lot has changed in healthcare delivery because of technology and people's access to the Internet. Patients today take more decisions about their health because they are more knowledgeable, and this has transformed the clinicianpatient relationship into one of partnership. "Knowledge management has become more important for us today. Project management can also make healthcare delivery more efficient and cost-effective, thereby making it more affordable," he said.

Fortis Healthcare Limited has adopted project management to integrate the assets that it received as part of the acquisitions that the company has made in a short span of time. "At Fortis, we have seen the impact that a strong project management team can make. We expanded our reach to six countries in the past three-four years and we were able to integrate these assets because of a team passionate in project management," he added.

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Project success eludes organizations in bad times and good. Only 62 percent of projects meet their goals in terms of scope, budget, and business intent. The highest performers (a mere eight percent) achieve their goals only 80 percent of the time. These were some startling statistics that Mr. Craig Killough, vice president, organization markets, PMI, quoted while presenting on opportunities for project management in the years ahead. Quoting legendary writer, George Bernard Shaw, Mr. Killough said, "You see things and say 'why', but I dream things that never were and say 'why not'? Similarly, project managers are the enablers of 'why not' - the enablers of strategy."

He cited several instances of government support for the growth of project management. According to a 2012 PricewaterhouseCoopers report, Current Project and Program Management Practices, 70 percent of companies surveyed in 26 countries responded that they had initiated efforts to improve project management processes. The European Union has its general regulation of cohesion funds that allows disbursement of funds according to a country's project performance. The UK Government's Civil Service Reform Plan includes changes to employment practices, policy-making, and project management. Australia's Strategic Priorities initiative aims to remove all barriers to the recruiting of engineers and project managers to oversee very large projects. The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act in the United States strengthens program and project management performance. The Indian government is looking to improve project management skills to improve returns from public investment in its 12th Five Year Plan. The India Backbone Implementation Network (IbIn) has been created to facilitate project manager and stakeholder management capacity building.

According to the 2013 Global Project Management Census, China has the largest number of project management practitioners, followed by India with 5.5 million. "With 40 percent of the current project management workforce eligible for retirement over the next eight years, there is likely to be a huge talent gap. Until now global organizations were looking at project managers with strong technical skills. Going forward, they are more likely to hire people who have functional expertise, leadership skills, and strategic, business management knowledge," said Mr. Killough.

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Speaking from the heart and narrating his own life story, Mr. Mahesh Bhatt, Hindi film producer, director, and writer, formed an immediate, close connect with his audience. "I do not know the meaning of life. I have experiences. Do I have knowledge of how to deal with uncertainties? No, I don't," he said emphatically.

He traced his life's journey and talked about how he began with absolutely no knowledge on the film industry. "Have the audacity to be at the stage of infinite ignorance," he advised his audience. He spoke of how he learned filmmaking by filmmaking, rather than entering the industry after a formal film education. He urged practitioners to follow their gut instinct. "Thinking is a poor alternative to acting," he remarked. While he has had his fair share of failures, he said these failures were the result of him trying to match what he believed was market expectation and not what he felt was right. Fear, he said, is the number one enemy - it can paralyze people.

When he made his award-winning movie Arth, there was a great deal of uncertainty on how it would be received but he told himself, "Should I fall, I will fall on my own terms. Should I fly, I will fly on my own terms." Self-belief is the most important quality for success, he stated. For inspiration in movie making, he has relied on the raw material that is his own life.

It is important to realign yourself to the time that you live in - adapt to the changing world around you. In the film industry, for instance, the audience has shown that casting super-stars alone does not make for box office success. Yet there are many producers who still rely on a star cast. Reinvention, according to Mr. Bhatt, is the best way to cope with uncertainty. "There is no compass, no map that can help make your way through the human jungle," he said. He spoke about the need to deepen one's sense of humility to make place for knowledge. "Let go of certainty, be alive. Live with uncertainty. Embrace it," he concluded.

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Swami Sukhabodhananda, founder chairman, Prasanna Trust, interlaced practical advice with wisdom from ancient Hindu scriptures in the concluding session of the conference. He began with a few anecdotes that highlighted the importance of 'responding' to situations instead of 'reacting.' He stressed on the need for project management professionals to be responsive to situations and change, rather than reacting to it. An attribute that he said project leaders must have is to validate and recognize the positive attributes of team members. He also urged the audience to enhance their consciousness and not to perform their tasks mechanically. "Stoic nature kills the alacrity of the individual," he stated.

In order to be successful within a team, it is important to inculcate these four qualities - darshan (seeing), shruthi (hearing/listening), mantavyam (thinking), and nidhidhyasanam (reflection). Empower your team to see things factually and not individualistically. Learn to tune in to your team members. Use your ability to think. Make sure thinking becomes a dynamic process to match our life which is dynamic. Practice what you have learned, meditate, and do not be restless.

It is important to align all the team members physically and emotionally when working together. Utilizing one's intellectual will is integral - "be a part of the solution, not a victim to the problem," said Swamiji. He also advised project practitioners to not allow ego take over and keep the team ahead of oneself.

Swamiji concluded his session by comparing teamwork to Indian martial arts. It is important to have vision, power, speed, skill, and strategy. Vision needs to encompass both the outer and inner self in order to attain complete fulfilment. Follow it up with commitment to work and speed (to execute). Demonstrate the skill to balance your head and heart, and finally, employ the best strategy that will simplify your life.

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