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PMI India Research & Academic Conference 2015, Mumbai
PMI India Project Management Regional Conference 2015, Pune

RAC Keynotes
Curriculum to Match Industry Needs

Boston University is one of the most pro-active institutes that have invested heavily in faculty and research over the past 100 years. Prof. Vijay Kanabar emphasized the need to focus on research in order to build new products, services, and innovations.

PMI acted as a bridge to bring faculty members together to collaborate on a curriculum framework for project management at the under graduate level. The curriculum was officially launched at the conference. Prof. Kanabar, who was a part of the course design team, spoke to educators, researchers, and students about the need for the curriculum framework, the guiding principles behind it, and how they can adopt it.

"In the US, India is regarded with immense awe when it comes to the available career opportunities here. There has been a reverse trend of late in Boston of graduates returning to India. These students believe that this country offers outstanding opportunities in project management," said Prof. Kanabar.

On the second day of the conference, he delivered a keynote on project management education and how the focus of the curriculum must be to develop a competent workforce.

The demand for project management professionals has significantly increased over the years, though the quality of graduates does not often meet industry expectations. "The problem lies in university curricula that fail to nurture skills in students that will help them adapt and execute an assignment with ease five years from now," he commented.

He spoke about the need to inculcate soft skills and the ability in project professionals to adapt to varying cultural mores across the world.

Later, Prof. Kanabar conducted an open forum to discuss the newly launched project management curriculum outline and course modules. During the brainstorming session, he addressed the concerns of educators and clarified doubts regarding course content and structure.

Research to Reinvent Concepts

Analysis and research will take project management from a conventional to a modern domain, and help us develop a better understanding of the subject. Work break down structure, S curve, and earned value management (EVM) are some of the major contributions of research towards conventional project management techniques.

Prof. Mangesh Korgaonker believes EVM, which has led to earned duration management (EDM), will further evolve into earned money management (EMM) as a new concept in the near future.

He spoke about strategic concepts and technical tools including risks, decision-making, and problem solving that act as critical factors for project success.

Prof. Korgaonker pointed out that there is a strong need to re-invent project management so that it becomes more adaptive to the environment in which the project is being planned and executed. Instead of measuring project performance through the efficiency matrix, he recommended measuring the impact of the project on project stakeholders. He said project managers must reflect on real scenarios and constantly stay ahead of the learning curve. The question is how and when research can move a step ahead of practice.

He cited the example of Denver airport in the US to illustrate the importance of analysis before implementing project practices. Though it was a well-defined and conceptualized project, it failed due to just one factor. United Airlines required automatic baggage handling systems and the airport was not well equipped with that technology, which led to a project failure.

PMO - Present-day Fulcrum in Industry

The project management office has over time become the fulcrum of all activities in almost all industrial sectors.

In his address at the inaugural function, Mr. Pushkaraj Kale spoke about the growth spurt in the demand for project managers in the industry.

He said that industrial sectors were fast waking up to the fact that project management is the key for successful project implementation.

"In Microsoft, we have focused on innovation to ensure sustainability and growth. And it is the project manager who ensures a smooth passage for innovations," he remarked.

He added that the relevance of project management has increased dramatically over the past one decade. That is now manifesting in an increase in demand of project management graduates.

Next Job Waves in Project Management

Mr. K. Subrahmanian believes the importance of a project manager is slated to grow in the coming days. "In every project, whatever be the sector or field, executors have to walk an extra mile to succeed and derive satisfaction of a job well done," he said.

Speaking at the inaugural session, Mr. Subrahmanian shared his experiences in the field of infrastructure projects.

"My experiences over the years have proved three vital factors that play important roles in the success of any project. First, the ruthless simplification of any project during the planning stages; second, investing in people; and third, carving out the right environment to retain talent that is bubbling with enthusiasm and churns out high dividends in the long run," he remarks.

Elaborating on enthusiasm as an important prerequisite for a project manager, he added, "In projects in the construction sector, a lot of tasks have to be done by project managers themselves. Every project involves building relationships and networking. Only if a person is ready to walk the extra mile with enthusiasm can he or she ensure timely execution of a project."

Redefine Project Success

Project success cannot be reduced to one dimension; it is and has always been multi-dimensional wherein a host of variables have to be taken into account to determine whether the project has achieved its target.

Mr. G. S. Tuteja said that it would be a misnomer to consider that a project has been a success just because it has been executed in a given timeframe. "Take, for example, functions organized by event management companies. To say that the event was successful just because its execution satisfied the laid down parameters would be erroneous. What if the event failed to attract visitors? It would then have to be judged as a failed project," he remarked.

Similarly, in the engineering sector, a project would be termed unsuccessful if it failed to achieve the target for which it had been envisaged.

According to him, the dimensions of project success are how well the project schedule and the objectives have been met, whether the product performs expected functions, do customers use the product, and whether the customer is satisfied.

"A project is doomed if there is lack of a compelling business case, there is no agreed upon requirement specifications, lack of plan and communication, poor estimation, insufficient matrices, and the lack of control over progress," he said.

He urged practitioners to resist the temptation to adopt any new or multiple technologies without establishing whether such technologies will add any value to the project. People are more important than machines, ensure motivation through fair rewards and penalty systems, and keep communication channels transparent during project execution.

Provide a Place for the Unconventional

Prof. R. K. Shevgaonkar spoke from his experience of handling academic projects where he said the learning was on-the-job and there was no guarantee of success even if the standardized project management practices were followed.

He said a project was a concept and encouraged most activities within his institute to be carried out in project mode. It also called for a process of learning through practical experiences, developing leadership qualities, commitment, transparency, out-of-the-box thinking, and a credit sharing mechanism irrespective of success or failure in a project.

"Welcome unconventional ideas and accommodate them. Such learning are not taught in classrooms but it comes with experience which makes the work environment a lot more enjoyable," he said.

He added that the project manager's role needed to be carried out with humility. They must build his or her capacity to address issues from the smallest to the largest component of the system. "At any given point of time, there should be a resource in each project who is well versed with all the different components of the project and can act as a single point of contact during a crisis," he said.

"The idea is more important than the person from whom the idea is coming," he remarked. If such finer points are consciously discussed in academics, it will provide better perspectives to students.

The Focus on Government Interests

Ms. Radhika Rastogi emphasized on the importance of interactions between two parties involved in a project and stated that the communication process must be highly transparent, especially in the case of government projects. The primary aim must be to maximize government revenues by matching objectives of a project to its deliverables on time.

Speaking from her experience in public private partnerships (PPP) projects, Ms. Rastogi said, "A robust project management framework and a defined timeframe is the key to project success."

In a typical PPP project, private parties tend to outsource or collaborate with other private parties or smaller organizations that lead to revenue sharing. Ms. Rastogi believes that robs the government of its rightful share of revenues. "Private firms must abstain from exploiting loopholes and ensure collaboration with the government as a long-term engagement," she said.

Multi-dimensional Approach for Project Success

"When project plans are crystal clear with appropriate job specifications and transactions that may ensue through various phases of execution, the project invariably sails through successfully," remarked Mr. Arun Balakrishnan.

Talking about his experience of setting up a refinery plant in Bhatinda, Punjab, Mr. Balakrishnan said that the first step that HPCL took after it decided to set up a refinery plant was to go for a joint venture to control cost escalation. That gave rise to HPCL-Mittal Energy Ltd.

After zeroing in on a barren patch of land in the agricultural belt of Punjab, the joint venture team initiated the project, identified resources, and made decisions on project operations.

HPCL hired a third party to monitor project progress that cut down three four months of project time. Since changing over from project mode to operational mode was the most challenging task, HPCL hired people with operational background to facilitate these activities smoothly. Rigorous monitoring helped slash productive delays.

"But the most important thing that helped the project zoom through successfully was our focus on the welfare of thousands of site workers. Most of these workers were seasonal migrant workers. In order to ensure that they did not return to their home state during sowing and harvesting season, we approached NGOs who helped us provide accommodation, health facilities, and schooling for their children," he said. He said it was the multidimensional approach adopted by the project managers that ensured the success of the Bhatinda refinery plant project.

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