Letter from Managing Director, PMI India   |   Download a PDF version     

Engage all Your Senses, Be Open to Learning
Kevin Kelly stressed the need to understand people while executing projects and pointed out that quality attention must be paid to customers and co-workers.

“The way you look (at people) affects your psychology. You meet for the first time and feel ill about the person,” he said, pointing out that the feeling was about entrepreneur knowledge. “In negotiations, open your eyes, engage your senses…the message is equal to the messenger,” he added.

He observed that there was an attention deficit in the world. “Attention is a powerful tool in business and we are living in an attention deficit world,” he said. The average attention span of people is believed to be just eight seconds.

“The three Ms of business are message, messenger, and how you connect with the mob. Develop real attention and friendship, not just customer relationship. The biggest player in the game is you,” he said.

He also stressed the need to be open about learning new things from any person. “Everybody can be a student and a teacher…even the most annoying person,” he said, asking delegates to have open minds while dealing with people.

“The four pillars of exceptional leadership are awareness, attention, development, and doers,” he observed, “Dare to dream and then do it.” He said that several breakthrough companies in the US achieved their goals through exceptional execution of an ordinary idea. “These companies had no wow idea. Do the best you can with what you have,” he added.

More Opportunities for Project Managers in Real Estate
With the government’s recent demonetization move and push towards a cashless society, the real estate sector is expected to undergo tremendous change. With these changes, Anuj Puri believes project management will become critical for the real estate sector now.

“Project management is lacking in the real estate market but change is coming now. The trend is towards accountability, consolidation, tighter regulation, and higher efficiency,” he said.

According to Mr. Puri, there will be increased opportunities for project management in infrastructure building and real estate. “There has not been project managers in real estate projects. The more a project got delayed, there was more money to be made. But now we will see more accountability,” he said.

Mr. Puri also made a plea to improve gender diversity in this sector. “Gender diversity is needed for better cultural sensitivity and softness in the client approach,” he remarked. This is an unpredictable market and there is little scope for meaningful dialogues between the client and the project owner. “Project managers must be bold and have the confidence to push back when needed,” he added.

He also delved on the need to improve transparency and governance, and thereby, bring in stronger ethical business practices in the real estate sector.

India Needs Project Management at Scale
Prashant Ranade believes India is at the cusp of greatness with the best performing economy in the world, consumption driven growth, robust democracy, strong institutions, and demographic advantage of a large young population.

But there is a risk of “blowing it” if certain fundamentals are not taken care of. An important factor to achieve the vision of a developed country is largescale adoption of project management. “India needs to adopt project management with a commitment to excellence and quality to attain the vision of a developed nation,” he said.

To capture the sentiments of the audience, he conducted a live poll on Twitter, the results of which he announced at the end of the session. Delegates overwhelmingly voted against the two poll questions: “Does India have an adequate number of project managers?” and “Does the current pool of project managers have the necessary skills?” The results reaffirmed Mr. Ranade’s argument that India needed to improve its project management capabilities.

“Vision India, whether it’s Swachh Bharat, Make in India, or Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, is aligned to a higher purpose. All these programs will need project management as scale to achieve that purpose,” he said, adding that the biggest challenge is not technology but people and culture. “At the junior level, we’re too compliant; at senior level, we break rules,” he said.

He exhorted delegates to pick the good aspect of “jugaad”, which is to simplify a solution, and discard the part that compromises quality by taking a short cut.

Affordable Housing a Huge Opportunity Here
Rajesh Krishnan said that India was the largest market for affordable housing, with a deficit of 19 million affordable houses as against the availability of less than 1 lakh per annum. “Affordable housing is a $100 billion business opportunity,” he said, pointing out that though there was no institute for funding developers, the issue was being actively considered by the government.

He said frontline developers were mostly involved in high income group housing that comprised 90 percent of the houses being built, even as the economically weaker section and the middle income section were looking for cheaper homes priced between Rs. 10 and 20 lakh. “We need different people to do it. Not anybody out there has all the ingredients needed to deliver affordable housing,” he said.

He said the scene was changing, with the government taking measures like single window clearance, availability of land, improved infrastructure, and higher FSI (Floor Space Index). Affordable housing requires special attention to project design, whether it’screating lofts, storage wall-shelves, sofa-cum-beds, or kitchen garden ledges and artistic flooring. “We need to also think of a social infrastructure – shops, hospitals, schools, parks, and community centers. People (in affordable homes with a small floor area) spend more time outside their homes,” he added.

He made a pitch for innovative marketing campaigns. Homes are about aspirations and making affordability the primary selling point may not work well. Instead, focus on the special features that the builder had to offer.

Project Management – In an Age of Digital Transformation
Venture capitalist Mahesh Murthy made a fervent plea to relook at traditional models of engaging customers and earning revenue, and embracing digital transformation to make an impact in today’s world of business.

“We have been hearing that competition is rising but if you look at the most successful companies such as Tesla, Google, Redbull, and Starbucks, you will see that dominance is rising. Traditional businesses are changing and it’s a model of winner takes it all,” said Mr. Murthy.

The man who spent many years of his early career in advertising makes a case for shunning traditional advertising for word-of-mouth marketing. “These companies have never advertised. The network rewards remarkable products. There is no place for the copy-paste sector or just being cheaper. What has served us so far will not serve us anymore,” added Mr. Murthy.

On other business trends, he said product development nowadays does not follow a well-defined plan and prefers course correction as it goes, and companies are getting into businesses that are unconnected with each other such as Google coming out with eye glasses or self-driving cars or Apple getting into smart phones and smart watches. “Companies are now hiring for aptitude, and not skills and knowledge. Employees must be comfortable with ambiguity,” he remarked.

Internet of Things Set to Change Lives
In a presentation on how the world is changing with the use of the Internet, Amit Jadhav said it’s time to embrace new technologies and look for business opportunities in them.

“There are several layers in the way Internet of Things (IOT) works, and there is business opportunity in each layer,” he said, “Technology is changing very fast and choosing the right business model makes the difference.” To illustrate, he took the case of Kodak and Instagram. Both are in the business of photography; but Instagram chose a different business model and hugely benefited from it.

He said that Apps and Cloud technologies would change the way people lived their lives. “Apps are going to remind us which item in our refrigerator needs to be replenished. They are going to tell us that there is just 10 percent remaining in a bottle of Coke. Your bottle is talking and 10 billion devices will be connected because of the Cloud,” he said. In future, smart toothbrushes will relay information on dental health and brushing habit to the dentist through Apps.

He said that there were 12 million Apps in use, and an average Indian used around six Apps, though the number of Apps on the mobile phone was 30.

Mr. Jadhav used his mobile phone to demonstrate how an image on a sheet of paper could be turned into a three-dimensional image so that teams could collaborate on its design remotely. A product manager can today review, discuss, and collaborate on projects remotely using such technologies.

But IOT adoption does have its challenges in India. “Bandwidth is still an issue in India and the charges of Rs.1,000 per month for the Internet is still expensive,” he said.

The other challenges were around protocols, standardization and security.

Project Management in Naval Ship Maintenance
Urging project managers to have an eye for detail, Commodore Homipal Singh said it was not enough to have a bird’s eye view to achieve project success.

Mr. Singh believed the Indian Navy would benefit from Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification. He said it was under the consideration of the government.

Providing an overview of his division that conducts repair and maintenance of naval ships of the Indian Navy, he explained the role of project management in overcoming most of the common challenges.

The maintenance schedule of each ship that goes into the dry dock is fixed and sacrosanct. Hence, all the efforts are centered on completing the tasks on time and within the quality parameters identified.

Some of the common challenges the division faces are the availability of a dry dock, non-availability of support and spares in India, cumbersome procurement processes, and the lack of private contractors with domain knowledge of naval ships. “Most of our equipment is designed in other countries and foreign support is exorbitant,” he said, emphasizing on the need for a partnership between the Indian Navy and private industries for Make in India.

On partnerships with the private sector, he added that domain knowledge was still a problem in the civilian world, as repairing a warship was totally different from repairing a merchant ship.

Why Projects Fail?
Achyut Godbole, with his vast experience in managing software projects, had several valuable yet simple lessons to offer practitioners, peppering his speech with personal anecdotes.

He focussed his presentation on some of the main reasons behind projects failure – incorrect estimation or sizing, poor work allocation, lack of motivation and team work, lack of focus on budget, schedule, or effort variance, not setting the goal right, and more.

“A project can fail if any one of these factors is not in place. They may seem like simple factors but they can have a big impact on a project,” he said.

He gave several practical tips on managing each of these potential problem areas. For example, while estimating the effort that will go into a project, go with the performance level of an average worker, not the best or the worst performer.

Don’t hire for one project; think long-term and hire accordingly; people like challenges, so while allocating work and setting targets, stretch their abilities slightly.

“I used to walk around my office and talk to the staff, not with any particular objective but to just get to know them. Many years later, one such employee met me at the airport and said that he had a resignation letter ready in his hand once but he changed his mind after my small talk with him at the office. Only then did I realize how important those walks around the office were,” he recalled.

He said another important aspect was to regularly calculate budget, schedule, and effort variance in terms of what was expected and what actually took place, so that quick corrections could be made.

Adopt War Room Approach in Government Projects
Citing his experiences of working with three chief ministers of Maharashtra, without naming any of them, Shirish Sankhe said that leadership conviction was the core of a project.

According to him, leadership conviction is about having ‘unrealistic’ aspirations and ‘over-investment’ in support resources; building an ecosystem and not just in-house teams; challenging specifications and avoiding gold plating; standardizing designs and developing norms; leveraging global sourcing; adopting lean construction practices; and adopting a flat organization structure.He urged governments to adopt a war room approach as a way to overcome red tape and hasten project decision-making.

“Traditional practices in the government sector are ‘from loose to tight’ in which the outcomes are loose and processes tight. Take for instance, the rules of procurement, recruitment, and decision-making; these are tight. Whereas the outcomes are loose,” Mr. Sankhe explained. He recommends moving from to ‘tight-loose’ instead, where the outcomes are tight and the processes somewhat loose.

He cited the Aadhaar project, the largest biometric project undertaken anywhere in the world, headed by Nandan Nilekani as an example of the right balance of tight outcomes and somewhat loose processes.

“Even inside a government agency, there can be such project successes. For example, BEST (Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport) within the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation),” he said, pointing to the higher performance standards of BEST which is an autonomous body within BMC with its own budget and decision-making powers.

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