Event explores the future of project management

03 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Dada Enterprises, a business consultancy based in London, recently featured on a panel of speakers to explore the key forces impacting on future projects and organisations at the University of West London (UWL) Claude Littner Business School. This was as part of a special evening organised by AK Optimize to commemorate the inaugural West London Project Hub. 

This packed event pulled together dynamic speakers who explored topics facing the future of project management in the UK. The diverse topics included artificial intelligence, project management apprenticeships and future talent management, how to deliver a major project like Thames Tideway, PMOs delivering strategic value, project leadership and Brexit and its implications for project managers.

The event kicked off with an opening address from Amerjit Walia, Director of Project Programs at AK Optimize, and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Association of Project Management (APM). Walia explained that the inaugural event was part of a strategy which aims to make the UWL Claude Littner Business School a centre of excellence for project management. 

Jonathan Norman, Knowledge Hub Manager at the Major Projects Association, then introduced the Major Project Knowledge Hub. This Knowledge Hub aims to improve major project initiation, delivery and innovation through the sharing of knowledge and best practices as defined by an active, global user community. It is an open access source of insight, activities and events designed to encourage knowledge-sharing, collaboration and better planning, initiation and execution of major projects within the UK.

Event explores the future of project management

Sachin Melwani, Managing Director of Dada Enterprises, author of ‘How to Brexit Proof Your Project Strategy’, gave an overview of the constantly shifting Brexit timeline, the various Brexit options available and the potential project delivery impacts. Sachin then shed light on the operational impacts of Brexit, and the practical measures that firms can take to mitigate them. He argued that impact assessments are a major priority, and companies should seek to push ahead on them sooner rather than later. Failure to do so could also leave firms exposed to heightened contingency planning and transition costs as they scramble to be ready – and the cost of contingency planning at the last minute inevitably comes with a sizeable premium.

The event, which coincided with the National Apprenticeship Week 2019, was set-up by Caspar Bartington, Education Manager at the Association for Project Management (APM) – Europe’s largest professional body for project management. 

Steve Wells, acclaimed futurologist, was also on hand to explain the core question of how humanity can be kept at the centre of the AI story in the face of powerful technological shifts reshaping the world and straining the old social fabric. Steve put AI in the context of the other highly disruptive changes happening in parallel which are creating a more complex and multi-faceted business world (e.g. trade tensions, data security, war, terrorism, natural disasters).

Richard Lewis, Client Programme Manager at Tideway London, provided a dose of reality by explaining how topics like apprenticeships, Brexit and AI were not just theories but ‘real’ issues that had to be dealt with at Tideway London to secure the resource base and improve safety management and construction planning. As Client Representative for the Tideway programme (valued at £3.4 billion), Richard reports to the COO and is responsible for the performance of the Programme Management Contractor. Acting as the key client representative to programme-wide external stakeholders, Richard chairs the Alliance Management team consisting of three joint ventures. Richard gave an overview of the Tideway programme, outlining its pioneering engineering initiatives and value for London.

Finally, Stuart Easton, CEO of Transparent Choice, an expert in project prioritisation, explained how companies should constantly measure strategic alignment. This enables businesses to eliminate waste from their supply chains and eliminate the subsequent costs they incur, while allowing for heightened focus on key projects. Easton explained that an AHP (Analytic Hierarchy Process) is "the way" forward, and no shortcut will work in its place.

Related: Dada Enterprises event explores Brexit impact on project delivery.

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Managing the demand for change in project management

16 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

The forward-looking nature of project management means that regardless of the type of project, thorough planning and risk assessment are essential to ensure it is delivered on time, on budget, and in line with the client’s requirements – while delivering the expected results. Consultants Eman Al-Hillawi and Peter Marsden elaborate in the article below. 

However, it is important to recognise that in this fast-moving working environment, and with projects increasing in scale and complexity, a degree of change is inevitable. Putting the right mitigation strategies in place early on can provide project managers with much-needed agility, allowing them to respond quickly to any new issues that arise.

When the goalposts move or project managers are issued with an unexpected client request, adopting a holistic approach is essential to ensure that changes are implemented successfully the first time around, reducing the risk of any problems arising in the future. Rather than considering the demand for change in one area of a project in isolation, it is important to conduct a full impact assessment, taking into account any knock-on effects on people, processes, systems and infrastructure. For example, a sudden need to digitalise a key HR process may have implications for recruitment, or the need to upskill existing staff through new training programmes, or both. 

Implementing a Portfolio Management Office (PMO) can also enhance project managers’ ability to spot interdependencies and better manage unforeseen changes. Where a number of projects or programmes are being undertaken simultaneously, this function is particularly useful, providing stakeholders with increased visibility and driving intelligent decision-making. For example, spotting an unexpected delay to a particular project could enable resources to be reallocated across the portfolio at an early stage, helping to drive efficiencies within the business and keeping budgets on track. 

Managing the demand for change in project management

As part of their efforts to make the most of available resources while keeping costs under control, project managers should consider using blended teams wherever possible. By combining the organisation’s existing employees with different skills and experienced project managers, it is easier to ensure that the correct levels of skills and resources are utilised at each stage of a project. Furthermore, this method can provide the additional flexibility needed to respond quickly to new developments without unnecessarily prolonging project timelines or increasing costs. 

It is worth bearing in mind that introducing some mitigation strategies may require an initial cost outlay and, as such, effective communication with stakeholders from the very beginning of a project is key. One example is to allocate a contingency budget to the project. This helps to facilitate the project manager’s ability to address key issues that require unplanned spend, without the need to undergo a time-consuming budget approval process. By educating all involved parties about the inevitability of change during projects, it is possible to put buffers in place, both financially and in terms of the project timeline. Over the course of a project, this should enable project managers to react quickly to change and take effective action without compromising on the timescales and delivery of client objectives. 

Likewise, where project delivery is reliant upon large and diverse teams, clearly communicating the impact of unexpected changes, and the required response, is also vital to ensure everyone is on the same page and disruption to day-to-day processes is kept to a minimum. When curveballs to project delivery occur, a failure to brief the team on how these should be addressed could also have a significant impact on levels of motivation and morale, which in turn has the potential to have a negative impact on productivity across a project. 

While meticulous forward planning will always be an essential element of project management, it’s equally important to recognise that to a certain extent, change is unavoidable. The ability to respond effectively to new developments as they occur is therefore vital. By making change a central part of discussions with stakeholders and clearly communicating with all parties on a programme, project managers can take new issues in their stride while continuing to deliver exceptional results for clients. 

Eman Al-Hillawi and Peter Marsden are principal consultants at business change consultancy Entec Si.