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Project Management : Benefits and Relevance in India

By Naveen Dadlani, Head of Projects & New Store Development, Marks & Spencer, Reliance India

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Naveen Dadlani, Head of Projects & New Store Development, Marks & Spencer, Reliance India

Whilst project management has been widely used in developed countries since decades, it has been, over the past few years, gaining popularity in many developing countries due to its inherent ability to lend a structure to complex projects, by way of foreseeing risks and implementing mitigation all through the project life cycle. Project Management covers all aspects of a project through planning & conceptualization to Development & close out, thereby giving systematic controls to manage various risks enabling completion ‘safely’ within Timeline, Budget & Quality requirements. Most projects big or small, have their own share of Risks which are generally classified on basis of probability of their occurrence and impact, and through effective project management, these risks are planned for, evaluated and mitigated by complete or partial reduction of their impact/occurrence, transferring or sometimes even accepting them in a program.

Apart from Risk management and ensuring control on regular parameters like Environment Health & Safety, Quality, Schedule & Cost, Project Management also helps in managing change in a project often caused due to the dynamics of evolving needs of businesses and people. It is quite important to know the impact of a change on a project before agreeing to its inclusion, as often in past it has been seen to have huge impact to a project outcome, when not controlled sometimes even leading to stalling of projects midway. One of the important deliverables of a project manager is to continuously review the project status in the wake of such changes and to communicate and alert the stakeholders of all significant impacts to the project cost and program, avoiding last minute surprises and ensuring smooth flow of activities. 

In spite of construction projects increasing significantly both in size and volume in last few years in India, the work is still highly labour intensive with low level of training to workers, poor labour welfare programs and facilities, lack of proper environment health & safety regulations resulting in many accidents and injuries to workers during development. Project management on the other hand also helps in this case by bringing professional expertise through pre-qualification of contractors, ensuring adequate balance between men & machinery, proper induction and training of workers and safe work practices through work method statements ensuring safe working environment on projects.

Another challenge being faced by the industry is cost management which is at the core of Project management. Cost is one of the key performance indicators for projects and involved in controlling costs are processes centered around planning, estimating, budgeting, financing, funding and managing costs so that the project can be completed within the approved budget. Project Managers often spend a lot of time in benchmarking costs using data from other similar projects executed in past as a back up to their estimates drawn using rate analysis of items. This part of project management is also called quantity surveying and has branched out as a special service offering in big projects.

Time is finite and the essence of most projects. Control of time is a competitive advantage. There are many tools and techniques available to manage schedules, much of it connected to overall project planning and sequencing of activities. Project Managers emphasize on resource based scheduling to enable planning of realistic timelines to projects making it easier to also understand the factors driving success of deadlines.

In Indian construction sector, awareness and use of project management is fast increasing in private sector, but the public sector is still far from reaping its benefits due to various hurdles like government policies causing excessive bureaucracy, delayed approvals, lack of emphasis on quality & safety, personal interests, low transparency, and corruption. This has been evident through regularly delayed projects sometimes with big cost over runs, unsafe working conditions and poor quality management across the country, undertaken by public sector companies.

The difference in Public and Private sector approach is in terms of funds, infrastructure, requirements, implementation and scope of work. The public sector still follows the conventional type of project execution and a lot of the decisions and data required for sound project management system never reach the management team on time due to bureaucratic delays. In the public sector, there are differences in work methodology and organization structure, slow decision making, poor stakeholder management and hence the work atmosphere is not good. Negligence on all parts, including cost & time factors, is so high that it makes practical application of project management difficult to these projects.

In a rapidly developing country like ours, with its massive population and the ever increasing need for Infrastructure to support the ambitious development program of the government, it is high time that efforts are made to manage projects professionally through the science of Project management which will surely help seal the outcome to success. Project Management can provide the much wanted structure to the construction sector and with the help of this structure, the industry should be able to overcome the associated problems on scope, time, budget, stakeholders, teams, communications, and risk and be better prepared for future challenges.

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