Graduating with a Mechanical Engineering degree in 1986, the job market seemed to be entering a downturn, so I was pleased to find a project role with a Sydney based project management consultancy.
Among the many projects I was involved with, I spent three months on-site at Darling Harbour, working on the regeneration project intended to celebrate the upcoming Bicentenary. My task as part of the project management was to prepare a critical-path GANTT chart.
In the mid-80s, not only was Microsoft Project unknown, so were personal computers in the workplace. I wrote my GANTT chart in pencil on seven separate sheets of A1 paper, which were then passed onto our Tracers, to produce properly drafted drawings. These drawings became the basis on which to plan work and evaluate progress.
Although my part in the project was small, I took some pride in the fact that the Chinese Gardens (regeneration project) was completed ahead of the planned finish date.
When I eventually left the project management consultancy for a role closer to my Mechanical Engineering discipline one of the Directors said to me, “You won’t realise it now, but you’ll use the project management skills you learnt here for the rest of your career.”
With the benefit of hindsight, I would argue that he was right.
Developing Your Project Management Skills
Every time I work on a new product offering, a changed manufacturing process, or even a change in the way we organise our work, I work on a project. My project management competencies allow me to extend beyond a narrow technical focus. Using these competencies, I can influence other professionals, from cross-discipline engineers to finance to people teams.
Having said this, anyone with experience in this field knows that the technical and knowledge skills required for project management, both soft and hard, will always be a work in progress.
These days, I work in both project management and engineering roles, and I teach Certificate IV and Diploma of Project Management subjects at TAFE. Put simply, I believe developing someone’s project management competencies inevitably makes them a more effective project team member.
In Australia project management qualifications are part of a national training platform. The Units of Competency, which relate to project management draw from the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) – which over a relatively recent period seems to have become a ubiquitous force in project management, having hit our bookshelves until 1996.
The PMBOK approach use nine distinct knowledge areas, with a possible 10th area being integration, which effectively acknowledges that each area is influenced by other areas. Ironically, the creation of a project management discipline, which is in part due to our tendency to specialise, requires that practitioners become generalists.
The nine knowledge areas from PMBOK, not including Integration
Each stage of a project life cycle involves the nine knowledge areas. While there is no universally accepted project life cycle model, the PMBOK model fits in with any of the others.
The PMBOK project life cycle model
Most project managers understand that out of the nine knowledge areas there are three which are most obviously linked to one another: Time, Cost and Quality. It is hardly surprising that these knowledge areas are the ones we try and measure to determine whether or not our project has been a success.
The interdependence of Time, Cost and Quality
Project Management: The Statistics
So what is the current state of play? How good are we at managing capital projects? According to the annual AIPM and KPMG Australian Project Management Survey, 2018:
- 45% of organisations are likely to deliver projects with shareholder satisfaction
- 23% of organisations deliver successful projects, at least most of the time
- 30% of organisations are likely to deliver on time
- 36% of organisations are likely to deliver projects that are on budget
- 47% of organisations are likely to deliver projects that meet original goal and business intent
- 30% of organisations established a centralised Project Management Office (PMO) in the past 2 years, while 62% of organisations manage their projects within a portfolio structure and only 50% of organisations feel their project success rates have improved over the last two years.
None of these survey results make for happy reading.
In addition to the above, they indicate that only 36% of organisations consistently applied a risk management methodology and only 62% reported recovery actions to address time and cost variations. Only 49% of organisations formally review their project management skills.
The survey also suggests there is a broad movement toward portfolio management of projects, which is unlikely to produce improvements in cost, time or quality indicators.
While it is difficult to find a total cost of capital cost projects across all industry sectors, there is no doubt the total is in the billions of dollars, which offers the prospects of significant savings.
For any organisation that manages projects, a robust and disciplined project management methodology, which includes the PMBOK knowledge areas and a well-trained workforce, are critical to success.
What Project Management Qualifications Are Right For Your Project Team?
If your employees regularly participate in project management teams, the following level of qualification may help develop both individual competencies and project success.
Certificate IV in Project Management
Project team members
Diploma and Advanced Diploma in Project Management
Project Managers responsible for small to medium projects
Graduate or Post-Graduate Degrees in Project Management (often aligned with Business Administration offerings)
Project Directors and Project Managers for Large Projects
In the near future, organisations will need both project management specialists and well-trained employees, with strong project management competencies, across the full range of professions.
There will be personnel keen to find career paths in the modern organisation, these people will need to develop both specialist and generalist skills. These skills will be both soft and hard, systems based and agile.
After all, there will always be a core of people interested in making a meaningful contribution, in leaving a legacy, which for many of us means building, changing or creating something significant.
At Engenium we pride ourselves on helping organisations deliver successful projects. We would be pleased to help your organisation move forward.
Principal Engineer, NSW – Engenium Pty Ltd