Effective project management is key to success

by: Saad Dosari

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One of the basic concepts in project management is that the success of any project is not determined only by its completion but by being completed within the stipulated time and budget. In other words, deliverables alone are not enough to say the project is a success especially if you finish the job 3 years after the deadline and after having doubled the original budget.

Maybe we need to ponder this concept a bit as we are, for yet another year, expecting huge government expenditure in different infrastructure development projects; in education, health, justice, and transportation.

It is no secret that whenever a huge project is announced in the Kingdom, people would usually receive the news with a lot of skepticism. It has become customary that any project’s deadline will be prolonged, the scope will be changed different times along the way, and the budget definitely fluctuates till the end. Unfortunately, the way projects are managed in the Kingdom becomes nothing less of a classical example of project management failure.

You do not have to take my word for it, think of any of the big projects that we had in the recent years and you would end up with a pile of examples: King Abdullah Economic City; way beyond schedule and a lot of budgeting problems. The railway connecting Madinah, Jeddah, and Makkah; beyond schedule, change of scope and budget.

Various projects of Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Justice; a lot of ambiguity here, we do not know a lot about their projects, how far they are from completion, however, the only thing we are sure about is that we can barely feel any change in their services.
Even King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, which a lot like to consider as a success story, is a failed project according to our earlier definition; it was not delivered on time, and apparently it has some quality issues that you can see in the playground area.

Just to benchmark, let me give you an example of a classical success story in the world of project management; the near impossible project of the international airport in Hong Kong. The tiny island was choking with its one-runway airport, building a new one would require it to level and connect two islands, build highways, underwater tunnels, bridges, and speed railways to connect the main island with the new airport, and of course, building the airport itself.

If you guessed that such huge multiple projects would need between 10 to 20 years to complete, as most of engineers and planners estimated, you are wrong, the project was up and running in only seven years (there is a huge chance that the story of the airport reminded you of Jeddah’s new airport project, and you might be tempted to evaluate its difficulty compared to the Hong Kong project, my advice to you, just do not!)

So what should we do?

I believe we need to establish a neutral body to follow up on projects in the public sector. A kind of project management office (PMO) that is responsible of selecting and monitoring a portfolio of programs and projects selected to serve the governmental 5 and 10 years plans.

This body should preferably be reporting directly to the king; it would give him a visibility on the progress of the different strategic projects in the country, derive from his authority to provide support and guidance to the different governmental bodies and agencies, establishing baselines to complete projects and evaluate its success or failures.

The idea is not totally new; it has been applied with different flavors in many governmental initiatives, notably in Singapore, Malaysia, and Dubai.

When everything about projects is discipline, it is exactly what we seem to be missing. Adapting to well-known projects processes and techniques would guarantee that such discipline is maintained, eventually leading to success.

@smaldosari

Article source: http://www.arabnews.com/columns/news/681301

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