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Tuesday, March 22, 2016, 22:41

Project managers ‘key to making companies tick’

By Luo Weiteng
Project managers ‘key to making companies tick’
According to a recent study, the Chinese mainland enjoys higher efficiency in projects and programs, compared with the rest of the world. (Asia news photo)
As Chinese mainland organizations stand out among their global counterparts as high project performers, project managers are playing an increasingly critical role in the country’s economic activities and companies’ glowing success stories, with the bar set for them becoming much higher than before, says an expert.

According to a study released by the US-based Project Management Institute (PMI) last month, organizations on the mainland waste an average of $99 million for every $1 billion spent on projects and programs, compared with the global average of $122 million for every $1 billion spent.

This stands as good news for the world’s second-largest economy, which is seeking to rebalance from wasteful investments that were mostly promoted by the country’s policymakers to offset weakening external demand in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, but somehow largely proved to be loss-making.

As infrastructure construction projects, representing around 15 percent of the nation’s fixed-assets investment, are still believed to be a reliable driver for the mainland’s economic recovery, PMI President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Langley noted that project managers will play a significant role in making organizations efficient, regardless of the economic cycle.

Regardless of whether it’s a period of sluggish or rapid economic growth, he said companies always need to be high performers, redirecting resources that low performers would waste on new investments and programs.

According to the study, high-performing organizations waste 13 times less than low-performing organizations, and the number of high-performing organizations on the mainland is found to be two times more than the average.

More and more enterprises on the mainland now recognize that project management is central to their success, with large enterprises like Huawei and ZTE setting up their corporate universities to train project managers within organizations, Langley said.

Last year, the institute tested about 42,000 individuals on the mainland for certified project managers, compared with just a few hundred a decade ago.

Having seen a growing number of mainland project managers working both at home and overseas, Langley said it really matters for them to fully understand the complexity of projects, whether they are in infrastructure, high tech or other sectors, and keep the ability to deliver that complexity.

Therefore, the bar set for project managers today has proven to be much higher than before, with a growing focus not only placed on their technical skills, but also on their communication and negotiation skills, as well as strategic management ability.

Langley’s views may ring true, especially for Hong Kong, which has witnessed a string of high-profile infrastructure projects, including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, mired in repeated delays and escalating costs.

Construction of the mega 42-kilometer bridge will not be completed until the end of next year at the earliest -- one year behind schedule -- with an extra HK$5.4 billion funding approved in January, in addition to the original budget of HK$30.4 billion.

For the high-speed rail link, an additional HK$19.6 billion to cover cost overruns was approved by lawmakers earlier this month, capping the project’s budget at HK$84.4 billion.

Langley believes that these headline-making cases speak volumes that the importance of identifying the project cycle earlier and creating greater transparency for the public, and stakeholders can never be over-exaggerated, and this is where project managers come in.

"The more transparent they are in communications and the more engaged they are in stakeholder management, project delays and overspending will be viewed in a more positive light,” he said.

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