Impact of Technology on PM

 

Mr.Mako
Gaogaufi Mako, Senior Consultant, InnoLead Consulting

This article will look at how technology has impacted Project Management. History traces of some form of good Project Management in the completion of the Great Pyramid of Giza in 2570 BC and the building of the Great Wall of China in 208 BC just to mention a few. Today these are topical discussions as to how these feats were achieved in ancient times. Records show that managers were assigned for each of the Great Pyramid’s four faces with the responsibility to deliver on their work packages in the contemporary wording.  History also records that since the rule of the Qin Dynasty, the dynasty’s labour force was composed of groups, soldiers, common people, and criminals. This mix of his citizenry was ordered to complete this project but all examples articulated here were done without the modern controls practices that we employ now through technology.

 

In 1917, one of the first fathers of modern project management, Henry Gantt, created a scheduling diagram called the Gantt chart. We read about the Hoover Dam project, which started in 1931 as one of the first beneficiaries of Gantt’s work. 1957 saw the creation of the Critical Path Method (CPM) by Walker and Kelly of DuPont

The convergence of these disciplines became more pronounced in the late 70s where algorithms were put in place to make sure there was an optimization in projects.  Automation of tracking time, updating estimates, and reporting schedule progress has progressed over time and we are now in the era of mobile apps. When combined, these have the potential to reduce meeting time and improving accuracy. Simply put, technology affords speed and accuracy to the project management discipline. We can further argue that when such tools are put in use, this offers an opportunity to free up teams to focus on the more valuable activities. Technology has undisputedly modernized even the role of a project manager who in the past was focused more on controlling and monitoring but now has the freedom to include coordination and coaching.

Automation can offload mundane tasks. For example, an application could get updates from the team, produce key reports, and raise triggers and alerts when problems are detected. These are new features we see today that shape Project Management.

With the advent of the internet, there is a new dimension of establishing virtual project officers worldwide, and making it easier to deliver products and services, monitoring projects, and communicating with anyone remotely, allowing people and businesses to manage projects anywhere at any time.

In conclusion, projects have become more complex and gone are the days of spreadsheets in managing projects. Analytics have become key tools required for contemporary managers in sound decision making. These advances in Technology and Project Management have elevated our probabilities of success in our delivery of projects. The language of “ongoing” in representing the status of a project is a thing of the past because tools can give precision at the click of a button.

Gaogaufi Mako holds the position of Senior Consultant at InnoLead Consulting offering Management Consultancy and Corporate Training Solutions. He can be contacted on +267 3909102 and innolead@innolead.co.bw

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The Age Of The Brain

Chilipi
Chilipi Mogasha, Operations Director, InnoLead Consulting

Botswana is a rich country. It was not always this way. Prior to independence, in the cattle age, we were one of the poorest countries in the world. But we were blessed with visionary leadership. It was through this visionary leadership that we pursued our independence, that we negotiated the deals with De Beers, that we put in place structures of governance rarely seen in Africa. Resources were used prudently; Investments were made in infrastructure, health, and education. We were one of the fastest growing economies in the world; the shining star of Africa. The world adored us. We had entered the diamond age.

 

For the following decades, the momentum it seemed was unstoppable. GDP kept growing, the lives of the citizens were improved. Diamonds were “forever” it seemed. Then in 2008, it all started to unravel, seemingly due to no fault of our own. Irresponsible people, in far away countries started a financial crisis rivalled only by the Great Depression in 1930. Mineral prices and diamond sales plummeted. Uncertainty reigned. Many clung to the hope that this was a temporary blip. Markets would return, normalcy would be regained. But it was not to be. Uncertainty had become the new normal.

The country has been caught unprepared. With an undiversified economy, there appears no easy solution. The nation, spoilt by years in a welfare state,  is understandably indignant. How dare the government even start to suggest that it will abdicate its obligations to its people. Expect us to pay for our own education? Our own health? God forbid. Why is it all going so wrong? Are we not a rich country anymore?

I argue that we are still very rich.  Even with BCL, and Morupule B,  and all the problems that beleaguer this nation. It is the glare of the fading diamond light that blinds us. It prevents us from seeing that we have reached the ceiling of what is possible in the diamond age. That if we are to realise a higher potential, we need to enter a new age.

I believe that that age  is the age of the brain. No other country has so many unused brains. And not just ordinary brains. Special Brains. Young brains full of potential. Young brains that have been the recipients of a level of investment unrivalled in the third world. No country has spent as much per capita on education as Botswana has. Yet those brains sit idle at home. Victims of the same culture of dependency,  impatient, waiting eagerly for someone to provide them with a job. An opportunity. Anyone. Anything.

But we are clueless on how to leverage these brains. We have mastered mining the ground, but we have no idea how to mine talent. We have invested well in readiness to participate in the knowledge economy. An economy based on leveraging and trading intellectual capital. That’s were the world is going. That is what differentiates the third world from the first world. Where economic value is created through research, innovation consulting, and services. But we hesitate, unsure, still looking back, lacking boldness. We need to regain the visionary leadership that we were once renown for. I refer not to political leadership, but all leadership. In both the public and private sectors, in our communities, in our homes, as individuals, and at all levels. We need to find a way to “make Botswana great again.” And to do that we need to figure out a way to mine these brains. Because though it might not seem like it, this country is richer today than it has ever been!

Chilipi Mogasha holds the positions of Operations Manager and Senior Consultant at InnoLead Consulting offering Management Consultancy and Corporate Training Solutions. He can be contacted on +267 3909102 and innolead@innolead.co.bw

Urgent need to create an innovative culture in Botswana

 

Mr K
Oabona Kgengwenyane, Managing Director, InnoLead Consulting

 

I have decided to branch away from the PM articles for this one and visit one of my top worry points about Botswana’s economy; lack of an innovative culture. This article was partly triggered by the recent state of the nation address by HE, where despite some progressive steps to boost the economy, innovation is still not receiving the right attention. The restructuring of the ministry and the Innovation Hub is mentioned but I believe this country can do more.  Also after attending the recent Botswana Diamond Manufacturers Association Town Hall meeting, I was reminded that despite the success of attracting foreign investors in the sector, there is no comprehensive programme to develop a robust knowledge system that will create value beyond diamonds and other minerals that we are currently so dependent on.

We have to understand that the day the minerals run out or prices crash, the investors will be the first to leave. Creating a robust innovation system that ensures that R&D programmes take shape, patents are produced here, that we become less of “operators” and become creators, is a much better investment and we will be in better shape to deal with recessions.

I was not surprised when I read recently that Singapore is one of the countries coming fast out of the recession (over 5% growth in Quarter 3) powered by the manufacturing sector that thrives on innovation. To me, it is not surprising because Singapore is amongst the top ranked countries when it comes to innovation and it is already investing heavily in the next generation of technologies which are genetics and the combination of genetics and IT. As a top futurist Juan Adriquez likes to remind many countries that those that do not invest in these next wave technologies will continue lingering at the bottom of the economic scales.

We have to first start acknowledging that we are not an innovative society and this is apparent from the poor scoring in competitiveness reports and innovation indices. As a management consultant, I see this all the time in our organisations where breakthrough ideas are almost a taboo and consistent reluctance to shake commonly held assumptions. The easy route is to simply copy what others have done regionally and globally through the much popular benchmarking trips. The young managers coming with innovative ideas are castigated and quickly reminded that their time will come! Benchmarking is one of the most popular past times particularly for government projects and instead of learning how not to do things or how to do things better, the interest focuses on copying blindly what others have done. We have to realize that without innovation and an inner culture of discovery, our economy is sitting very dangerously. History is littered with many examples of countries that dropped from success like ours to the bottom of the rankings. We need to protect this country from this possibility.

Subtle examples that show how reluctant to change we can be, include RB1 radio news song (I think it’s been running for over 30 years!) and Air Botswana famous peanuts and biltong snack! There are other many examples that show that we take comfort in maintaining old practices making our society dull and uninspiring.

We have to accept that unless we do things differently, building textile factories and relying on relaxed tax regimes for easy access of our products to major markets such as the US and Europe we are actually perpetuating this culture. We need to build a culture where we can produce innovative products which the global customer desires because of their uniqueness and not because it is a product from a third world country and needs protection.

As one innovation expert Rowan Gibson likes to put it, we have to continuously challenge commonly held assumptions, challenge orthodoxies (long held beliefs), harness global trends and discontinuities, and learn to understand unvoiced customer needs. This does not take away from the fact that we still have to leverage our distinctive competencies and competitive advantages, which I believe we also have not excelled in doing. I do not believe we have adequately leveraged our free range beef, our diamonds, indigenous knowledge and others.

We have the Innovation Hub, Human Resources Strategy, National Research, Science and Technology Plan, S&T Policy, Research Organisations and others. Some of these have been around for a few decades with minimal impact as we do not offer the world any innovative products and services beyond minerals. In my view, without a comprehensive national innovation system supported by the right level leadership, we will miss a big opportunity to lead Africa in the areas that matter; creating new knowledge and sustainable prosperity for our people.

*Please note that this article was written in 2015

Oabona Kgengwenyane is the Managing Director of InnoLead Consulting and X-Pert Group offering Project Management, Management Consultancy, and Corporate Training Solutions. He can be contacted on 3909102 and okgengwenyane@innolead.co.bw

The Clerical Progress Statement VS. The Objective Progress Statement

 

Victor
Victor Marathe, Senior Consultant, InnoLead Consulting

The most common base information asked about a project is about progress. There is rarely ever a project related conversation that does not allude to progress in one way or another.  It is such a common question and statement of reference that it is often erroneously assumed to be subject to standard and uniform interpretation.

 

Having been audience to many progress reports and presentations, I am often left wanting with regards to what does that progress statement presented mean. It is often presented as a simple percentage ratio and accepted by many audiences as adequate, to their detriment, myself included.

The percentage measure is the commonly used default unit of measure for progress. There is nothing wrong with this unit of measure, but presented without context it is meaningless and does not provide an infallible basis for decision making.

This is a progress reporting deficiency that most of us have become complacent with. It is in this arena of data presentation that the project management profession seems to be lagging behind most other specialised professions. In most other professions one would not be allowed to get away with presenting an un-contextualized statement.

The fundamental intent of any primary report issued should be facilitating the decision making process with regards to agreed project objectives and key performance indicators. Hence it should be arranged in such a manner that it not just states the project status, but also gives a “personality” to the reported status.

How do we do that? The starting point is to appreciate that project progress is a multi-dimensional entity and should be reported and analysed with all dimensions being considered.

Some of the dimensions to be considered include;

  • Days expended on the project
  • Man-hours
  • Quantities
  • Unqualified system generated progress
  • Rules of Credit
  • Gut Feel Opinion
  • And others…..

Hence a percentage ratio progress statement could be measuring any of the above. No single dimensional measure is effective and informative if considered on its own without placing it in the context of the whole. In the absence of such an approach, the statement simply becomes a clerical progress statement.

Regrettably, however, clerical progress statements are more common than objective progress statements. On a few of those occasions when such statements have been interrogated it has emerged that not only does the audience differ in its interpretation and understanding, but in some instances that the presenters themselves have been found wanting in explaining what they mean.

If however the statement is presented in the context of hours, quantities, rules of credit etc. then the message would be clear and consistent. The measure, however, should not be selected arbitrarily as a matter of convenience but should be informed by stated project objectives, project risk appetite profile and other relevant project baseline documentation.

In other words, the statement should enable decision making in respect of providing direction towards delivery within the agreed project parameters based on the risk appetite and objectives of the project.

Take for example describing a person. When describing a person it is not adequate to just say male or female, tall or short. To give a useable description it has to include various descriptors such as height, size, sex, age etc. with emphasis on the descriptors being around the decision driver. i.e. the decision driver could be height, age or sex depending on the intended response.

This applies similarly when presenting progress statements.

To present a truly meaningful progress statement, the following minimum process principles have to be applied.

  1. Understanding the audience –Audiences have different interests and varied technical acumen. Therefore stakeholder profiling and deciding which dimension of progress to bring to the fore should consider the interests, influence and reaction sought from the audience.
  2. Contextualise the progress statement – State what dimension of progress is being measured. This contextualises the statement and establishes a common platform for interpretation, analysis and basis for decision making.
  3. Contextualise in respect of other measures – Present other dimensions of progress. i.e. quantities, hours etc. this further paints a multi-dimensional picture to the progress statement and provides a well-rounded understanding of the project circumstances.
  4. Analyse and Interpret – The question “what does it mean to the project” should be answered or at the least an opinion tabled.

The above process is what differentiates an objective progress statement from a clerical progress statement. A purpose driven progress statement should initiate a steer in the direction the decision-making process should take. i.e table a deduction and response options.

For this approach to become a professionally expected progress reporting curtesy, we, the audience has to take the leading initiative to demand a contextualised progress statement and nothing less.

The risk of making decisions based on misunderstood or misinterpreted reporting can be devastating to the project outcome, it is therefore incumbent on all project decision makers and stakeholders to demand a progress statement with a personality that provides a foolproof decision-making basis.

So the next time you are presented with an unqualified progress statement. Demand a qualification statement.

Victor Marathe holds the position of Senior Consultant at InnoLead Consulting offering Management Consultancy and Corporate Training Solutions. He can be contacted on +267 3909102 and innolead@innolead.co.bw

Be Of Value, Continually Improve Your PPPM Competency

 

OG
Okitanye Gaogane, Head of Academy, InnoLead Consulting

“Professional development isn’t a one-time thing; it should be a continuous part of your project management career. Make it a priority to assess and improve your skill set, and you’ll increase your value to your organisation and enhance your future career prospects,” SeminarsWorld®

 

In the first week on May the PM world converged in Philadelphia, courtesy of Mega SeminarsWorld®, to share insights into evolving PMO and exceptional delivery dream teams. A week later they met again in Rome to discuss leadership skills that elevate programme management game. Soon they will be in Orlando and the storyline continues…

The question is where is Africa, where is Botswana? Don’t we have project management delivery challenges? Or are we are forever playing catch-up to our Western and European counterparts.

Not to sound like a grumpy old man, recently we sent our very own Babatshi Gasha to Accra for the PMI conference. Let’s be hopeful that there will be traction out of that. Africa will see an improved project governance and delivery. We need to see such gatherings influence national policies and improve project delivery.

Even more exciting is that Botswana is starting a PMI chapter. Very overdue, but exciting nonetheless. We can only pray that in a few years the title “project manager” will actually refer to a competent and qualified person. This PMI chapter and the recently started professional bodies like Engineers Registration Botswana should propel our nation to greater heights.

The morale of the story is, if we start using competent Portfolio, Programme and Project Managers and practice the disciple religiously, then our high project failure rates will reduce and we will start getting value for money from capital spending.

Africa rise up, Botswana don’t be left out. The PMI Talent Triangle® urges us to continually sharpen our 1) technical project management, 2) leadership and 3) strategic and business management. Make project management a part of your professional development and add value to your organisation.

Okitanye Gaogane holds the position of Academy Manager at InnoLead Consulting offering Management Consultancy and Corporate Training Solutions. He can be contacted on +267 3909102 and innolead@innolead.co.bw.

Project Management In Construction

 

Chilipi
Chilipi Mogasha, Operations Director, InnoLead Consulting

In the local construction industry, the biggest infrastructure projects are dominated by large multinational companies. Local contractors are left to make do with “leftovers” or subcontracting to these larger players. It is therefore of no surprise that there is mounting resentment of this foreign dominance, with local contractors demanding that their turn is overdue. This trend is also consistent with the country’s local empowerment strategies. The question is, how legitimate is this claim, and what needs to change to reverse the status quo. In this article, I will focus on just one aspect of this multifaceted challenge.

 

Let’s begin by contrasting these industry players. Typically, the large multinational companies have, or are expected to have more capacity. They have established systems and process, skills and competencies that enable them to handle the complexity and scale of large projects. Broadly speaking this is an indisputable reality, although it frequently does not translate into the results that stakeholders and clients would expect: successful project delivery.

On the other hand, local contractors tend to be small in scale and without a proven track-record. In a classic chicken and egg scenario, their lack of experience is the reason cited for not giving them the big jobs, but how can they get the experience if no one awards them the jobs! In any case, frequently, they are not resourced with the prerequisite skills and experience, even in cases where they are run by suitably qualified architects, engineers, and quantity surveyors. And as I will elaborate in the following sections, they more frequently than not do not have the required systems and processes to manage large-scale or complex projects.

How does the small contractor generally manage a project? What should be carried by the systems and processes is substituted with “common sense”. The planning and execution, be it scheduling, budgeting, risks management, monitoring, and control, is done, “in the head”. And when explicit plans and budgets are done, it is frequently for narrowly defined reasons, such as to meet tender and contractual requirements.  There is no universal appreciation of the value of the “Gantt charts and critical path analysis”, beyond clinching the deal and appeasing a demanding client. And as a result, the benefit derived from these tools is at best minimal.

If local contractors are to graduate from small time projects and rub shoulders with the major players, they will need to embrace proper project management. They need to appreciate the value of the application of project management best practice. Now, most people dismiss the so-called “best practice”, as “just theory” or “academic stuff”. This is a misguided point of view. What best practice is, is the application of what has been found to work best for most projects most of the time. Standards such as the PMBOK and PRINCE2 where not developed by detached university academics and theorists. They were progressively developed through reference to how the best performing projects are managed. By continuously harmonising these best industry practices, over time a “body of knowledge” has been developed, which represents the best-known way of successfully delivering a project. Therefore, when you deviate from best practice, whilst it does not necessarily mean what you are doing is wrong, it does suggest it is not proven. Therefore, you risk reinventing the wheel and repeating known mistakes.

A frequently expressed refrain is the applicability of best practices developed in the western world and applied locally. This is a valid concern. This emphasises the importance of local professionals, which we have in abundance, coming in and tailoring these practices to the local context. The recent developments to establish a local PMI chapter represent a promising development in this regard.

So in closing, the local industry needs a paradigm shift, and change in mindset, to embrace project management best practices and build the necessary skills, competencies, and capacity. The crux of the matter is that the project owners want to ensure that the organisations hired to deliver a project, will do so cost effectively, timeously and to the agreed upon quality standards. The adoption of “best practice” project management practices by local construction organisations will garner trust in the project owners that their projects will be delivered well while simultaneously positioning themselves within the local market as organisations capable of successful project delivery.

Chilipi Mogasha holds the position of Operations Director at InnoLead Consulting offering Management Consultancy and Corporate Training Solutions. He can be contacted on +267 3909102 and innolead@innolead.co.bw

Project Management in Mining, Part 2

 

Mark
Mark Muzinda, Senior Consultant, InnoLead Consulting

The development of a mine is a complex venture that entails the integration of various disciplines i.e. geology, environmental, mechanical, metallurgy, electrical, civil, structural e.t.c into a coherent whole. The development of a mine also entails various stakeholders including central government, local authorities, communities where the mine is to be built etc. Anglo America’s famous Minas Rio Iron Mine project, required over 300  permits or authorizations from various bodies. The delays with these played a big role in the project delays experienced.

 

All these stakeholders have varying impacts on the success of the project. They also have varying interests. These interests need to be managed or the project may be compromised. The complexity alluded to the above introduces another conundrum; uncertainty. The development of a mine is a not a routine endeavour, it is unique and laden with a lot of unknowns. Unknown terrain, unknown and unpredictable stakeholders, volatile commodity markets, unpredictable government regime or policy, and increasing nationalistic mineral policies. These unknowns have the potential to impact on the mine development objectives of delivering this entity on time, within budget and within the required functionality. These unknowns (risks) need to be managed systematically or else the project delivery will be compromised.

Project management provides a framework to manage the numerous stakeholders, and the uncertainty on the project. It also provides a framework as earlier discussed to manage scope, time, costs, procurement, the required resources to perform the works, and quality. This increases the chances of the success of development mines to full production.

Despite the adoption of project management as a discipline in mine development, we still see some of these endeavours failing, i.e. delivered late, over budget and late and sometimes the mine output is well below planned capacity. The reasons for this phenomenon is out of scope for this article.  Some of these reasons may include poor due diligence on the acquisition, fast tracking of the project with associated risks e.tc. Nevertheless, a significant number of mine development projects have been successfully delivered thanks to the adoption of capital project management methodologies.

Project management in mining has also been adopted in other endeavours including mine expansions, the case of Cut 8 at Jwaneng mine in Botswana, plant modifications, major maintenance works etc and continues to deliver value.

Mark Muzinda holds the position of Senior Consultant at InnoLead Consulting offering Management Consultancy and Corporate Training Solutions. He can be contacted on +267 3909102 and innolead@innolead.co.bw