Some companies do not understand the complexity of implementing projects and, therefore, do not see the need to invest in dedicated project management resources, says Sandton-based business intelligence company Decision Inc.
“The role of project management is thus often given to other personnel in the organisation, despite project management not being their core competence,” says Decision Inc CEO Nicholas Bell.
He adds that this trend can have dire outcomes for the company, such as a shift in focus from core business responsibilities to noncore responsibilities, with added unnecessary strain on certain individuals, compounded by poor planning and implementation.
Bell says, in cases where a company’s project is handled in-house by resources that do not have project management experience, the “true cost” of the project is rarely seen. “When you start adding up the costs of ineffectively running a project, the actual costs involved in project delivery will be a surprise to many.
“In the end, does the need justify the cost?” he questions.
“In most instances, companies that are initially hesitant to pay for external project management, after having invested in this service, experience significant value in terms of cost savings and on-time delivery. They almost always extend their contracts,” he says, adding that internal project management can also be successful, if managed correctly with motivated and skilled personnel.
“However, external project managers are often specialists in their field and have domain knowledge and experience in managing multiple projects.”
Bell further notes that, when projects are handled in-house, especially with regard to smaller companies, the project is assigned to an analyst to coordinate. He adds, however, that some analysts lack the required capacity and skills set to see a project through to completion.
“It is ideal to assign someone who can focus entirely on a project, who can direct his or her time to ensuring that all the moving pieces are brought together,” says Bell.
He adds that larger entities usually understand the complexity of projects and assign external or specialised personnel to manage projects.
Advice for Managers
Bell cites figures from information technology (IT) research and advisory company Gartner’s 2011 report, which states that 70% to 80% of business intelligence projects fail, with half of these projects having failed because of incorrect technical delivery and the other half because the requirement of the project no longer exists, meaning that the completed project has no, or limited, use.
In these cases, the business solution delivered does not actually answer the business question, notes Bell.
“I would advise businesses to have a clear idea of the project’s outcome or what they want to achieve, before initiating a project,” he says, adding that having a clear set of goals makes the chances of success far greater. These objectives provide the whole project, and all its deliverable parts, with an end goal that it is required to work towards.
He explains that most business goals comprise three main objectives: cost reduction, increasing revenue and operating more effectively and efficiently. Therefore, projects need to be structured and planned so that these business goals are supported and not impacted on negatively.
Small Talent Pool
Bell notes that finding suitable project managers is a challenge, as the talent pool is small.
The project management industry requires individuals who are willing to delve into the project using a hands-on approach. “Anyone can manage the project plan, but can they influence the plan?” he asks, emphasising the influential role that project managers need to play.
Bell believes project management is more of a vocation than a specific career path for school leavers. “It takes time to develop an interest and knack for project management. This involves a maturity curve through the development of project management personnel,” he says.
Focusing on IT
Decision Inc focuses specifically on implementing information management solutions in companies that have a heavy reliance on strong project management.
“From this perspective, we work with a number of technology providers to provide an enabler, such as suitable software, which we use to empower people to make better decisions and, thus, manage the project better,” Bell says, adding that effective management involves effective communication among people.
Meanwhile, to further assist business leaders and project managers in increasing time efficiency, Decision Inc is starting to prebuild IT-based ‘project development accelerators’ for its clients.
“The next solutions to be launched will offer clients business intelligence that can be rapidly deployed, thereby simplifying the time-to-value process and providing the user with an analytic solution in a very short space of time,” he says.
The traditional project initiation involved a tedious process of scoping and understanding the project before proceeding to implementation.
Bell notes that the accelerators will provide clients with more certainty regarding what they are getting upfront, instead of further down the line when project implementation starts.
Bell attributes Decision Inc’s success and rapid growth to good delivery on projects: “This has been a large part of our business – the ability to understand our clients’ organisations, as well as their business focus and needs.”The long-terms goals of Decision Inc involve growing the company. Bell says the company is currently undergoing an acquisition phase, having acquired its most recent company, CQS Performance Solutions, in May. Decision Inc currently employs 126 people.