The development of project management as a life skill by the Department of Education could see project management principles and concepts working their way into the school curriculum, says Project Management South Africa (PMSA) president Elmar Roberg.
Roberg comments further that over the last few years he has seen the industry starting to change to reflect a more realistic face of what South African society looks like. This is different from the ‘pale-male syndrome’ that the discipline inherited from the engineering construction industry.
The industry has also seen a larger influx of young black project managers, especially from information technology (IT) and business backgrounds.
When Roberg joined the associ- ation in 1987, project managers from the engineering construction side accounted for 95% of this discipline. Roberg was among the first individuals from an IT background to join the association.
This has been changing since 2000 and now about 60% of project managers associated with PMSA come from IT and business backgrounds.
Roberg comments that he does not think that the autonomy of PMSA will be affected by the government’s initiatives to create the South African Council for the Built Environment (SACBE). This proposal by the Depart-ment of Public Works is to group six existing professional councils within the built environment, into a single council, to be known as the SACBE, and for the existing statutory bodies to be converted into ‘boards’ under the SACBE.
The department’s proposed amendments on the Statutory Regulatory Framework of the Built Environment Professions will affect the Council for the Land-scape Architectural Profession, the Council for the Project and Con-struction Management Profession, the Council for the Property Valuers Profession, the Council for the Quantity Surveying Profession, the South African Council for the Architectural Profession and the Engineering Council of South Africa.
“My view is that the ability of government to meaningfully affect the industry is actually very small. “At the end of the day, some [constraints], like defining who is allowed to work as a project manager on certain types of projects, will be placed on the industry, and there will be certain restrictions as well. “These [constraints] will ripple out and affect the industry at large and this will cause irritation, but ultimately these things will work themselves out. “It will stimulate the culling of who can call themselves project managers. “It will draw lines in terms of professionalism. That will mean one will have to show the right credentials to call oneself a project manager,” says Roberg.
“The profession needs a disciplinary mechanism. “When legitimate complaints are made against those in the project management discipline, currently, there is no regulation involved. “A member can be disciplined and barred from continuing as a member, which, in practice, does not translate into anything meaningful. “A regulatory framework would provide the association with greater influence and control over membership.”
Roberg’s expects that project management will develop into more specialised fields, such as portfolio management and programme management.
The portfolio management team’s work is identifying, categorising, evaluating, selecting and prioritising anything that looks like a project. It then identifies commona- lities, mainly driven by what the common objectives are, identi- fied by the strategy and these then become programmes. These programmes are then implemented. In the past, this was done by the project managers.
Through programme management, one can take a substantially large project and break it down into smaller more manageable chunks, which can be allocated to individuals according to their skills competence levels. This emerging discipline focuses on assessing strategy, determining what is being done, and evaluating whether or not it should continue.
“The problem lies in the very big projects that have a lot of internal complexities. “When the project is broken down into smaller projects, the internal complexity is reduced, resulting in intraproject complexities, which create the problem of managing these projects together as a programme. “The dynamics are changing, which is becoming very useful, in that we know what project management is, and we are now defining what programme management is,” says Roberg.
He comments that there is a limited community of project management professionals who are registered with the associ- ation. “Depending on how broad one’s definition of project management is, there could be somewhere between 30 000 and 100 000 project managers in South Africa. “But the association membership is just over 3 000.”
He adds that, in spite of these figures, not enough is being done by PMSA to attract more people into the field and to expose the field as a career path.
A postgraduate level qualification and one of the subject areas of an MBA, project management is offered as a qualification at many private institutions. Some universities are now starting to offer project management at Master’s level, and some of the principles and concepts are being introduced at undergraduate level.
Project management as a profession was only formalised in the late 1970s. A significant point was reached when the Project Management Institute (PMI) in America created the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK), which now provides standards in the field. The PMI is currently busy with the draft review of the fourth edition of the PMBoK
The curriculum for project management though has been set through the PMBoK, but the examination is not one that is fixed yet, and it would be useful if that does happen. That would mean that practitioners are all measured against a set standard.
“Another initiative that is being worked on internationally is that the International Standards Organisation (ISO) has officially adopted project management as a project. “It is are aiming at producing an international standard for project management. “The PMBoK is an industry standard, but there is nothing compelling project managers to use it. “With ISO taking up this issue, it is taking project management to a whole different level,” concludes Roberg.