Sunday, December 28, 2008

Project Management Tribes

50 years back , a Project was construction of a dam or factory and a Programme was a 'Space flight'. Primavera & MS Project were the early players who supplied computerised solution for the CPM and PERT scheduling , which were getting popular in industry. Project Managers were not the guys who sat infront of computers for most of the office hours and attended series of meetings. They were actually , dynamic people who were actively present at construction site , coordinating consultants, contractors and suppliers! A smart executive with safety helmet on his head and a rolled drawing in hand was the icon for project managers in those days.
Over the years service industries started making bigger presence than conventional industries (Despite of the fact that, conventional industries were the core of  the client circle of service industries !). Now in this new millennium, when we hear the term project manager , it quickly reminds us some one dressed in designer suits sitting in a swanky office in the middle of gadgets! The helmet and drawing disappeared!
It is true that number of IT projects are more than number of infrastructure projects worldwide. How ever in terms of financial value and manpower, infrastructure projects are far ahead of IT projects.

Where technology is the major concern of project managers in IT , managing huge labour force and suppliers are major concerns for construction PM's. Despite of the fact that there are several similarities in managing projects in both of these industries, how ever role of 'physical effort' and 'hardware' plays major role in construction than IT.

In IT & service projects , the team members are generally educated and are able to plan their work themselves. Scene is different in construction projects. I would say , a construction project manager will be / has to be more 'multi skilled' than an IT project manager! Where as a young little experienced(years of experience not expertise) software engineer can manage even complex IT project, construction project management demands some 'years' of hands-on experience! A software engineer can create 'n' number of projects with out significant cost implication and gain experience (Especially due to the wide spread availability of pirated software) unlike a conventional industrial engineer , to gain experience, has to work in a 'real life' project which involves substantial financial investment.

Me, worked in both IT & construction projects (a rare opportunity, indeed!) can say without doubt that construction projects are not a bit less in technical complexity in comparison with IT projects! In fact sometimes technical complexities in association with challenges opposed by mother-nature make life of PM quite miserable in construction projects. 'Experimentations' are generally not allowed and always possess heavy financial risks! (Much higher than IT projects, where manpower is the only major cost factor). The relationship matrix in construction industry also used to be quite complex involving client, consultant, contractors, sub-contractors and suppliers.

Super skills and tough work environment does not entitle construction project managers to earn salaries equivalent to their IT counterparts. This has resulted in substantial imbalance in engineering professionals working in both the fields. Senior construction professionals feel great difficulty in recruiting skilled talent in construction project management. Lack of skilled & talented engineers in construction filed has already shown its symptoms.

Landslide of IT & service sector jobs due to recession may trigger flow of some fresh talents to more stable conventional industries including construction. Lets see how a sweating construction PM with muddy boots can feel high with better perks like his IT counterpart in 'Armani Suite' sitting in his swanky office surrounded by gadgets !

(Can we call this Project Management 2.0 in 2009, like much hyped virtual 'Web 2.0' in 2008 ?)


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