06 June 2020

Project Management

Awareness of benefits of PM framework is currently high but adoption is very low



Upendra Giri, Founder and CEO, ACOE Global Corporation is an entrepreneur, consultant, mentor, trainer, and adviser on project management practices to some of leading companies across the globe. Giri, an MS in Civil Engineering from Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, USA, has worked extensively on township planning, construction projects, schools renovation, highway construction projects, water and waste water treatment systems, and environmental remediation projects for US Defense in USA. He has been honored with the prestigious Eric Jenett Project Management Excellence Award from the Project Management Institute (PMI®), USA for his exceptional contributions in the field of project management.





Give us an understanding of ACOE Global’s area of focus since its founding?


ACOE Global previously known as AstroWix Corporation was incorporated in Pennsylvania in 1999 in the same state where the world renowned not-for-profit organisation PMI was established. Since its inception, ACOE Global has been exclusively working in the Project, Program and Portfolio Management domain. In its journey of more than a decade it has delivered world class business solutions to some of the leading global Fortune 500 companies to overcome organisational challenges and to deliver success on the most complex and critical programs.  Back in early 2000 when Microsoft launched a new platform to address the need for collaborative platform for managing virtual teams globally, called Enterprise Project Management (EPM), I as ACOE Global’s Founder was selected as evangelist for creating awareness on a global platform. However when I arrived here in India I realised there was not much awareness of Project Management as a discipline of getting things done. It was then in 2003 that I established the PMI North India Chapter. 




What are the services offered by your organisation in the project management space?


ACOE Global today specialises in the following areas: Capacity Building – India faces a huge challenge of talent deficit. For over a decade ACOE Global has mentored, coached and trained more than 75,000 professionals in the area of project portfolio, program and project management, business analysis, productivity improvement and vocational skillsets. ACOE Global is a most sought after name in certifications offered by PMI, APMG and IIBA. Professionals in all walks of life such as corporate CXOs, senior managers, bureaucrats, police authorities, academicians, students, not to mention aspiring leaders, have been benefitted by its offerings. In order to impact the lives of people at large, ACOE Global launched the Education Beyond Oceans & Firewalls (EBOF) Program as its e-learning and mobile based learning and development initiative last year.  Consulting Services – As a pioneer in bringing global best practices in project management, ACOE Global specialises in setting up Project Management Office, Program Management Unit, and delivers world class Project Management Consulting (PMC) services for telecom, infrastructure, energy, healthcare, a, and manufacturing sectors. Technology – ACOE Global believes that in order to impact life of the masses speed, spread, and sensitivity mantra is the only way to deliver value added services to its stakeholders. Its decade long relationship with Microsoft has played a key role in empowering workforce in productivity, collaboration, supply chain, business intelligence, and content management.




What is the extent of the awareness for the need of project management in various projects countrywide? Could you name the segments of the construction and infrastructure sector in which PM has gained ground?


ACOE Global has a research based outlook on the industry sectors and has its own dedicated strategy team working on the industry dynamics and the issue(s) thereof. We have worked on most of the industry verticals viz., IT, ITES, NBFC, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, financial trading, media, telecom and many more and have served clients from Forbes 1000 to even start-ups. Since we have a huge corporate connect across the sectors we remain very closely coupled with the industry news, happenings and the problems being faced by the sectors. Over a period of time, we have found that while most of the players know of the term 'Project Management' their understanding is quite limited. Some consider it only as a practice for practicing project managers while to some it is about learning about conceptual knowledge areas. Currently the awareness about the benefits of following a PM framework is high but unfortunately the adoption of the same is very low particularly in the infrastructure domain. Organisation-wide acceptability of project management practices is lacking because of the professional’s orientation towards their functional job.


We are spearheading the initiative about 'Effective PM through PMBOK' wherein we advise our prospective clients and existing clients on all aspects of project/program/portfolio management and also the significance associated. It is heartening to see that as a result there is a lot of interest across project teams and individuals (even in govt and PSU setups) where we are being asked to help in initiatives like setting up Project Management Office as per specific needs of the organisation, instituting a Project Management Centre of Excellence (PMCoE) for effective coverage of project needs across an organisation, helping teams on enhancing conceptual knowledge about the Project Management basics and understanding the best practices thereof, and so on. It should be noted that there are many organisations – both large and small – having project managers but who are totally out of sync with the basic understanding of the subject; even a junior operations manager is sometimes called as a project manager in some such organisations which should not be the case if the organisation's project landscape has been designed keeping in mind the global standards of project management. Having said this, there still remains an immense need for effective project management as per global best practices and standards. In the construction/infrastructure landscape, we have seen some very encouraging Project Management (PM) practices across project/program sizes. It remains one of the most mature industry sectors where standardised PM approaches and processes are being followed. While the list is quite big, in our experience, the following have shown great signs of PM maturity: Green Energy Projects, Supply Chain Management, especially Contract and Procurement Management, MEP, integrated townships, reverse auctioneers and sourcing teams for construction players, engineering and design, renewable energy compliance, etc.




The general understanding is that project management is largely a preserve of software firms. How much of it is implemented in the construction infrastructure sector?


This is quite true of the general misconception amongst the populace. Software firms have unique business and operational models. Case in point is the arrival of Agile Methodology which totally walks away from the established Waterfall methodology; in short, the focus is on making small segments of the entire problem and work away in quick time and in parallel to economise and get quick results. These dynamic models have seen a lot of learning from the established project management frameworks and hence the perception and also the practice of standardised PM methodologies is quite correct in the software industry. However there is a huge difference between projects in software industry and other industries. For example, a typical project of a software company may be only a few lakh of rupees, or even less, whereas for a construction company even a small project could be of crores or even more. There are some similarities in the basic framework of project management but the landscape and industry specific processes are very dissimilar and distinct. The practices adopted in one will not necessarily work in the other. We have noticed that the construction and infrastructure industry is quite mature and adopts standardised yet distinct practices directly as per global best practices even though unknowingly. The focus is mostly to work on proven successful practices that have given good results and though they are part of proven global best practices, many organisations and individuals don't know about it. We firmly believe that the entire construction and infrastructure industry should have a dedicated PMCoE wherein not only the project managers but all the related disciplines should be made knowledgeable about the proven best practices so as to minimise learning curve and give efficient and effective results.




Give us an understanding of the role played by your firm in popularising project management techniques particularly in relation to firms in the construction and infrastructure domain? Could you name some of your clients?


ACOE Global, since its foray into the Indian market, has been working extensively to create awareness of PM techniques for managing large, complex, cross functional projects.  We have worked very closely with our clients especially in the construction and infrastructure domains. We have helped in supply chain management domains wherein the processes were streamlined as per the business mandates to minimise errors and increase margins. We have instituted PMOs to bring along a concept of 'Command Centre' wherein all projects are monitored and mapped centrally thereby bringing a lot of accountability and result oriented approach. We have helped in vendor management and procurement fronts where the highly fragmented sects were brought into a single platform which resulted in a lot of time saving as well as efforts. We have instituted technology enabled PM system in many organisations for real time progress, monitoring and control across the SBUs. For the top management cadre in some such organisations, we built special reporting dashboards wherein they were able to see the practical progress and also the RoI behind each process and sub process. We have also ensured seamless community building programs for this sector and have devised several such programs for clients, viz., risk management for infrastructure players, contract management for builders, project closure frameworks for vendors, Sharepoint driven monitoring for projects, etc. In the case of all of our clients, we have ensured that there were sensitising sessions on topics of relevance and have also brought together experts on common platforms for best results.

We have initiated a dedicated organisation, viz., COEREI (Centre for Excellence in Real Estate & Infrastructure) exclusively working on implementation of project management methodologies into infrastructure sector. COEREI itself has been building up a modern township, residential societies in some premium localities of India. Our consulting services have also been offered to government organisations’ like CGEWHO, Karnataka Police Housing Board, Haryana Housing Board etc. wherein the planning, execution and monitoring happens through our defined methodologies and IT tools.




India faces a major shortage of project managers. What are the challenges in this area and how is your firm looking to contribute to those requirements?


You are absolutely right in pointing out this fact. There definitely is a wide dearth of resources. A major challenge in the infrastructure and construction sector is lack of coerciveness and coordination among stakeholders (contractor, suppliers, clients etc) because of which re-work and frequent scope and design changes happens at the eleventh hour. Also the kind of project management training imparted to project managers through external and internal programs are not in sync with the real needs and requirements of business.

However the project management stream is now witnessing huge advancements as a result of more and more professionals becoming aware about it and organisations adopting project management as a practice. With the growing competition amongst professionals it has become imperative to develop a skill set necessary to progress in the world of project management. It is estimated that as much as 1/5th of the world’s GDP – approximately $12 trillion – is spent on projects worldwide. The importance of project management has assumed significance for people who are looking to move up their career ladder in the light of a sharp gap being created by the movement of existing skilled workforce due to either retirement/old age and/or high attrition across sectors.
In fact, the Society of Human Resources identified these two factors as having a major strategic impact for as many as 64 per cent of organisations worldwide. This translates to a huge demand for knowledgeable project managers across the globe! Organisations worldwide, including in India, are on the lookout for competent project professionals who can bring structured yet innovative project management practices into being and help them thrive in the ever changing economic scenario. PMI's global certification, i.e., PMP® (Project Management Professional) is in great demand in the industry today. Those who have already been certified swear by it that the PMP® is the most important globally-recognized and independently validated credential for project managers. ACOE Global has been constantly working on the area of imparting on the job training to professionals to expose them with real time challenges. This real time exposure gets added onto the PM framework designed for classroom sessions.




Can you offer examples of projects where project management techniques have proved to be useful in terms of time and cost overruns?


In all our solutions, the focus was on increasing the RoI as seen from different parameters. Broadly, the management of projects requires knowledge of modern management as well as an understanding of the industry vertical processes. There are potential conflicts between the stated objectives with regard to scope, cost, time and quality, and the constraints imposed on human material and financial resources.

Some of our case studies from the perspective of project management function generally included the following:

  • Specification of project objectives and plans including delineation of scope, budgeting, scheduling, setting performance requirements, and selecting project participants
  • Maximisation of efficient resource utilisation through procurement of labour, materials and equipment according to the prescribed schedule and plan
  • Implementation of various operations through proper coordination and control of planning, design, estimating, contracting and construction in the entire process
  • Instituting PM backbone (Technology/manual tool based) for effective monitoring & control
  • Capacity building for competency growth

One of the present on-going projects for a big central government housing organisation has gained success across Kolkata and the Chennai region, especially in terms of time and cost constraints. We have been rewarded a fresh contract for the Kolkata region, wherein our trained professionals are deployed on sites for managing and monitoring project’s progress at a granular level. The Chennai project has been a successful one with project getting completed within the defined timeframe and subsequently the cost has been controlled.




Can you tell us of the benefits that have accrued from the employment of various project management solutions?


There are many benefits that have accrued to our clients by imbibing the PM frameworks and solutions that offer real-time benefits to organisations. Few of the indicative benefits were:

  • The organisations gained insights and control over the scope of work by constantly monitoring the project’s progress.
  • One project’s experience in terms of lessons learnt was that mistakes and shortcomings could very well be captured, populated for other projects of similar nature.
  • Schedule and cost over-runs could be tracked and the ‘root cause’ could easily be identified because of micro-level monitoring and availability of holistic information at single place
  • IT solutions could configure business Intelligence (BI) dashboards for individuals/departments and help to offer holistic as well as detailed picture about the health of various on-going projects.



India is often compared with China but the latter is way ahead in terms of development. How can PMI help India bridge the yawning gap? 


We firmly believe that the only way to keep pace with China and taking India’s GDP growth rate to 8-9 per cent is to invest in infrastructure.  I mean right investment with proper project management frameworks and practices so as to economise and deliver results. PMI India, in collaboration with world’s best consulting organisations (KPMG, Mckinsey etc.) has conducted high-end research and analysis about current trends, challenges, opportunities etc of infrastructure industry of India. All these reports get extensively published, discussed, debated in the project management fraternity. PMI’s own organisational assessment tools  like OPM3 helps organisations in assessing their current state of maturity levels and offers a road-map for gradual upgradation.




How can the profile of the project management movement be raised and how can its learning seep down to all strata of development?


This is a gradual process, wherein phase-wise approach needs to be initiated. At first we feel that the project management courses in engineering and management institutes should be given priority wherein fresh graduates will get an understanding of the importance of PM methodologies. Then comes the layer of working professionals (engineers, managers, SMEs, consultants etc.) that needs to be trained for implementing appropriate PM methodologies in their day-today assignments. Post that, the quantitative and measurable benefits in terms of time and cost saved needs to be published, discussed and assessed into various infrastructure forums and conferences. Various consulting organisations should come up to offer consulting services for setting and managing PMU (Project Management Unit) for infrastructure companies. Even ACOE global is actively involved in this too.




How can governments both state and centre help in making project management popular?


Both centre and state governments should encourage national level training organisations like FICCI, CII, ASSOCHAM etc. to hold more programs and workshops on Project Management. This will give
more coverage and will help in spearheading the PM movement  so needed. To start with at least the government projects should timely be reward and respective PSUs/ agencies should be recognised for implementing appropriate methodologies for successful completion of projects. When the results will come, there will be a mass level acceptance and even inculcation of such practices and processes across other players too. This has to go at making Project Management skill a mandatory for various sizes of projects, including reforming government procurement policies.




What is your assessment of India as an export market for project managers?   What is your outlook for project management sector in the coming years? 


India’s technical capabilities into engineering, design, drawings etc. are unquestionable and India professionals of mentioned domain have gained reputation globally and particular in Middle East countries. However when it comes to managerial work, the areas needs further exploration and our country should create leadership around this area. ACOE is now spearheading the Product management area from the perspective of project and program management. In today's world, there should be an integrated approach and even the services should be looked from a product perspective.

Similarly we are spearheading the PfM (Portfolio Management) domains to bring about the competency development in managing portfolios of projects and programs. In my opinion India has an opportunity and capability to provide project management skills to the rest of the world, just like the way it has earned reputation in IT space. This can only happen when a formal career path in Project Management is conceived and young and aspiring professionals are guided towards opportunities in this field at industry and academia level.


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