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Large projects in the hard core engineering sector differ from those in software engineering fields. Large software projects need a large team of developers and require several million lines of codes. In large engineering projects, the complexity in terms of the technology used and resources consumed, along with the execution duration, are indicative of the scope.


The challenges in managing large projects in the software industry are entirely different from those in large engineering project management, though both share aspects of organizational and people management.


Large engineering projects (LEPs) mainly pose manageability problems. To the outsider, this results in delays and cost overruns. There are four significant areas in the management of large and complex engineering projects.


Technology Conundrum

Managers and engineers involved in complex infrastructure projects often fail to include sufficient buffers for uncertainties. This means there is little room for deviation and consequently the project performs inadequately not only in technical terms, but managerially too.


Information Inadequacy Induced by Overload
While there is bound to be spread of information among personnel, right information at the right place to the right people is generally lacking. I call this ‘information overload inadequacy’.


Ambiguous Risk Perception
Variations to the originally conceived risks depend on the skills and meticulousness of the implementer. Informed stake holders—contractors—are generally aware of these implicit risks deviations, while owners generally have a lesser feel for them. This leads to confl icting risk mitigation strategies.


Responsive HR Program
Policies and processes of human performance evaluation and motivation are developed and implemented by the corporate HR departments.


This Leads To:

a. Lack of clarity in clear policy framework needed for a complex project people management;

b. Ineffective and de-motivating performance evaluation yardsticks; and

c. Lack of pro-active support for project personnel, leading to unresolved confl icts among them, culminating in poor project performance.


We can overcome these challenges through:

1. Technology
Unproven technologies should first be tried in smaller projects, and their scalability and reliability established before they are adopted.


2. Information Adequacy
One of the prime reasons for non-sharing of information among stake holders is that the value of information is different for different stake holders. The detailed scheduling of tasks and documentation of critical project management information is essential to provide an overall project view, and is possible by bringing information needs in line with milestone incentives.


3. Risk Perception & interpretation

Acceptance of risk liability by stake holders requires financial participation in the project. Financial participation requires a way to earn back investment. This means that all the stake holders should have an interest in the profitability of the project. This is a major drawback in complex LEPs. Stake holders need to be made partners in the project for a specified period within which they derive incentives for their efforts in bringing the project to fruition as per the project plan.


4. Responsive HR Program
An efficient project team-building plan would call for project-specific evaluation and incentives, project performance improvement, decentralized and self-managed teams, extensive sharing of incentives across the teams, and incentives for learning and skill upgrade.


In summary, all large engineering projects pose management challenges. A conscious, focused effort right at the beginning of the project is needed for its successful completion.


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