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Driving Value in Turbulent Times

Mr. Mark A. Langley (left) moderating a session with Mr. Ricardo Triana (center) and Mr. Sanjay Manchanda.

Panel anchor:
Mr. Mark A. Langley, president and CEO, PMI

Mr. Ricardo Triana, director, PMI Board
Mr. Sanjay Manchanda, director and Group Head, Microsoft India

Mr. Langley: We are seeing several new trends in project and program management during these turbulent times. There is a need to do more with less, budgets are tighter, and resources are limited. The average number of projects that a project manager handles has gone up from 4.5 in 2006 to 5.9 in 2010. The impact on the austerity mind-set is on training, budgets, and hiring. A positive trend during this downturn was that organizations did not cut down on innovation. Moreover, organizations realize that project management and innovation complement each other.

At the project level, there is need to manage change beyond schedule and budget. Project managers must be familiar with goto-market strategies and strategic business decisions. The project manager must also possess soft skills, leadership qualities, negotiation skills, and conflict resolution capabilities.

Mr. Manchanda: Historically in an economic downturn, we had seen longer cycles of volatility. Now the highs and lows are more pronounced and the cycle much shorter. Because of the high level of unpredictability, the decisions of a project manager can have a far-reaching impact. Now the project manager needs to act with greater speed and at a more strategic level. The project manager needs to understand the company’s business goals and align the project accordingly. He/she needs visibility to the entire business and that makes portfolio management critical. Besides process, time, and resources, the project manager needs collaboration tools.

Mr. Triana: Companies are today interested in portfolio management to get indicators of stability and manage risks better, and understand the complexities in the market. Forecasting was easy in simple projects with well-defined resources and a predictable outcome. Now we have moved from simple and complicated to complex projects. These projects that happen over different geographies, cultures, and time

Project Management Talent Building

Panelists (from left) Mr. Vijay Prasad, Prof. Vasanthi Srinivasan, Dr. Sanjeevan Bajaj, Mr. B.G. Jayaram, Mr. Srinath Batni, and Ms. Aruna A. Padmanabhan.

Panel anchor:
Mr. B.G. Jayaram, secretary, PMI Bangalore Chapter

Mr. Vijay Prasad, director, PMI Board
Mr. Srinath Batni, member of the board, Infosys
Ms. Aruna A. Padmanabhan, director, HR Area South, India/South Asia, IBM India
Dr. Sanjeevan Bajaj, CEO, Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Quality Forum
Prof. Vasanthi Srinivasan, associate professor, Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore

Mr. Jayaram: What does nationbuilding involve? Large projects. And to build these large projects we need people. The question is: Are we as a nation building talent to manage these projects? Do we need talent management?

Mr. Prasad: Talent management has been taken very lightly in our country. The project manager is taken as a task manager. We need a transformation of skills.

Mr. Batni: Project management is about teamwork, an amalgamation of skills, experience, and attitude. The country needs stability to maintain growth, hence project management skills are a must.

Prof. Srinivasan: At the heart of the project manager is the ability to analyze. In a multi-project environment, the project manager needs the capability to synthesize the information and provide the right orientation to the project team.

Ms. Padmanabhan: Project management is a culture in IBM. We don’t do it in just services but also in HR and finance. Our project management strengths have come to the fore in talent management, particularly in today’s diversified environment.

Dr. Bajaj: Our projects involve a lot of stakeholder management. We have launched a program called “Credible India,” taking off on the tourism slogan of “Incredible India.” We are trying to develop the country’s credibility as a business destination. Here we cannot talk about tools and methodologies, but about managing perceptions and expectations.

Mr. Prasad: Project management should be taught at a young age. For instance, in the alphabet, the letter ‘C’ earlier stood for cat and now computer. Then why should ‘P’ still be parrot and not project?

Mr. Batni: A project manager should now take responsibility for the business outcome of the project. He or she needs to manage skills, understand project risks, and know how to handle change.

Prof. Srinivasan: The project manager today needs training to do stakeholder management and understand the organization beyond the project. The right mix of skills is competence and temperament.

Ms. Padmanabhan: We can build talent in three ways: top-down through initiatives from the government, bottom-down with each one inculcating habits at home, and by academia by bridging the demand–supply gap that currently exists.

Dr. Bajaj: Developing talent alone will not serve the purpose. We also need to develop the environment where this pool can be absorbed and nurtured.

Development of National Assets

Panelists (from left) Mr. H.S. Shankar, Mr. Rakesh Barik, Mr. M. Nageshwar Rao, Prof. Krishna Moorthy, Mr. Tanmoy Chakravarthy, and Mr. Jeremy Lambert.

Panel anchor:
Prof. Krishna Moorthy, dean, Institute of Project Management, Larsen & Toubro

Col. (Retd.) H.S. Shankar, CEO, Alpha Design Technologies
Mr. M. Nageshwar Rao, project director, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Satellite Centre
Mr. Tanmoy Chakravarthy, vice president and head, India Govt. Business, Tata Consultancy Services
Mr. Rakesh Barik, director, Deloitte Consulting India
Mr. Jeremy Lambert, program director, Larsen & Toubro EPC

Prof. Moorthy: A country can create two types of assets—economic assets like telecom network and satellites, or social assets like hospitals and railways. These investments are long-term and massive and returns cannot be expected before 20–30 years.

Mr. Shankar: A crucial asset-building is in research and development. When I was with Bharat Electronics Ltd., we developed the Electronic Voting Machine that is now a national asset, a product of innovation and passion.

Mr. Rao: ISRO has built many national assets that enable us today to communicate across regions, and navigate ourselves anywhere in the world. We’re second to none in the world today because of these projects.

Mr. Barik: Talent is the biggest asset for a nation. It’s not the project per se but the people behind the projects.

Mr. Lambert: Two examples come to my mind of great asset creation—the Hong Kong Government’s new airport project to accommodate the increase in air traffic and the UK Government’s Channel Tunnel that connects UK with France. Both are fantastic projects but the first project gave economic and social benefits, and the second is considered uneconomical but it treated a positive social impact. Mega projects have to create a balance between social and economic benefits.

Prof. Moorthy: The National Knowledge Network that the Government of India is setting up is a project that may not give economic benefits but has tremendous possibilities of creating social benefits.

Mr. Chakravarthy: The tsunami early warning system and the MCA 21 portal of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs are perfect examples of national assets with great social benefits. The first project has helped fishermen in improving their trade besides providing the country an early warning system against a natural disaster. In the second project, by cutting down the time to set up a business in India from 80 days to two hours, we have improved the country’s rating among global investment destinations. For a project to be successful, the focus should be on the final outcome and not the inputs.

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