The secret of their success
Manuel Benítez Codas, BCA (Benítez Codas & Asociados), Asunción, Paraguay
An economic power shift is taking place around the world. Developed nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan are still slowly healing from the damage caused by the recession, while others such as Greece and Portugal are slipping into chaos.
This turmoil has left much damage in its wake, with shrinking economies, high unemployment and stalled projects still the reality for many countries. But it also has made room for a new class of fast-growing economies—including Singapore, Taiwan and Paraguay—to rise above the fray and become global players.
These nations, however, have yet to prove themselves to be as stalwart as their more developed counterparts— and the key to their staying power may depend on whether organizations in these countries can make tremendous strides in their project management practices.
“Failure to embrace professional project management for a fast-growing economy weakens that economy's ability to exploit opportunities and, when those opportunities arise, translate them into a positive contribution to the country,” explains Roger Chou, PgMP, founding president of the Institute of Taiwan Project Management in Kaohsung City, Taiwan. “Failure to manage projects properly will mean businesses won't last long, as they continually miss market opportunities. It will also mean what opportunities they do exploit are exploited poorly.”
|The more well-trained, qualified project managers a company possesses, the more competent that company is. |
—Roger Chou, PgMP, Institute of Taiwan Project Management, Kaohsung City, Taiwan
ON THE RISE
Taiwan's gross domestic product (GDP) made a strong showing in 2010, expanding 10.5 percent. Exports from the technology and manufacturing sectors fuel most of the small island's economy.
“From recent statistics, over half a million Taiwanese workers are involved in project-related work of some kind,” says Mr. Chou, CEO of PM-ABC.com (Advanced Business Consulting Inc.).
But in order for Taiwan to maintain this accelerating economy, local organizations need to fully understand the value of project management.
“The more well-trained, qualified project managers a company possesses, the more competent that company is,” Mr. Chou says. “The more competent a company is at running projects, the better it will be at responding to market conditions and initiating or attracting contracts.”
That competency starts with the workforce. Many of Taiwan's leading organizations have made Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification preparation a part of their training, Mr. Chou says—an interesting development from a country that just over five years ago had little awareness of the profession.
“As project management cultures mature throughout organizations in Taiwan, they will be better positioned to adapt their business strategy in order to remain competitive, avoid risks and reduce losses,” he adds.
The story of Singapore's rise is similar to that of Taiwan's. Last year, its economy saw a 14.7 percent GDP rebound, following a slight contraction in 2009.
THE PROFESSIONAL PUSH
Like Taiwan, Singapore's economy has its roots in exports, but the republic also has worked hard to establish itself as Southeast Asia's technology hub. It has topped the Waseda University World e-Government Index since 2009 and has a National Infocomm Competency Framework that identifies strategic competencies required for various sectors, with programs implemented to develop those skills locally.
This drive for improvement has led many organizations in Singapore to fully embrace project management.
“Good project management is a catalyst in driving businesses and companies in its growth, apart from having a skilled and disciplined workforce in delivery services or solutions,” says Jasmine R. Tan, PMP, a Singapore-based solutions architect at Dell. “Singapore's focus and growth in the key economic development areas created demand for project professionals who are not just technically skilled but also have the ability to handle sophisticated complex requirements in turnkey projects.”
Many organizations in the country require employees to hold project management certifications.
“Having a certified pool of workers enables companies to gain an edge in winning contracts and instill confidence in their project delivery, knowing that they have a competent and qualified workforce,” she says.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Not every fast-growing economy has embraced project management to the extent that Taiwan and Singapore have.
With a 15.3 percent economic expansion last year, Paraguay experienced more fiscal growth than any other South American country. Its exports rose 43 percent since 2009.
The government is making big investments in roads and housing while the private sector charges ahead in agribusiness and manufacturing projects, says Manuel Benítez Codas, Asunción, Paraguay-based partner at BCA (Benítez Codas & Asociados), a consulting firm specializing in project management.
“This growth was supported by intensive use of IT platforms and the fast expansion of cell phone networks that also supply Internet services,” says Mr. Benítez Codas, director of the industrial engineering department at the Facultad de Ingeniería at the Universidad Nacional de Asunción.
Yet organizations in the country have been slower to fully adopt project management practices.
“We need to implement project management in many fields, especially in government projects,” he says. “About two-thirds of the projects related to government have minimal project management in all phases.”
Attempts to implement better project management processes in government departments and state-owned agencies have been minimal, Mr. Benítez Codas attests. That lack of interest will ultimately result in poorly managed projects, unsustainable results and a dispersion of resources, he says.
Although progress seems slow, many of Paraguay's project managers continue to work toward improving the profession in the country. Related courses at the national university and at two PMI Registered Education Providers (R.E.P.s) have proven popular, he says. “And most of these students were sponsored by their employers.”
The few projects currently being managed with proper project management standards are progressing well, he adds. For example, the agricultural processor ADM built a soybean-crushing plant and the electric company Itaipu Binacional runs the projects in its portfolio using project management practices. As the initiatives close and results are published, Mr. Benítez Codas hopes the trend will catch on and help to stabilize the fast-growing economy.
RAMPING UP TALENT
Paraguay could learn a few things from its neighbor Brazil. Latin America's largest country has experienced its share of turmoil throughout the years but has still managed to land big efforts, including the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2014 World Cup.
Brazil's project professionals aren't letting prosperity cloud the fact that there still are challenges to overcome, one of which is a lack of qualified project managers.
“All of these projects are happening at the same time, and we don't have the talent to run them all,” says Ricardo Viana Vargas, PMP, CEO of Macrosolutions, a project and portfolio management consulting firm in São Paulo, Brazil. “There is a dramatic potential for change, but we can lose this opportunity. We could go from overoptimism to depression in one week.”
To curb the chances of major project failure and economic decline, project management education and training is seeing a big push in the country. There are now nearly 135 project management master of business administration courses available in Brazil, according to Mr. Viana Vargas, a past PMI chair. He has also seen salaries on the rise for senior project leaders as organizations fight to hire the best candidates.
“This is the time for project management,” Mr. Viana Vargas says. “If we plan well, Brazil will grow fast.”
The rest of the developing world could benefit from their example. PM
PM NETWORK OCTOBER 2011 WWW.PMI.ORG
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