BY SANDRA A. SWANSON
FACTS & FIGURES
Population: More than 3.7 million people live in Melbourne's metropolitan area. With those numbers and recent rapid growth, the city could pass by Sydney as the country's largest city by 2028, according to consulting giant KPMG.
Melbourne is the capital of Victoria, Australia's smallest mainland state in area, but its most densely populated.
Language: The official language is English. But there are more than 100 languages spoken by residents here—including Mandarin, the most common non-native tongue.
Currency: Australian dollar (AUD)
AUD$1 = US$0.92
AUD$1 = €0.62
AUD$1 = ¥99
Economy: Business services account for the largest number of employees in this city, where half of Australia's 10 largest corporations are headquartered.
The Port of Melbourne is the country's largest shipping hub (and one of the top five ports in the Southern Hemisphere), handling AUD$75 billion in trade annually.
Goods aren't the only thing coming ashore in Melbourne. There are plenty of tourists, too. In 2006, nearly 10.8 million people visited the city and helped bolster the local economy by more than AUD$5 billion.
Sources: City of Melbourne, Bernama, The Australian, BRW
IT'S BOOM TIME IN THIS COSMOPOLITAN CITY, WHERE THE NEEDS OF A GROWING POPULATION ARE SPARKING AN OVERWHELMING DEMAND FOR SAVVY PROJECT LEADERS.
IMAGES COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Already entrenched as a vital Australian metropolis, Melbourne now looks poised to take over Sydney's slot as the country's largest city within the next 20 years, according to consulting giant KPMG. The need to accommodate all those residents has triggered a spate of new projects in everything from infrastructure to IT—as well as a heightened demand for project leaders. And not just any project leaders. These days, organizations are showing a more refined appreciation for the profession, voicing more specific requests for skills and certifications. The result: a talent crunch that has left companies scrambling to secure the right people.
“There are not enough project managers in Melbourne to meet the demand,” says Simon Garlick, principal at MetaPM pty Ltd., a Melbourne-based project management consulting firm.
PORT PROJECT DREDGES UP CONTROVERSY
PHILLIP BAY SERVES AS THE GATEWAY TO AUSTRALIA'S LARGEST PORT, the Port of Melbourne, which handles nearly 40 percent of the nation's container trade. In recent months, it has also served as a battleground for economic and environmental interests clashing over an AUD$969 million project to deepen the bay.
Officials at the Port of Melbourne Corp., which is overseeing the project, argue the port clearly needs an upgrade. During the last quarter of 2007, 44 percent of container vessels could not enter or leave the port fully loaded. The organization hopes to alleviate that problem by dredging about 23 million cubic tons of sediment from the bay, deepening the channels by 12 meters to 14 meters (39 feet to 46 feet).
Government officials contend the added depth will boost the local economy by AUD$2 billion over the next three decades.
But to achieve that, the environment may pay a high price, opponents say. The bay contains more than 1,000 marine plants and animals and 500 fish species, which may be threatened by toxic plumes and other hazards.
Local business owners, particularly in the diving and fishing industries, say dredging will destroy not only the environment, but their source of income.
Even port officials concede the bay's entrance will take up to 30 years to recover from the effects of the dredging.
In early January, 200 protesters held a candlelight vigil, and opponents of the project took their concerns to federal court.
In a devastating blow to those opponents, the court relaxed restrictions on the dredging, allowing it to continue in all but one area
That's great news for qualified professionals. “Good project managers are in hot demand, and salaries and contract rates are abnormally high,” Mr. Garlick says.
Companies are placing a premium on project management skills—and they want some reassurance about qualifications. “Today, more so than before, our clients are requesting that a project manager show evidence of their capability through recognized accreditation,” such as the Project Management Professional (PMP®) credential, he says.
Mr. Garlick suspects those requests stem from clients' desire to avoid future encounters with so-called “accidental project managers.” Too often, a subject-matter expert is handed the role of project manager with minimal or no training. “With all best intentions, they embark on managing the project with little knowledge of what steps are required to ensure success—and nine times out of 10, they do not achieve the objectives required by the project stakeholders or sponsors,” he explains.
The current environment marks a continuation of the fairly strong value the Australian market has placed on certification, says Lynda Bourne, DPM, PMP, director of training at Melbourne-based Mosaic Project Services pty Ltd. “The demand for PMP, [Certified Associate in Project Management] CAPM®, PRINCE2 and other [certifications] seems to be building from this established base,” she says.
THE LONG VIEW
Melbourne's growing population has helped spur new projects and renew demand for project managers. But there's a downside to the city's popularity: the issue of how to accommodate the influx of residents without depleting and degrading local resources.
Already a thoroughly metropolitan area, Melbourne is now forced to take its development to a new level while contending with myriad environmental challenges.
Melbourne hasn't been caught unawares by its population dynamics, though. This is a city with a big-picture plan.
Dubbed Melbourne 2030, the strategy first started to take shape in December 1999. Essentially a roadmap that helps foster a sustainable approach as the city expands, the plan combines input from government, the private sector, and residents of Melbourne and its surrounding area.
AIRPORT PROGRAM TAKES FLIGHT
Looking to better accommodate all the tourists flooding in, the Melbourne Airport kicked off an AUD$330 million upgrade of its international terminal, T2, which dates back to the late 1960s.
Approximately 4.5 million international passengers currently pass through Melbourne's airport annually. And by 2020, that number could jump to about 8 million, airport officials say. Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Anthony Albanese called the program “a great step in the development of one of Australia's most important pieces of transport infrastructure.”
Approximately 4.5 million international passengers currently travel through Melbourne's airport annually. By 2020, that number could jump to 8 million, airport officials say.
The AUD$330 million expansion will create 25,000 square meters (269,098 square feet) of additional space, including a new passenger concourse and a 5,000-square-meter (53,820 square-foot) retail area.
To help the airport maintain normal operations, the expansion program has been planned as a series of projects with staggered launch dates.
The airport's history of delivering major construction projects on time and on budget should mean passengers and airport visitors will notice minimal changes during the construction, says Melbourne Airport CEO Chris Woodruff. “Ensuring Victorians do not experience any inconvenience during the works will be a key focus of the expansion projects,” he says. “We are acutely aware of the importance of having an efficient, comfortable international terminal to serve Victorians—regardless of development plans.”
Mr. Woodruff also emphasized Melbourne Airport's focus on worksite safety.
“The safety of our staff and our passengers has been, and will always be, our absolute No. 1 priority,” he says. “Together with our partner John Holland Group, we achieved no workplace injuries or incidents during our award-winning runway-widening project in 2005, for example. We will take this same ‘no nonsense’ approach to our works over the next five years.”
Even with such a grand scheme, the city continues to grapple with the implications of large developments, such as the proposed suburb of Lockerbie. The company behind the AUD$4.5 billion project is pitching it as an innovative, green community and is sweetening the deal with an offer to pay for public transport infrastructure, according to local newspaper, The Age. But the suburb's location—about 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of Melbourne, would stretch the city's boundaries beyond those the city introduced in Melbourne 2030 to slow urban sprawl.
The focus on sustainability is shifting the project manager's role, says Christine Wyatt, industry director for environmental management and planning at the Melbourne office of engineering giant Maunsell.
“Environmental influences are changing the way we look at mega-projects and infrastructure projects,” she says. “There are increased expectations around best practice, sustainability and climate change. Projects are subject to far more scrutiny now.”
The result: Projects must meet government and environmental standards while also satisfying the concerns of the community.
That's no easy task, as illustrated by the controversy stirred up by mega-projects such as the proposed dredging of Port Phillip Bay.
As with many cities around the world, Melbourne has found the balancing act between economic and environmental interests to be a precarious one.
“Environmental concerns are a major consideration at the start of most major engineering projects, and frequently different strands of the environment movement seem to be at odds with each other, making the management of the pre-construction phase of many projects difficult,” Ms. Bourne says. “Dealing effectively with these stakeholder management issues is time-consuming and expensive, but critical to the success of many projects.”
GROOMING THE NEXT GENERATION
The massive growth in green projects is putting even more strain on Melbourne's already stretched talent supply. One example is in the flood of water-related projects, a result of the government's push to secure the sustainable water supplies that have become increasingly tight in recent years. Melbourne had only 2,974 millimeters (117.1 inches) of rain from November 2001 to October 2007. It was an unwelcome record-breaker, beating the previous six-year low set in 1904.
PROJECTS ACROSS AUSTRALIA
GETTING THROUGH A DRY SPELL
Drought has plagued Australia in recent years, and climate change isn't helping matters. Victoria hopes to address the problem with an AUD$3.1 billion seawater desalination plant built in the Wonthaggi region. Upon completion in 2011, it would provide 150 billion liters of water each year for more than 5 million residents.
Locals agree more potable water is needed—but disagree on the means to that end. Opposition group Your Water, Your Say contends the proposed plant would harm the fish needed by Phillip Island penguins, fur seals, migrating whales and other parts of the local food chain.
The project faced a serious glitch last November, when dinosaur bones dating back 115 million years were discovered on the proposed site near Wonthaggi, southeast of Melbourne. But the Victorian water minister says the plant's pipes will be placed below the bones, leaving them unscathed.
Late last December, the Victorian Planning Minister Justin Madden announced that a year-long study would be conducted to further investigate the plant's environmental impact, as well as its effect on Aboriginal heritage. But the minister also said the study had little chance of blocking the project's progress.
RAIL PROJECT FINALLY IN THE STATION
It was years in the making, but the Perth-to-Mandurah railway made its official grand debut last December. The project was first envisioned in 1999, although construction didn't begin on the 74-kilometer (46-mile) route until February 2004.
The massive rail project required new tunnels and stations as well as extensive bridge work. Speeding along at approximately 120 kilometers (75 miles) per hour, the rail system should reduce travel times for commuters who previously lacked public-transportation options. It's expected to carry 50,000 passengers each day of the workweek, according to the Australian Associated Press.
But schedule and cost overruns pushed the effort off track. It came in about five months late and exceeded its initial budget (set in 2002) by 17 percent.
NOT EXACTLY A RINGING ENDORSEMENT FOR AUSTRALIAN TELECOM
TELSTRA TELEPHONE EXCHANGE, KARAWINNA, VICTORIA
Telstra, Australia's largest telecom, may not have the best project management track record. A recent AUD$240 million overhaul of its billing system was dubbed by The Age as “an example in a university course of what not to do.”
But the company is in the midst of a much more ambitious endeavor. In 2005, officials announced a five-year, AUD$11 billion project to transform its networks, systems and services.
Part of that plan includes an AUD$1.5 billion project to cut the number of Telstra's IT systems from 1,250 to 250. By 2010, the company intends to integrate business support systems such as customer relationship management, sales, marketing, billing, operational support systems, network inventory and management. The goal is to give the telecom's employees a single place to find all customer data.
Telstra hopes the program will significantly cut costs, too. One of its vendors, IBM, says the telecom is on track to achieve at least USDS183 million in cost reductions from the IT overhaul.
PART OF THE EBB AND FLOW
With the advent of the 1850s gold rush, Melbourne's Docklands area became a hub of activity, resulting in the creation of Victoria Harbour. By the 1960s, however, its maritime heyday had ended after its sheds and wharves could no longer accommodate huge containers and Docklands fell into disuse.
Now the tide is turning once more. During the past decade, government and developers have invested more than AUD$10 billion in the area, making it the largest urban-renewal project in Australia's history. Currently, Docklands has about 4,000 residents and 7,000 workers at local businesses. By 2010, the number of residents is expected to double, while the number of workers could reach more than 20,000.
The renewal process began in 1991, with the creation of the Docklands Authority (now VicUrban) to oversee planning for the area. So far, only a third of Docklands has been built, but the area is already attracting high-end real estate. In December, Australian developer Mirvac put 27 waterside townhouses up for sale, with some properties priced at AUD$5 million. In a matter of hours, buyers grabbed all of the homes, which totaled more than AUD$60 million
More improvements are on the way. Last January, the Melbourne City Council proposed other changes to Docklands during the next three years, including more trams, buses, water taxis and ferries, improved pedestrian and bicycle paths, and a redesign of the area's esplanade.
An area AUD$3.1 billion desalination plant is in the works to help combat the severe dry spell but there are also concerns it will harm the local food chain.
Such projects demand a sophisticated skill set—one that's increasingly difficult to track down. “There is a shortage of project managers, particularly in water, given that it is an emerging market,” Ms. Wyatt says.
“In Maunsell's environmental management and planning division, we find there are more people with the specialist or technical skill but little project management experience,” she says. “There's a need for people who can adapt from the specialist area to the project management focus and vice versa.”
To curb the talent shortage, Maunsell is also putting more emphasis on teaching project management skills than in years past. “Project management is now embedded into some specialist training courses,” Ms. Wyatt says. “Whereas previously, training courses may implicitly have covered some project management, now it is far more explicit.”
Another way to keep the talent pool replenished, of course, is to reach out to the younger generation. Ms. Wyatt recommends experienced project managers “focus on the strategic advisory role and give the day-to-day tasks to up-and-coming project managers.” That allows younger team members to develop key stakeholder relationships, setting the stage for future projects where they can take on more strategic decisions.
It also helps ensure they'll stick around.
“There's a big challenge now in keeping the [younger] generation engaged, keeping them interested to stay long enough so we can train them up,” Ms. Wyatt says.
To keep younger workers engaged, project managers should take extra care when assembling teams and assigning tasks. Consider the skill sets required for the job, as well as career opportunities that would appeal most to up-and-comers, she says. “Expose them to new skills or give them a new role within the team,” she says. “Give them variety.”
With the array of projects on offer in Melbourne, that shouldn't be too tough. PM
FREEWAY UPGRADES AIM FOR A FASTER, SAFER RIDE
With a population of more than 5 million, Victoria continues to grow—and the state government is determined to adapt to those changing needs. During the next decade, it will invest AUD$10.5 billion in the state's transportation system, including a revamp of the Monash-CityLink-West Gate. One of the state's busiest routes, it's currently used by 160,000 cars and trucks daily, including 20,000 heavy vehicles.
Scheduled for completion in 2010, the project is designed to improve both congestion and safety (with a stated goal of reducing traffic-accident fatalities by up to 20 percent). The state government has provided AUD$1 billion in funding in a public-private partnership with Australian infrastructure companies VicRoads and Transurban.
The upgrades will include the construction of more lanes and the addition of stoplights to entrance ramps.
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