Project Management Institute

Events risk management in the Gaia City Congress

President, PMI Portugal Chapter


The Gaia City Congress was the first international Gaia Congress on entrepreneurship, innovation, opportunities, and practices. It was presented as an excellent example of what private Portuguese institutions are able to do when they are properly induced by public organizations. There were too many stakeholders, sponsors, and people on the project management team; there were decision-makers, changes, small interdependent activities, and also too many risks! Success was achieved because, from the early stage of the project, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) methodology and its set of documents, tools, and techniques were used. This paper outlines the impact that project management methodology had on the success of this project.


The Gaia City Congress was held in the city of Vila Nova de Gaia (or, simply, Gaia). Gaia is located in the Porto (Oporto) District, south of the city of Porto, on the opposite side of the Douro River (Exhibit 1). Porto is the second largest city in Portugal. Gaia is where the global wine branch “Port” is actually bottled.

Gaia city view from Porto

Exhibit 1- Gaia city view from Porto

Gaia has a long tradition of entrepreneurship and is well known for enterprise events and product presentations. Gaia city council and private investors have been providing different places where enterprises, public announcements, and other kinds of events can be organized.

The association iNOVA.Gaia is a technology incubation center based in Vila Nova de Gaia; it is a not-for-profit association endowed with internal administrative, financial, and asset management capabilities.

The incubation center focuses on the reception of research and development initiatives, particularly those that are inductors of knowledge, technological appliance, skill learning, academic research, and the creation of new technology-based enterprises to promote and propagate innovation within the economic activity by the application of advanced knowledge. It also provides support to technology-based enterprises within the scientific and technological areas of the incubation center that are technologies for sustainable urban construction and rehabilitation, energy and environmental technologies, information technology, communications and multimedia, and technologies applied in the oceans and agro-industry.

The incubator of ideas is an initiative that represents a highly interesting alternative for those who want to start a new venture. The entrepreneur who incubates in this association will find a support structure that embodies the following main factors: it provides specialized technical assistance, helps the developer in the implementation of the business plan and of its components, and helps in the constitution of the firm's legal and formal applications. It also provides the entrepreneur with a set of means to give substance to his or her idea, including facilitating the access to a core of shared working places, meeting rooms, secretarial and communication services, and libraries. The incubator also provides financial support, advises and directs the entrepreneur to the best funding sources, training, and providing participants with relevant information.

An incubator of ideas is an organization that aims to give every type of support to creative people and entrepreneurs wishing to develop an innovative technology-based business and creating for that purpose his or her own company in order to sell his or her innovative idea. The concept of an incubator of ideas assumes a relationship of close cooperation between the incubator and entrepreneur who aim to establish successful enterprises. The entrepreneur will find this relationship of cooperation in a support system and environment that will allow him or her to create a new technology-based company—from the initial idea through its creation and development—thereby helping him or her overcome insecurity, the lack of technical and financial resources, inexperience, and also difficulty in finding a workplace.

iNOVA.Gaia Incubator provides information services and supports the development of the business plan, the development of the project, and the establishment of the company.

Other key sponsors for the Gaia Congress were the private universities based in the city: ISLA – Instituto Superior de Línguas e Administração; ISPGAYA – Instituto Superior Politécnico Gaya; IESF – Instituto de Estudos Superiores Financeiros e Fiscais and PIAGET – Instituto Jean Piaget de V. N. de Gaia.

The Academic Sponsors


In 1962, the first private institution of higher education was created in Lisbon, Portugal: “ISLA – Instituto Superior de Linguas e Administração” — Higher Institute of Languages and Administration.

ISLA is decentralized, responds to a growing need for higher education in Portugal, and was established in 1984 in Santarém, in Bragança in 1985, in Vila Nova de Gaia in 1989, and in 1990 in Leiria. The idea of creating an environment of innovation and quality to face an evolving culture of science, and identifying the scientific areas of greatest deficit, were the drivers behind the creation of these establishments.

ISLA works in the areas of business management, information systems and multimedia, communication, human resource management, environmental engineering, computer management, foreign languages and international relations, tourism, health and safety at work, physical education, amongst others.

The institution relies on complex dynamics—involving the local, national, and supranational—believing that globalization in technical and scientific knowledge will potentiate the future.

ISLA organizes a scientific gathering every year where the community has an opportunity to present and discuss research being done and to present and report on the actual state of development of research projects.


The “ISPGaya - Instituto Superior Politecnico Gaya” is a polytechnic institute, created by the Cooperative Education Polytechnic (CEP), and legalized by a deed made public on 5 February 1988.

The creation of ISPGaya was brought on by the experience that some private education colleges had acquired with the development of technical and professional courses at the high school level. The work made by these colleges with students was considered as excellent, but did not have a logical sequence to the high school level. The answer could only be given by the establishment of a polytechnic organization, because it aims to train technicians in the areas of design and implementation of projects, using the appropriate and practical methods required in the job market.

To respond to the changing, more demanding, and competitive times, from the beginning, ISPGaya, abandoned the traditional teaching (theoretical and that relies on the transmission of knowledge) and began focusing on practical teaching, attentive to the development of student capabilities and bearing in mind the needs of organizations.

The teacher has an even more active role in all dimensions of teaching practice, valuing its role as guardian, and the student is asked to exhibit greater commitment and involvement in educational acts, reasoned and responsible criticism, and openness to guidelines and the requirements of a quality education.

Particular relevance is assumed by the presence of a high percentage of students taking night courses, which requires an even greater effort by the institution to adapt to the market and the students. This adaptation, satisfying the requirements of an education that aims to be of high quality and accessible to all equally, implied greater flexibility in planning time schedules, which is considered by this institution to be one of the key success factors.


“IESF – Instituto de Estudos Superiores Financeiros e Fiscais” - Tax and Finance Superior Studies Institute, is an institution of higher education dedicated to providing training, both at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels in the field of management sciences, particularly finance, financial markets, finance management, tax, accounting and auditing, marketing, human resources, international management, information systems, quality, environment, health, and safety. Since its foundation, the goal of this school has been to establish itself as the best national business school.

Founded on 24 April 1990, the IESF is based on the dual concerns of ensuring a consistent and updated educational theory and, at the same time, establishing a close link with the realities of markets and businesses. This orientation is reflected in the programs adopted by the institution and the composition of its faculty—both formed by renowned scholars and executives of reputed and practiced teaching methods (case studies, simulations, workshops, and so forth).

Quality is the main criterion used to govern the organization of all activities that IESF does, supported also by the guiding principles adopted at the Institute, which are to offer courses of high technical and pedagogical quality; to support education in a highly qualified faculty; to apply innovative teaching methods, using modern means of communication; and to cultivate a close interface among markets, institutions, and companies.

The quality of the courses provided by IESF is because of the strong focus on the use of teaching methods that focus on practice and experimentation—among which stands out the inclusion of a mandatory curricular course into the plan—and that allows students to fit easily into different types of occupations. Combining this factor with the establishment of protocols with several companies (some of them affiliated with the IESF Consultative Council) ensure high levels of employability of finalists. The strong concern in adapting the existing syllabus to the demonstrated needs of the business world and the personalized teaching are also considered to be key differentiators.


The history of the “PIAGET – Instituto Jean Piaget de V. N. de Gaia” is closely linked with the course and the work of the man behind the name of this universe, Jean Piaget.

PIAGET was founded in 1979 as a nonprofit cooperative, then calling itself something similar to “Cooperative Development of the Child,” now uses the name PIAGET Institute – “Cooperative for Human Development and Integral Ecologies.”

Child,” now uses the name PIAGET Institute – “Cooperative for Human Development and Integral Ecologies.”

The PIAGET Institute's main objectives are to provide a quality education, to create knowledge, and to disseminate basic human values essential to the personal and intellectual formation of all its stakeholders—teachers, students, workers, and others. To follow this purpose and promote creativity and innovation, the PIAGET Institute consistently reinvests their entire surplus in constant improvement and development of its educational project. With these principles, the performance of the PIAGET Institute has diversified itself by covering many areas, ranging from education to research, through the action of a social nature, and the implementation of development projects, both in Portugal and in Portuguese-speaking countries and also by publishing books and other research documents.

The PIAGET Institute has teaching establishments in the following Portuguese cities: Almada, Macedo de Cavaleiros, Mirandela, Santo André, Silves, Vila Nova de Gaia, and Viseu, and also in Portuguese-speaking countries like Angola, Cabo Verde, Moçambique, and Brazil.

The Congress

The Gaia Congress was the first Portuguese international congress that addressed the large multidisciplinary field embraced by the entrepreneurship, from the social, organizational, and technological perspectives. The three-day congress followed an innovative format, which included scientific, tutorial, and technical sessions and exhibitions.

The collaboration between the four academic entities and iNOVA.Gaia made this event possible. The academic organizations provided double-blinded reviews in multiple themes, which have direct connections to the main theme.

The two main subjects of the papers and presentations were: Academic Research and Practical Cases (non-scientific areas). The idea was to provide a forum for academics and a forum in which professionals could show their achievements and share best practices, thus improving knowledge and networking. One of the main objectives was to improve communication between professionals and academicians.

The academic research areas were: human resources, operations management, organizational strategy, project management, corporate law, economics and accounting, training and teaching, information technology, information systems, human capital development, mathematics, marketing, and corporate finance.

The non-scientific areas were: health, education, social communication, sports, technology, arts, and tourism.

The Congress environment was complex from the beginning—there were too many important stakeholders, too many key sponsors, too many important people on the team, too many decision-makers, too many potential changes, too many small interdependent activities, and too many risks!

The idea itself was born in an academic council that the city created within iNOVA.Gaia. This academic council has two elements from each city's university and two elements from iNOVA.Gaia, thus composed of ten elements and is an advisory committee for the city's Mayor.

The Project Charter

The project charter that we can see in exhibit 2 was made considering all the potential involved stakeholders, not only those who had a direct interest in the event and were referred to as sponsors: students, professors, school managers, low grade students, and others; the Gaia city population; the general public, other universities, international key participants, keynote speakers, city council members, state authorities, district authorities, country authorities, and the president of the municipality were all considered. Opinions and visions were collected with the improving the final solution.

Risks from the sponsor were also addressed; for instance, the probability of the event not being sponsored by the incentive authorities was considered and a “Plan B Project Charter” was prepared.

Project Charter

Exhibit 2 - Project Charter

The full project charter document—including Plan B—was duly signed by all the involved organizations (Exhibit 2). The Gaia Congress project was integrated into a program of actions that the academic council of Gaia presented for the Portuguese government for backing.

The Project Plan

The project plan was produced based on the referred Plan B. The government institution that was supposed to make a decision about the founding was not answering and time was running out, so the sponsors decided to make the event based on this backup plan. This plan was organized to produce a minimal event that could still address the most important needs identified but that had significantly less cost and was much simpler than the “normal” plan.

Some of the main changes made were the utilization of iNOVA.Gaia installations instead of a private venue and keynote speakers who would only be accepted if they did not get paid (In this Plan B scenario, Congress was only paying for travel and lodging expenses).

Several committees were nominated for the Gaia Congress: the Scientific Committee, the Honour Committee, and the Management Committee. The project manager was given the title of “Organization Chair.”

There were also several rules to be defined; examples included the extended abstract rules, the registration procedures, and the sponsorship rules.

Other management issues were the location and the organization of complementary activities.

Event promotion was also a key issue. Colleges, private schools, economic schools, high schools, enterprise and academic associations, companies, the press, and local and national radio stations were considered as targets for communication purposes. Several marketing tools were created (e.g., a poster and a website) (Exhibit 3).

Congress Poster

Exhibit 3 – Congress Poster

All these processes were important for the promotion of the event, not only to get people registered, but also with the goal of having a broad dissemination of the event. It was also built with the technology background necessary to have a events log.

The schedule was also a key success factor. Since the early stage of the plan development, the due dates for all the major deliverables were fixed.

Keynote speaker confirmations, last-minute paper submissions, timing for double-blinded reviews, timing for revisers’ communication with paper authors, changed papers confirmation, and final paper confirmation—all had last possible dates for delivering, and several warnings were established to make the information fully transparent.

The schedule for the final program elaboration and confirmations were also established in the plan.

All the marketing efforts for getting participants and the public were established in addition to these constraints and requirements.

The Gaia Congress website was also designed in the planning part of the project life cycle.

The project plan document established how the project was going to be managed, what each participant had to do and when, marketing and communications definitions, and the procurement processes. (Exhibit 4)

The schedule and investment perspective for the project, with the cost extraction, were considered. Also addressed were how each of the five sponsors would be involved, which actions each had to take, the equilibrium between the efforts, and the interests each had in the event.

Detailed Congress Schedule Plan

Exhibit 4 – Detailed Congress Schedule Plan

The project plan itself had a risk management plan and a risk assessment that were created according to the PMBOK® Guide's standard procedures. (Exhibit 5)

Plan Risk Management Process

Exhibit 5 – Plan Risk Management Process

The process for identifying risks was also a direct application of the PMBOK® Guide standard.

Identify Risks Process

Exhibit 6 – Identify Risks Process

The planning of the Gaia Congress and the Project Management Plan were made according to the PMBOK® Guide and some aspects of the Program and Portfolio PMI standards were also applied. (Exhibit 6)

Executing and Controlling the Plan

The plan execution was very easy. Everybody—and there were 35 people involved in the organization—knew what they were supposed to do, and the most difficult job was making sure that all the people knew the plan and their relative importance.

Wrong plan execution and misunderstandings about deadlines and milestones were assessed as key risks for this project, and so control measures were enhanced to provide early-warning signs about what was happening. These early-warning signs were considered one key factor for success, because the project manager was able to immediately prevent the risk from happening once a trigger warning was produced.

Strong control procedures were implemented.

The organization committee, which included one element from each of the five main sponsors, held a meeting, which was held monthly from the early stages of the project.

Other control measures were the milestone and time reports for the activities, which were very detailed, making it easy to report and understand the priorities, thus improving the global control of the event.

Making use of the plan definitions, a weekly report was established that enabled everyone to know how the main indicators were doing (Exhibit 7). The number of people on the different committees, the number of scientific papers, the number of practical study cases, the number of persons registered for the event, the number of new versions of the website, the number of visits to the website, and the number of pending issues were some of the indicators that were produced for the internal control system.

Some of the indicators were concerned with the result; others concerned impact.

Weekly Indicators (in the early stage)

Exhibit 7 – Weekly Indicators (in the early stage)

The control and report system was considered by the organization committee as the most important tool to preview potential risks and to have an effort orientation for the senior management of the organizations involved.


The extensive use of the PMBOK® Guide standard and PM Methodology was considered as a key success factor for this project.

The analysis of impacts and the expectations fulfillment from the Congress were made and the lessons learned were registered.

All participants were surveyed and the data analyzed.

The project ended on time, in scope, and within budget. There were 14 identified risks that actually occurred; of those, 9 were minor risks in impact, and only 5 were considered important enough to have a Plan B. Through the execution of the plan, there were 5 Plan B plans that went into action. One of these risks had impacts in the project as an all. There was one unexpected risk that happened


Gaia City Council website. Retrieved January 7, 2011 from

ISLA website. Retrieved January 7, 2011 from

ISPGAYA website. Retrieved January 10, 2011 from

IESF website. Retrieved January 10, 2011 from

PIAGET website. Retrieved January 12, 2011 from

Project Management Institute. (2008). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)—Fourth edition. Newtown Square, PA: Author.

Project Management Institute. (2008). The standard for program management—Second edition. Newtown Square, PA: Author.

Project Management Institute. (2008). The standard for portfolio management—Second edition. Newtown Square, PA: Author.

Vila Nova de Gaia. (2010, November 3). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved January 3, 2011, from

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2011, José Ângelo da Costa Pinto
Originally published as a part of 2011 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Dublin, Ireland



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