In Collaboration Lays Betterment [opinion]

The science of project management has aanced so much in the 21st century that we are living in.

As the global economy witnesses complex infrastructural and technological leaps, the way to realise them from plans has seen its own improvement. No doubt that the evolution is going to continue as the world keeps on observing new dynamics.

In what could be said is the era of the great leap forward, millions of people have been taken out of poverty, mainly in China and India, while millions others have obtained the hope to. Political power has shifted away from the West to the East, ending the era of a unipolar world.

With the emergence of a multipolar world, collaboration has become the new modus operandi. A change in the economic policy sphere has brought a change in the business realm too. Collaborative formats of business, such as Joint Ventures (JVs,), Share Companies, Equity Holding, and Public Listing, have started to dominate over private ownership. For the science of project management, then, this entails a change in the way decisions are being made and implementation is undertaken.

Thus, the science has made integration management its essential component. In utilising integration management,therefore, project managers would be able to effectively handle projects involving multiple sponsors, implementers, contractors, andsubcontractors. They would also be able to watch over varying cost, schedule and quality specifications.

In Ethiopia, this has been the case with many of the major infrastructure projects realised over the past 10 years. Big hydropower, bridge, highway, telecommunications, airport, irrigation, hospitals and universityies projects have been realised using modern project management practices.

Leaving the other areas to the specialists, let me emphasise onf the telecommunications sectors. Over the past eight years, the telecommunications sector has seen a great leap as a direct result of the first expansion project undertaken by the Chinese giant, ZTE.

This project has taken the number of mobile subscribers from its long overdue state of sluggishness – with less than 100,000 subscribers – to a rapid subscriber growth trajectory. At this time, the sector entertains 23 million mobile and over a million Internet users.

As an eye witnesseyewitness to the implementation of this project, I can say that it was one of the major projects the nation has implemented wherein integration management was implemented to the fullest. It was because of this that it managed to serve the nation even beyond its planned capacity (the planned capacity to benefit 20 million mobile users, but it already hosts 3 million more.).

In implementing this project, the Chinese giant, which seems to have grasped the modern science of project management like no other company that I know, had to collaborate with the Ethiopian telecom monopoly, the federal telecom regulators, regional governments and bureaus, multiple local and international subcontractors, multiple suppliers and Chinese authorities.

But each and every thread of integration was planned seamlessly that the project schedule, cost and quality was delivered according to the predefined specifications. As a member of the technical team that predefined the specifications, I was even astonished by the grasp of the company of modern project management practices.

Of course, I would not argue that there had not been problems in all these years of project implementation. But, nothing was over the head of the implementer and the project sponsor. Whatever hitch happened could be considered as containable problem.

By the way, I see a similar project management framework being implemented in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD.). I am sure that the project will successfully be completed and serve as another milestone of modern project management in the nation. It will also be a good continuation of modern integration management tested in the first telecom expansion project.

For a country that is aggressively building essential infrastructure projects, therefore, expanding the practice of modern project management will be essential. This will save time and money. It will also help achieve quality specifications.

Is it easy to implement? Of course, not. Streamlining effective integration within a given project demands essential corporate flexibility. It is often this element that is missing in many of the corporate entities taking part in the infrastructure development efforts of our motherland, including telecommunications.

Some are even seen crying foul over their inability to implement modern integration management practices in their undertakings. It is not only the problem of the contractors, however. Government agencies that sponsor infrastructure projects, not less telecom, ought to account contractors for their ability, reputation and experiences in effectively managing complex integrations.

They ought to know that failing to do so will give contractors a space for listing excuses for their failure. But, as far as I can see, there seems to be a huge reluctance from the side of the government agencies to account both foreign and local infrastructure providers for their ability to streamline effective integration. The latest telecom expansion project could be mentioned as an example, here.

By dividing the contract for two companies, the telecom monopoly has added one layer of integration in the project. Things would have been reasonable had the two providers had similar or comparable experience in integration management. But, eventually, they did not.

Whereas the former provider is reputed for its adoption of modern project management, the new comer has no idea about it. Its reputation in implementing effective integration management tools in projects is poor. Neither does it have experience in effective project management in countries with hierarchical state structure, multicultural society and mountainous terrain.

And this causes a huge problem. What has now started as crying foul could end in delivering low quality infrastructure, cost overrun or time lag. It may also cost the nation hugely in maintenance. In both cases, the forgone benefits could be higher than the direct costs.

But, I see that this is not the case in telecom projects only. It rather is everywhere. Failing to account contractors for integration management is a rampant problem in our economy. Unattended, this could cost our poor nation a lot. Hence, it is time for authorities to open their eyes and account infrastructure providers for their ability to deliver in an environment that demands seamless integration. Discounting the importance of integration management in this era of complex projects is settling for failure.

Ed.’s Note: Kirubel Hone has a BA Degree in Electrical Engineering and MSc Degree in Telecom Engineering. He has over 13 years of experience in the Ethiopian telecommunications sector. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter.nbsp

Source : The Reporter

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