‘Wise project management enabled Dubai Metro completion’

Mark Langley talks to Big Project ME about best practices in project management.

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Mark Langley, President and CEO of Project Management Institute – UAE, talks to Big Project ME about the best project management practices for public and private sector organisations.

What was your biggest takeaway from the recently concluded Dubai International Project Management Forum (DIPMF) 2014?

The conference has been fantastic from a content standpoint, and one of the most significant things I heard was all the examples of how executive sponsorship has improved project management practices in organisations. Authorities like Mattar Al Tayer from the Dubai Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) and Saeed Al Tayer from Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) are excellent examples of how the support of executive leaders within organisations can turn things around for overall project success. The same goes for Emaar Properties, which has, as chairman Mohammed Alabbar’s speech explained, recognised its core strengths and built an organisational structure around them.

What motivated your partnership with the RTA to co-host DIPMF?

I think the RTA understood very early on that intelligent project management practices would benefit its operations, and that’s possibly one of the factors which drove chairman Al Tayer to set up the Project Management Office, headed by Ms Laila Faridoon, within the organisation. I don’t know what led him to the decision, but I can most certainly see its results. By recognising the RTA’s in-house capacities and establishing the PMO, he’s implemented what we at PMI have identified as best practices in organisations. He’s essentially building career paths in project management by identifying the skills of individuals who can lead the allotted departments and bringing in greater standardisation.

Can the local private sector replicate the successful project management practices followed by the RTA?

The failure of an organisation can often be due to the absence of executive sponsorship for greater project management standards. Various governmental agencies in Dubai, such as Al Maktoum Airport Authorities and DEWA, have recognised that working with the private sector benefits both their capacities on mega projects as well as their capabilities for better project management. The core elements of project management are the same, but a private firm has different factors to consider while adopting any new plans and ideas.traded. The private sector might brand their targets “strategy” or “management agenda”, whereas the government will call it a “vision”. There is immense pressure on private sector companies to consistently deliver results without letting the impacts of a strategic change in project management practices and methods affect their performance. In such a situation, any organisation, be it private sector or public, should focus its efforts on funding and driving those operations which take it closer to its vision or strategy, and eliminate any ideas which might not directly drive growth.

How do governments prioritise their operations in such a scenario?

The Dubai Metro is a great example of wisely picking your operational priorities. The Dubai government, even during the market downturn of 2008, did not stop fuelling investment into the Metro, because it recognised that the project would eventually benefit the residents of the city. The Metro was always a part of the strategic vision set in place by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and the decision to complete the Metro, launched shortly after the downturn, shows their mature capacities in the field of project management.

What’s in store for project managers of the future?

Small private companies have to build their capacities, and will certainly learn to prioritise the best practices for their organisation as events like DIPMF catch up. More effort is also being invested to enhance educational channels for students to ensure they are provided precise project management studies. The PMI is working with universities and private sector firms in this regard, as it’s an area of opportunity for both to spread their expertise.

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