The contemporary economy is characterized by globalization, increased outsourcing of organizational functions, competition, and the need to establish information and knowledge-based organizations. This situation compels companies to seek cost-saving management models, for instance, the development of project-based organizational management frameworks and investing in technology. The goal here is to make organizations technology-intensive in their operations.
Project management is a growing field that is increasingly being adopted by businesses of all sizes. Thus, it is important for organizations to have competent project managers who can oversee projects from their conception to completion to achieve the anticipated goals within some given constraints. Building a strong project management team entails an important priority for many organizations. The fact that project management strategies drive organizational success where the delivery of business outcomes is realized through successful ventures explains the necessity of such a priority. This paper discusses the current project management approaches in the context of the Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC), a UAE-based organization.
Review of Emerging Topics in the Project Management Field
According to Zekic and Samarzija, the business economy of the 21st century is significantly knowledge-based (101). Hence, human knowledge plays a huge role is defining the emerging products, business models, and services that bear a magnificent competitive value (Besner and Hobbs 18). Inspired by the technological evolvement of the 21st century, many organizations are rapidly drifting from old-fashioned models such as mass-production and mass-consumption, which largely resulted in the witnessed increased profitability of organizations in the 20th century. According to Hobbs and Petit, the drift is towards the innovation of businesses and frameworks, which have not been utilized in the past (4).
Consequently, new topics such as agile projects, value-driven ventures, managing schemes for innovation, project initiation contexts, complexity within projects, new emerging competencies, and the role of project managers have now dominated the field of business and project management.
Agile concept denotes a project management approach where planning and guidance processes take an iterative course of action. Iteration encompasses small units or sections that constitute the entire project. The project team reviews and evaluates distinct iterations upon their completion (Narayan 45). The insights generated from the critique helps in determining the appropriate next step. Agile approach to project management offers the benefit of helping to resolve various issues that emerge throughout the project. This situation guarantees the ability to change the course of projects at the appropriate time, thus boosting their delivery within the set budget constraints.
Instead of focusing on predictable results, value-driven projects emphasize achieving valuables. Such projects major in delivering solutions to any identified problems (Devaux 12). The project values the inputs of owners in the realization of outcomes/products and/or solutions relative to the role of project managers in ensuring the delivery of projects via the plan-oriented project management approach. Instead of setting a high-level scope as the mechanism for determining the appropriate funding requirements, value-driven projects focus on determining problems that require solutions to achieve the desired outcome and then looking for various levels of potential outcomes upon which to base the results (Narayan 63).
As opposed to putting up a work team to take charge of the project, in value-driven projects, work is executed by various capability teams. Rather than determining costs from high-scope approaches, the new strategy estimates the cost based on different solution levels.
Innovation constitutes an important aspect that enhances the competitive advantage of an organization. This concern has led to the emergence of the topic of managing projects for innovation (Hobbs and Petit 5). Managing a project for innovation requires the development of knowledge-sharing organizations, which experience unique challenges. Such obstacles hinder the realization of effective management projects for innovation.
One of such challenges arises from the characteristics of a project, particularly its trait of being a time-bound endeavor (Narayan 81). In any project, various specialists join hands to perform various innovative and complicated tasks within a stipulated amount of time. Once they are done with the tasks, the disbandment of work teams takes place. If the demand for such a similar project emerges in the future, chances are that previous members of work teams would not come together to execute the upcoming project. Even though this situation may help in limiting the impacts of previous experiences in influencing or limiting the levels of innovation in future projects, chances of repeating similar mistakes made in the previous project exist.
The project initiation context, complexity within projects, the emerging competencies, and role of project managers constitute other important upcoming topics in project management (Hobbs and Petit 6). The project initiation context refers to the existing pre-condition and variables in organizations that dictate a new project’s objectives, scope definition, purpose, and the required deliverables. Some projects are multifaceted in nature (Narayan 23). Hence, impediments such as the underlying risks are also sophisticated to address proactively. Consequently, a successful execution of such projects requires careful consideration of any potential complexity within projects.
Managing risks in the case of small and frequent projects may be accomplished effectively by listing typical threats coupled with the recommended actions as established in the project management best practices guide, PMBOK (Besner and Hobbs 19). However, for complex projects, organizations require the services of a full-time risk management manager coupled with various tools and processes that can offer an appropriate response to the identified risks.
The degree to which organizations arrive at the correct detailed levels may be determined from compliance metrics coupled with the measures of process effectiveness (Narayan 97). Emerging competencies and the role of project managers define the recommended best practice strategies that enable project managers to achieve their roles in planning, implementing, assessing, and tracking projects. This way, they can guarantee the delivery of deliverables within the established constraints of time and budget.
A Narrative on ENOC
Core Business Activities
The Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC) is a huge energy business in Dubai that was established in 1993. Based in the UAE, ENOC is owned by the Dubai government. Most of its operations are in Dubai and Northern Emirates regions. ENOC’s processing company (EPCL) is one of the company’s subsidiaries run by Jebel Ali refinery whose operations are mainly in Dubai. As stated in the organization’s vision, the core business activities of ENOC are in the gas and oil supply (ENOC).
The company has more than 20 branches that it owns both directly and indirectly. ENOC’s mission entails gaining sustainable development in the effort to maximize its profitability, meeting the energy growing needs of the people of Dubai, and having up-to-date technologies for use in the implementation of the organization’s practices (Besner and Hobbs 17). The sub-agendas within the mission help in achieving exemplary performance through giving customers the best service, which exceeds their expectations in terms of quality and service (ENOC). These concerns are unachievable without the integration of project management approaches such as the incorporation of technology, innovation, and agility.
Current Project Management Methodologies and Practices
Organizations can have matrix-based, functional, or projectized structures. Functional structures involve establishing various divisions, including human resources, information technology, planning, engineering, and marketing sales. Different functional divisions operate autonomously to allow managers to allocate and monitor different tasks (Jigeesh 43). In such a model, project managers possess minimal authority.
Consequently, the structure is well suited for continuous processes, as opposed to projects. Projectized structures permit project managers to take full authority in setting organizational priorities and directing different team members in the execution of project-related tasks (Marion et al. 71). Upon completing a project, resources are re-allocated to other ventures. Consequently, such a structure is appropriate for firms that engage in long-term sizeable projects, for instance, construction ventures. However, ENOC engages in not only the construction of oil and gas facilities but also in running them in an environment of continuous technological change. The company’s business calls for the matrix organizational structure.
ENOC recognizes the need to respond to the emerging technological changes in the oil and energy industry. Consequently, it has adopted management methodologies and practices that permit its flexibility to foster quick implementation of change. The matrix organizational structure at ENOC paves the way for a shared control (Lukinaitė and Sondaitė 145). Project managers share diverse responsibilities with different functional managers.
Their roles include the assignment of different tasks to different team members, although functional managers ultimately decide on the appropriate people to work on particular projects. They take charge of administrative roles, hence enhancing the balance between the need for continuous operations and the development, implementation, and execution of projects (Marion et al. 72). Considering ENOC engages in continuous operations such as the maintenance of the existing facilities and the development of new projects, the matrix structures is highly effective.
ENOC’s current management methodologies and practices (matrix structure) influence its project management approaches. The structure allocates authority to both functional and project managers. This strategy has the effect of ensuring a seamless and effective division of labor, which has the outcome of a strong and conjoined team culture. Nevertheless, in the execution of projects, conflicts are inevitable. Functional and project managers operate under resource constraints, a situation that forms an important source of conflicts. All people working on projects also have two sources of commands, namely, functional and project managers. This situation may also create conflicts.
Current Organizational Project Management Practices (OPM)
Organizations deploy different initiatives for improving their performance and the capacity to achieve strategic objectives. For example, an organization must identify, define, and improve its ability to deliver projects within the stipulated constraints. This state of affairs underlines the necessity for a clear definition of OPM as an important success factor in project-driven organizations such as ENOC.
The OPM entails a framework for strategy execution utilizing “portfolio, program, and project management, as well as organizational-enabling practices to consistently and predictably deliver strategies to produce better performance, better results, and a sustainable competitive advantage” (Project Management Institute 3). Depending on the nature of an organization’s project-based core business activities, it can deploy diverse OPM models, including Organization Project Management Maturity Model, Capabilities Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), and the Portfolio, Program, and Project Management Maturity Model (Sopko and Strausser).
The U.S. developed the CMMI for use in defense and software engineering while project management professionals developed the OPM3 and P3M3 for deployment in general project-based organizations. Considering ENOC’s core business activities, OPM3 entails the company’s current project management practice. As discussed in the next section, ENOC’s current organizational project management practice affects its project life cycle, performance, and/or success.
A Narrative on the Difficulties Associated with the Current Project Management Practices
A project life cycle begins with the selection of projects that deliver optimal gains to an organization. The selection is conducted in a manner that it keeps “in view the organization’s strategy and business” (Jigeesh 44). Project selection starts with proposal drafting. The proposal defines the problem being solved by the project within an organization, lays down the scope of the project, objectives, establishes the underlying risks, and/or offers a comprehensive description of the manner of execution.
Several alternatives can solve one problem. Considering the usual constraints of ENOC’s projects, namely, financial and time resources, the cost-analysis of different ventures’ proposal to solve similar problems helps in the selection of an alternative that does not open ENOC to vulnerabilities of taking unnecessary financial risks. However, a successful utilization of OPM3 requires its compliance with a set of recommended principles in the alternative selection process. This suggestion implies an increment in the time expenditure at the alternative selection stage.
Other phases of project life cycle include implementation, execution, and evaluation. ENOC appreciates that projects fulfill specific goals and objectives. The evaluation process involves the attempt to establish whether various objectives and goals of the different phases of project execution process are realized (Jigeesh 43).
Hence, evaluation is not a project aspect that stands on its own, but a constituent element of all phases, right from the planning and scope definition to the implementation and execution stages. In the project-closing phase, evaluation forms the last aspect, which ensures a close examination of the functionality of a project. As shown in Figure 1, OPM interacts with all phases of a project, including important stages such as the generation of project plan’s specific data.
Organizational project management practices influence aspects of the project lifecycle. OPM’s maturity model establishes leverage to pathways for attaining the development and fundamental constructs that define a project (Crawford 34). Upon the adoption of various recommended practices defined in the OPM3, difficulties emerge in the tailoring, optimization, and institutionalization of the practices, especially where they need to be integrated into the aspects of the project lifecycle.
In 2014, Project Management Solutions conducted a survey that found that 91 percent of participating organizations had adopted organizational project management practices (3). Arguably, considering this high adoption rate, one would anticipate the elimination of potential organization’s project management shortfalls. Nevertheless, an earlier survey in 2012 by KPMG revealed that despite the high adoption rate of OPM by organizations, only 20% of the surveyed organizations reported having completed their projects in time and within the set monetary resource constraints (5).
Hence, OPM creates the difficulty of successfully completing different aspects of a project life cycle in time, thereby causing overall project implementation delays. However, setting policy frameworks that support OPM models such as the OPM3 among others that are currently insufficient at ENOC can help in addressing such challenges. OPM models, including OPM3, influence project performance. OPM’s maturity model directly correlates with increased project performance. Consequently, ENOC stands to gain from increased project performance by incorporating OPM3 into its project management.
Recommendations for Improving the Existing Project Management Activities and Practices Within ENOC
A successful utilization of OPM models such as OPM3 in project management at ENOC requires sufficient policy frameworks. Therefore, ENOC should establish policies that support the expedition of its resources on OPM processes. It should also create an appropriate supporting infrastructure. Indeed, an organization’s policies are important since they influence its project management practices by way of setting principles and providing the definition of the need and purpose of OPM (Sopko and Strausser).
Hence, ENOC needs to establish the foundation of OPM, which defines the anticipated compliance. In fact, at the initial stage of project maturity and the time when formal OPM processes are established, policies provide the direction for senior functional and project managers to take in an organizational matrix structure (Lukinaitė and Sondaitė 146). They guide such managers on the expected and performance prerequisites. Indeed, clear and elaborate policies constitute the foundation of analyzing and evaluating the benefits of OPM and the determination of various processes that are appropriate and effective in enhancing project performance.
Upon considering the effect of OPM on project life cycle at ENOC, a question arises concerning whether the organization should abandon its OPM3 practice if the move can help to reduce the project execution cycle time. Is OPM3 important at ENOC, bearing in mind that the company takes a month to plan a project and one and half months when OPM3 is deployed to complete the same planning. Considering time resource savings, one would argue that it is better to abandon such a new practice.
However, it is recommended that ENOC should consider other process values associated with the OPM (Devaux 42). For example, amid the potential extension of the project planning time, OPM practices such as the OPM3 not only improve project quality but also reduce potential errors that would otherwise be captured at the evaluation phase (Sopko and Strausser). Therefore, a process that adds value to a project is worth since it not only complies with new value-driven concepts of project management but also helps to eliminate project complexities associated with accumulated errors.
Projects are transitory endeavors. In project-based companies, the organizational culture develops in a manner that paves the way for all resources to be allocated to guarantee the effective performance of temporary systems aimed at attaining the demands of particular tasks within the project. Hence, the organizational culture aims at enabling a project-based firm to conduct specific tasks within a limited period using predetermined financial resources.
Contemporary project-based organizations are established to foster innovation. Indeed, they incorporate concepts such as project innovation, agility, and value-driven missions while at the same time looking for initiatives that can allow the integration of the emerging roles of project managers. ENOC, a UAE-based organization that operates in the oil and gas industry, engages in continuous operations such as the maintenance of existing plants and the development of new ones.
Consequently, the company has established a matrix-based organizational structure. Despite the prevailing inadequate policies to guide its OPM3 organizational project management practice, the structure has been effective since it is appropriate for an organization with functional and project managers who participate collaboratively in the management of projects.
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