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Procurement Perspectives: Building a balanced project team on major projects

Stephen Bauld
Procurement Perspectives: Building a balanced project team on major projects

Implicit in much of what has been stated in previous articles is the fact that effective project management is invariably a team effort since it draws upon such a diverse range of skills and expertise.

A top-flight project manager may be an expert in the execution of a building project, but even if this is the case, the project manager cannot be expected to identify the organization’s performance requirements and priorities with respect to the various issues that are likely to arise in the course of construction.

In practice, project managers regularly face tough decisions about where to concentrate project resources when met with competing priorities and demands.

A team approach to project management enhances the degree of integration between the demands of the construction process and the requirements of the customer with respect to the project at hand. Thus, selecting the appropriate manager is only the first step in putting the project management structure in place.

The manager must be supported by a project team recruited from across the organization as a whole.

The basic goal of the team is to provide a comprehensive perspective with respect to all aspects of the decisions that must be made concerning the major capital project. Project integration maximizes the proper co-ordination of process during project planning, development and execution.

Successful project managers adopt an integrated approach to maximize performance and to enhance the prospect of meeting the original project goals.

Within any organization, the pursuit of any project is likely to have champions. The organization may benefit from appointing some staff member to represent alternative viewpoints, to ensure they are given proper consideration.

This process of critical review can yield large savings and financial benefits and it is especially beneficial where there is projected impact by the major capital project on overall organizational operations.

Many organizations have got into serious financial trouble by over-committing to such projects. Hence, there is a need for caution.

On the other hand, it is equally important to build cross-organizational support for a project once the decision is made to pursue it.

Accordingly, it is wise to include users early in the project design process so as to make them part owners of the project.

Constant user involvement from the beginning enhances the prospect that the final project will fully meet organizational requirements.

To that end, it is critical to identify the people and parts of the organization that will be affected by the completed project and in what way.

The need to accommodate different perspectives may be easily illustrated.

In both public and private procurement, the main objective of the process is to secure the best value for money.

However, such general goals need to be flushed out to have any real meaning.

Every member of the organization undertaking a major capital project is likely to agree that it should not pay $1.50 to get $1 dollar worth of improvement, but there is likely to be no such unanimity with respect to some of the most important implicit questions that underlie such a statement, such as how are cost and benefit to be calculated.

Very often it may be difficult to quantify the benefits that arise from a major capital project. Those who have a bottom line focus may therefore argue to discount such considerations completely.

Such an approach has an attraction from a conservative accounting perspective, but it may result in a considerable understatement of the benefit of the project from an operational perspective.

The members of the project management team should be selected on a rational basis, governed by three basic criteria. First, they should have a pooled expertise which will allow them to manage successfully; second, the choice should be based on their individual respective abilities; and third, each member of the team can work in a multi-disciplinary environment.

Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at swbauld@purchasingci.com. Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.

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