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Tuesday, 16 Jan 2018
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Key role of a Project Manager in infrastructure growth of India

Raj KaladyInfrastructure is the backbone of any nation. India is still treated as a developing economy because of the low-infra development and resultant poor standards of living of the population. Railways, roadways, airports, energy, power, ports, communications, urban infrastructure facilities play a vital role in attracting and determining the investments by foreign countries. Infrastructure is, therefore, the key driver of growth for establishing India at the global level. A lot has been done for infrastructure development in India but a much more remains to be done to place the country as a world class choice to foreign direct investors in various sectors. Today the world is looking at India for its huge human capital. The government can meet its objective of “Make in India” only by encouraging industry investments in critical sectors and utilizing the human resources to the full extent. This requires a long term vision to re-define the infra needs of India to a ground level, creating responsible groups and delegating the development at root level. A project/program management approach is the best solution to avoid higher costs, delays and to complete each development project with the expected standards. Since infrastructure projects require very huge funds and involve numerous stakeholders, the risk of projects not meeting the targeted standards is very high. Innovative investment mechanisms including Public Private Partnership, Crowd Funding, Incubation Centres, Financial Inclusion, and above all professional project management approach can reduce the risks under these programs to a great extent, reducing the inherent corruption.

India is known to the world as the largest democratic country and as the second most populous country. It has a distinct recognition for its diversity, rich history, traditions and values, and well known for its human assets in terms of hard work and intelligence. However, being still considered as a “developing country” even after seventy years of independence, there is every need for India to redefine itself and unleash the true potential. India has to re-emerge as the major economic player in the world.

Redefining India is not a simple task either by definition or by achievement. Ours is a huge country where the human capital is jeopardized with different set of beliefs, practices, culture and adoptions. In order to prove the world about what India can really make out, Government has started encouraging various eminent groups to form, involve and contribute by way of refined thoughts, ideas and initiatives. Taking the advantage provided by the revolutionary framework called internet, active citizens, scholars, social activists have risen to contribute, to educate and to empower the citizens of India. Out of the various initiatives, the themes that are relevant to infrastructure are “Redefine India”, and campaigns such as “Make in India”, “Digital India”, “Smart Cities” etc. Redefine India is one such initiative which has taken a shape as a common united platform of collective responsibility of the four pillars of any nation viz., Citizens, Corporate, NGOs and Governments.

If one looks at the need to “redefine” India and consequent redefinitions in its vital components, infrastructure perhaps stands at the first place. Owing to the rapid growth rate of our economy, and unlimited speed of urbanization, the importance to infrastructure has also gone through tremendous changes. Because infrastructure is crucial to sustain the country’s expansion and long term growth, top priority is given in budgets and various plans. Foreign investors, including US and Saudi Arabian companies along with private participators are keen to invest and contribute to the advancement in this sector.

Infrastructure provides the basic support system for other sectors of a nation’s economy. Infrastructure requirements can only be met through development of the relevant infrastructure capacity in the domestic economy. Similar to how crucial function a heart performs pumping blood and keeps one alive, similarly the infrastructure as a whole provides the core support system for the economy and keeps the growth alive. For example, developing roadways, railways, enabling digital infrastructure, communication networks, water, power, waste management, energy etc., will take India to top heights in terms of growth of economy, quality of standards and attracting foreign investors to India.

Infrastructure provision has to happen in urban as well as rural areas to meet the increasing needs of population by way of rail or road connectivity, providing schools, hospitals, building solar energy plants, waste management plants, water recycling plants etc., in addition to the standard infrastructure facilities required.

By nature, infrastructure projects require huge capital investment of funds, long range planning, continuous management, commitment of required time, human resources and involve numerous risks. Estimation and management of cost is the major challenge combined with schedule slippages. Above all, stakeholder management is extremely essential and equally difficult. Various factors such as government policies, national and international politics, mismatch of user needs and objective conflicts among stakeholders are some of the prominent challenges of any infrastructure project.

A project manager in infrastructure projects is assigned to lead the project team that is responsible for achieving the project objectives. While this is common for any of the projects, in case of infrastructure projects, the business value that is created by the project manager is what is reflected as a direct contribution to infrastructure growth. The performing project manager’s role becomes really critical with his application of inter-personal skills such as communication, influencing, political and cultural awareness, negotiation, conflict management and decision making.

Keeping the specifics of infrastructure projects, a professional project manager would apply his knowledge, skills and use various tools and techniques to complete the infrastructure objectives. For example, in infrastructure projects, the requirements may be easily identified such as setting up a communication network channel for a distinct user group. However, this one requirement has to be aligned with the needs, expectations and concerns of various stakeholders hence adequate planning becomes very critical. A professional project manager makes suitable plans and executes the project so as to balance the project constraints of scope, quality and schedule.

Risk management and stakeholder management are key success factors for infrastructure projects. A project manager is vital in bringing out strategic plans for analyzing market demand, identifying the opportunity keeping in view the social needs, legal implications and environmental considerations.

To summarize, the project manager is key success factor for an infrastructure project since he is directly responsible for accurate estimates of costs, risks and he manages stakeholders and governs the project.

Enterprise environmental factors are a major consideration, in addition to stakeholder management and project governance framework for infrastructure projects. In the absence of a professional project management approach, the infrastructure projects cannot be successful. Various infrastructure projects have failed in India and at global level as well because the professional approach was not fully implemented, the logic and strategy was not properly formulated and the dependencies were not adequately envisioned. On the other hand, projects which have used a professional project manager’s expertise were benefited with the scientific approach, risk management techniques, better contingency planning etc. An effective project manager would make a difference to project outcome in terms of communication and his learned art of leadership. In a nutshell, the key role of a project manager in infrastructure projects for redefining India can be summarized as under:

(a) Long range planning and stakeholder management are key areas: Creating a framework and appropriate project plan keeping in view the specific quality requirements, considering all the relevant stakeholders and managing the risks in infra projects

(b) By predicting and managing project crisis, a project manager can ensure effective execution with proactive steps towards risk mitigation and implementing suitable contingency plans for infrastructure projects

(c) Using the latest technology, open source tools, organizational assets, global data sources available for effective project execution and monitoring

Mr. Raj Kalady, Managing Director

Project Management Institute


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