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Running A Project In A Well-Established Operational Business

Paul Naybour Paul Naybour

Published: 29th July 2014

Hi Paul, 

Could you give me some feedback on this question please. 

Jenny 

What difficulties might a project manager encounter when running a project in a well-established operational business? 

The three main areas of difficulty can be grouped as People, Technology and Process. 
1) People can pose difficulties as the project manager is unlikely to also be the line manager for people working on the project team this can create a problem where the priorities of the project manager and the priorities of line managers are in conflict. For example a project manager may require a laboratory technician to support the development of a new protocol, but their line manager also needs them to complete some routine test work which they feel takes priority. Taking the time to complete the test work first may cause delays to the project. 

2) Further difficulties with people can arise as a result of internal politics and resistance to change where members or departments within the organisation do not feel that there is a need for change or that the project does not serve their best interests. This might take the form of an unwillingness to engage with the project manager or to ensure that sufficient resource is available to complete the project according to the planned timescale. 
The project manager’s duty to undertake a thorough risk assessment before implementing any project may also cause problems with other people in the organisation who are keen to see the project success and perceive this process as unnecessarily pessimistic. This can make it difficult to maintain effective working relationships across organisational functions that will ultimately be required for the implementation of the project. 

3)The development of new technologies brings a considerable amount of risk in terms of the timescale and budget of a new project. In developing both new hardware and software there may be unforeseen technical issues that must be overcome before the project can move on, for example bugs in a new piece of software or supply problems with highly specialised pieces of equipment. 

Development of new technology also often requires skills that are not available within the organisation itself. This can lead to reliance on external contractors with the necessary skills for the delivery of the project which reduces the ability of the organisation to control and monitor implementation as it usually would. Maintaining an informed, interactive, constructive and partnership approach with suppliers is important in ensuring the quality of any deliverables. 

4)Finally, most mature organisations will have well defined procedures for e.g. budget control, procurement and risk management. These procedures can be frustrating to the project manager as they slow down the rate at which the project can be taken forward. For example if the project manager wishes to procure external expertise they may be constrained by a list of approved suppliers or have to go through a competitive tender process that will delay the start of the next phase of the project. Project managers also need to be aware of internal policies for e.g. finance, HR, planning and configuration management to ensure that they are meeting the established expectations and legal requirements across the organisation. Conversely organisations which lack sufficient control can lead to a different set of problems as different parts of the organisation may adopt different and conflicting approaches to e.g. reporting or resource allocation that make planning difficult. For example the organisation may rely on the discretion of line managers of division heads for the allocation of resources and a project manager will then have to work around the different styles and preferences of these individuals which will be more time consuming and politically challenging. 

  1. Student says:

    Hi Paul,

    Thank you for feeding back so quickly. Is this one better? I think I am struggling to turn all my bullet points and lists into prose without going over the top.

    Describe 5 key benefits of using a programme management approach

    1.Programme management allows organisations to focus on the definition and management of strategic benefits by grouping projects together and maintaining oversight of how they contribute to the overall vision of success. For example in a programme of major organisational change individual projects might include developing a new IT system, moving to new office space and restructuring departments all with the strategic aim of increasing the profitability of the company.
    2.Programme management also provides organisations with the ability to initiate, define, accelerate or terminate projects in the programme in response to new or unforeseen factors whilst maintaining the direction of travel towards strategic goals. Over the life of a programme individual projects may become redundant or need to be replaced by new projects and without the high level overview this responsiveness to change would be more difficult to manage.
    3.Improved management of project interdependencies and the impact(s) on business as usual is another key benefit of programme management. Managing the impact on business as usual is key to maintaining support for projects as many employees will naturally be resistant to change. Being able to demonstrate how a range of projects fit together in pursuit of a common objective and how they interact and depend on each other will make it easier for people to accept changes than if they appear to be disconnected and the overall benefits unclear.
    4.Effective resource management and the management of conflicting demands from the business is a major benefit of programme management. By having oversight of all the projects within a programme it is possible to co-ordinate the timescales over which they are implemented and to prioritise to ensure that sufficient resources are available to allow the overall programme to achieve its strategic aims within the given time and resource constraints.
    5.Finally the ability to manage risks, issues and changes across the programme will reduce the cost to the organisation in repeatedly tackling the same things at different times across a number of different projects. By adopting a more strategic approach to risks, issues and change programme management will make overall savings in time and human resource allowing individual quality products and benefits to be delivered faster and at a lower cost.

  2. Paul says:

    Jenny The examiners are looking for 3-5 paragraphs each of which is worth 10 marks. To get the marks you need to write 2-3 sentences in each paragraph. You answer is very interesting but hard for the marker to give you marks. Set it out as 3-5 clear points each in its own paragraph.

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