German Martinez Montes

Project Management Approach. Temporary trend? What are we doing at the universities?

The advantages of project-oriented management are known by everyone, but many professionals consider if it is a passing trend or a way of working that has come to stay for a long time.

At present, most companies have opted for a project-oriented or, as the case may be, a matrix organization.

I have found a publication[1] that raises this question for many professionals from different economic fields and I personally think their thoughts are quite interesting.

The most relevant ones, from my personal point of view, are:

  • In a context marked by the crisis, the control of costs, time and quality of the project acquires greater relevance, due to the increase of risks and the obligation not to waste a single penny. It is for all these reasons that professional project management is definitely a necessity for modern organizations and not a fad that will soon pass.
  • Any organization seeks to be as efficient as possible in order to be competitive in the market and to be able to continue developing its activity. This is why projects are constantly being set up, regardless of whether one methodology or another is used or in many cases by applying experience-based and trial-and-error project management. The search for efficiency in organizations and the positioning as an organization in the market, are part of the root of the organizations from the beginning, so if we focus on this need of the companies we can not talk at any time in fashion, as this has that passing consideration and organizations have that character of continuity and permanence.
  • But if we return to the root of the matter, Project Management is in fact a need. I studied it at the university because it really is a requirement for many professions. I am also a strong believer that Project Management is really a career in and of itself. It is true that the principles, methods, and tools for Managing Projects are universal. It is also true that every time shareholders invest their money, they want highly-qualified professionals leading profitable projects. In fact, there is an eternal need for Project Management based on the fact that many projects have failed in the past and will keep failing in the future (unless Project Management can help).
  • Projects have become a necessity for companies to implement the changes they need to make to adapt to today’s market. Projects become the value creation system for the company. The company must be aware of this way of working by projects, and have a good methodology to manage them effectively. If they are able to reduce the time needed to delivery, improve cost control and reduce the risks of these projects, your organizations will be more competitive in the national and international market.
  • If project management has worked and is on an ongoing upward trend in terms of implementation, it finds its raison in the results obtained from its application.

Many other opinions could still be written on the subject but the conclusion would always be the same: project management has come to stay. But, project management has to be dynamic, able to adapt to changes and new needs of companies and organizations.

In this context, the training of future professionals should take into account this circumstance and include the methodology of project-based learning as an essential teaching-learning tool.

In the field of engineering, many of the European degrees have chosen to certify their trainings with the EUR-ACE label.

EUR-ACE® is a framework and accreditation system that provides a set of standards that identifies high-quality engineering degree programmes in Europe and abroad.

The Programme Outcomes are described with reference to the following eight learning areas: Knowledge and understanding; Engineering Analysis; Engineering Design; Investigations; Engineering Practice; Making Judgements; Communication and Team-working and Lifelong Learning.

One of the points in which the certification processes are often questioned is the engineering practice item. The learning process should enable Bachelor Degree graduates to demonstrate:

  • Understanding of applicable techniques and methods of analysis, design and investigation and of their limitations in their field of study;
  • Practical skills for solving complex problems, realising complex engineering designs and conducting investigations in their field of study;
  • Understanding of applicable materials, equipment and tools, engineering technologies and processes, and of their limitations in their field of study;
  • Ability to apply norms of engineering practice in their field of study;
  • Awareness of non-technical -societal, health and safety, environmental, economic and industrial – implications of engineering practice;
  • Awareness of economic, organisational and managerial issues (such as project management, risk and change management) in the industrial and business context.

Another key item is the related to Communication and Team-working. The learning process should enable Bachelor Degree graduates to demonstrate:

  • Ability to communicate effectively information, ideas, problems and solutions with engineering community and society at large;
  • Ability to function effectively in a national and international context, as an individual and as a member of a team and to cooperate effectively with engineers and non-engineers.

If we applied project-based learning to engineering degrees across the board, we would be sure that future engineers would acquire all the skills they will need to put into practice during their professional lives. We have to be clear that project management is not just a body of knowledge. Project management is primarily a way of working.

This means that it is not enough for students to know the areas and phases of project management. They have to be able, based on real cases, to initiate, plan, execute, control and close all the necessary activities to achieve the success of the project.

After all, it is clear that right management of scope, time, cost, resources, quality, communication, procurement, stakeholders, risk and change, never will be a temporary fashion.

[1] Gestión de Proyectos ¿Moda o Necesidad? #PMideas