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What are the project management challenges in the different business sectors?

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What are the main challenges facing different business sectors in Iceland in managing projects, as faced by representatives from different industries? This question was discussed at the annual spring conference organized jointly by the Icelandic Project Management Association and the MPM program (Master of Project Management) at Reykjavik University in 2017. Representatives of eight business sectors in Iceland came and gave brief presentations of these challenges. The seminar started with a short update on the general projectification of the Icelandic economy. Projects are a vital part of the economy and close to one third of working time in Icelandic organizations is devoted to project work. Some of the findings from this conference in Iceland are relevant for other countries. A summary of the talks is given below.

  • Major changes are ahead in the financial sector, driven by technological development and new EU regulations. The business models of commercial banks are changing, and they need to expand their project management capacity quickly to implement the forthcoming changes.
  • The healthcare sector is extremely complex, and all kinds of projects are carried out, IT projects, lean projects and change projects, to give a few examples. Projects in the healthcare sectors are often characterized many stakeholders, resources are limited, and staff has very limited time to participate in projects. The main challenges are to utilize time, increase value and reduce waste. Lean management has therefore become widely used in the sector.
  • A representative from higher education and research cited an international study that showed how important the effective management of projects is for the success of all companies. A student in the MPM program was cited, where he explained his decision to choose the MPM program rather than an MBA program; his reason was that there are much more projects to manage than companies.
  • It is a characteristic of the consulting sector that all revenues are created by selling the time of consultants, and the organization charts of the consultancies are very flat. The challenge here is that it is difficult to maintain overview of the use of resources, as each employee works in multiple projects simultaneously, and reports to many project managers. There is constant struggle over how to prioritize the use of employees between the different projects and clients.
  • Project selection can be a big challenge in product development companies and it is time to develop new tools, new selection models to help making better decisions and ensure better consensus in the choice of innovation projects.
  • The tourism industry has grown enormously in a short period of time. This has imposed big problems, there is lack of a holistic thinking for the industry, lack of strategy, low margin and there is lack of reliable data for policy making and decision making.
  • Power generation and distribution is an important industry with various project management challenges, some of them as basic as managing the chosen projects and steering them through the milestones. There are also problems regarding communication between the generations. Large groups of people are retiring, and younger people are talking over. The new generations work differently and think differently than the older generations, and effective communication between the generations needs to be managed.
  • There is considerable room for improvements in the governmental ministries. A major challenge here is the strong organizational hierarchy, a lack of follow-up of projects, limited effectiveness in project teams, and continuous struggle to understand the difference between urgent and important tasks. In the future, it is necessary to increase the interest in project management among managers and middle managers in the governmental ministries, as well as project management expertise.

There were no representatives from food production; the fishing indistry or from agriculture. The fishing industry is a very important sector in Iceland. Project management maturity in the sector is low, and considerable room for improvement. Project management is even more primitive in agriculture and the room for improvement even greater. This is true for Iceland but also worldwide, as the president of IPMA, Jesus Martinez Almela, has pointed out when he talks about the forgotten project management in agriculture and the major challenge of the human race; to feed the growing worldwide population in urban and mega cities.

We look forward to the next conference, on May 11th, where icelandic project management practitioners will again meet and discuss future challenges in project management, and how to deal with them!

 

- Author of this post

Helgi Thor Ingason holds a PhD from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, MSc from the University of Iceland and a SAPM degree from Stanford University. He is a Certified Senior Project Manager by IPMA. Dr. Ingason is an professor at Reykjavik University. He is the co-author of 6 books on management in Icelandic and English. He is a management consultant and a member of the Research Management Board of IPMA.

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