UK project managers come under fire

Manufacturers are not investing enough time and money on developing project management skills, causing delays and budget over-runs, a survey published this week has found. The report, published by software and services company ASTA Development, says inefficiencies and a lack of effective management of projects are commonplace throughout industry. According to the survey, half of […]

Manufacturers are not investing enough time and money on developing project management skills, causing delays and budget over-runs, a survey published this week has found.

The report, published by software and services company ASTA Development, says inefficiencies and a lack of effective management of projects are commonplace throughout industry.

According to the survey, half of those involved in project management within the manufacturing and construction industries have had no formal training, despite handling projects worth an average of £4.9m a year.

Andrew Willard, customer services director for ASTA, said businesses need to focus more on planning, judging the likely problems that may arise and assessing each scheme in order to learn lessons for the future.

The survey of 455 managers and directors reveals that projects often suffer as a result of poor management and lack of foresight, with 28% of the firms questioned admitting their projects over-ran by as much as 10%.

Unrealistic deadlines were identified as the main cause of delays, a prime example being the Jubilee Line extension of the London Underground. This finally opened last week following 20 months of delays.

The £3.5bn project was hit by engineering and tunnelling difficulties, and strikes by technicians. Original project manager Hugh Doherty was replaced by Bechtel, a 50-strong team from the US, in September 1998.

The initial budget for the scheme was £1.9bn, and the £1.6bn additional expense was an extreme example of costs spiralling out of control. However, the ASTA survey shows almost a third of all manufacturing and construction projects spend up to 10% more than originally planned.

John Cridland, director of human resources at the Confederation of British Industry, said the penny had finally dropped among UK companies, and a lot of effort was being expended to rectify the situation.

`Project management is a vital area of competence, and the consequences of getting it wrong can be severe,’ he said.