Good project management makes a difference

By Cecilia Anthony Das

How many times have you busted your household expenditure? How many times did your planning go wrong? We are, after all human, and it happens even to the best of us.

This may be taken lightly when it happens in our personal lives. However, if you were asked how many times in the course of your work the projects you headed have not been completed on time, or how many times have your cost estimates been off the mark, the issue takes on a more serious note. Indeed, the consequences could be severe.

If your job requires you to plan projects, be they simple ones or multi-billion ringgit mega-projects, the consequences of non-completion would be the same: wasted resources, money and time.

In 2005, 17.3% of Malaysian Government-funded construction projects were delayed for more than three months or abandoned. Sambasivan, M and Yau, W.S. (2007), in their research paper “Causes and effects of delays in Malaysian Construction Industry”, identified ten causes for such incidents. Topmost amongst the issues identified were contractors’ improper planning, and shortages in supply of materials and labour. The effects of the delays were time and cost overruns and even total abandonment, to name a few. It is evident that the failures were due to the lack of project management skills.

In the oil and gas industry, according to Det Norske Veritas (DNV), the average delay for the construction of rigs is about seven months. The average cost overrun for new rig projects is some 35%. Indeed this is a risky business. All this could be contained and eliminated with proper management of cost, risk and time management.

Realising the importance of managing a project to the desired results is therefore crucial. For a long time, many companies did not place enough importance in having competent, qualified project management professionals within their ranks to ensure projects go as planned, and found to their detriment that it is critical in today’s fast-paced and constantly evolving business environment.

Project management is not as simplistic as it may sound, it requires specific knowledge and skills that can only be garnered through formal training or higher studies in the field.

Many leading businesses in Malaysia are realising the benefits of good project management and are investing heavily in hiring and training qualified project managers. Indeed, the demand for project managers has increased substantially over the last few years, making project management one of the top choices of careers amongst students in tertiary institutions. The institutions themselves have been quick in meeting the demand, offering programmes leading to a wide variety of project management qualifications.

Curtin University of Technology, Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak) is one of the leading higher education institutions offering a Master of Science in Project Management course.

The university’s Master of Science in Project Management course helps students gain the understanding, knowledge and skills necessary to become effective project managers and is designed in such a way that it is generic in its application to any given industry. It is in fact among the first project management courses to be generic rather than industry-specific.

Indeed, it has been found to be highly applicable to a wide range of industries, including oil and gas, construction, engineering, education, health, commerce, information technology, and research and development, in Australia, Malaysia and elsewhere.

The course is identical in all respects to the course offered at Curtin’s main Bentley Campus in Perth, Western Australia, and is recognised by the Australian Institute of Project Management, which speaks volumes about its quality in terms of subject matter. It is furthermore endorsed by the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education and the Malaysian Qualifications Agency.

Teaching staff from both Curtin’s main Bentley Campus and Curtin Sarawak have extensive professional experience in project management and offer practical relevancy to the course at Curtin Sarawak.

Further benefits to students include career enhancement without having to take a career break, the flexibility to balance study/work/life with support from a dedicated team, a chance to build a global network of professional contacts, and increased confidence and exposure to broader management issues.

The course has seen steady growth in enrolment since its inception, with a large number of students enrolled at the Curtin Sarawak Campus in Miri. Through the sponsorship of the State Government of Sarawak and in collaboration with the Centre for Modern Management (CMM) in Kuching, the course was made available to state government officers as well in May this year. This is due to the course’s multi-disciplinary approach which makes it applicable to both the private and public sectors. The next semester for this programme will commence in September 2010.

Project Management is the qualification of the future as there is obviously a growing global demand for project management professionals. It is pertinent for those who are in industries where the running of projects is inevitable to be suitably equipped with the knowledge and skills to manage projects effectively. The opportunities for further study in the discipline abound and I would encourage those with the means to do so.

As for companies, gone are the days when they could manage projects as they fancied. Companies must recognise that project management is a distinct professional discipline of its own and should hire qualified professionals to get the job done right.

Cecilia Anthony Das is the Postgraduate Coordinator of Curtin Sarawak’s School of Business. She can be contacted at +60 85 443939 ext. 3958 or by e-mail to