The Impact of Training on a Project Manager’s Performance:

Ramazzini and Jergeas (2015:42) have identified six variables which are present in any project, namely, expense, time, scale, efficiency, risk, and profit. Subject matter specialists should teach project managers. Companies from all industries must invest in better project management practitioners who are prepared to collaborate with the strategic goals and priorities of their company rather than in a vendor position. Training is known to positively influence project managers’ results. Better qualified project managers do better than those who did not obtain adequate instruction in project management (Huang, 2012, Zhang, 2014). Already-trained project managers have an edge in their jobs over others who are not. Education offers multiple advantages to an enterprise, both at the level of project management and project implementation. It also raises the talents of people, supplying them with high job satisfaction and long-term employment opportunities. Project managers are responsible for interactions among the different perspectives, training ensures that projects meet their goals and are completed on schedule, on budget, and in compliance with the appropriate quality standards. Since the project manager is active from start to finish, he is inspirational in leading and motivating the team to achieve the end goal, and preparation ensures that he is successful in his duties (Knapp 2010:66).

Projects often include staff from various business divisions within an organisation, which may lead to tension if people do not understand each other. The easiest way to prevent miscommunication is to learn project vocabulary that can be universally understood (Keil et al 2013:43). Any company in any business sector has the potential for project management failure, but to prevent long-term harm, appropriate training for the project staff, particularly the Project Manager, who acts as a conduit amongst the various stakeholders must be done (Basile and Caputo, 2017).

The Challenges Encountered by Project Managers in  the Telecommunications Industry:

Many difficulties impact the project managers’ ability to fulfil their tasks. There are internal and external obstacles that project managers face in the telecommunications industry in South Africa. The internal challenges are product quality assurance, project cost and project schedule (Rose, 2013). The external challenges are labour, weather conditions, opposition from the local community, lack of authority over project team personnel and stakeholder interest.

Internal Challenges:

Product Quality Assurance:

One of the difficulties faced by project managers is to produce an end-product that is of a satisfactory standard to the customer. This often poses difficulties to the project manager and business owners if the project is being managed by a third party as a lot of time is devoted to supervising the project manager. The project manager may not be experienced in the required field and be inexperienced with local norms and environments. This poses a threat to the firm’s ambitions. For project managers to be effective, knowledge of the project landscape and knowledge of the operating requirements are crucial. A quality project ensures that the progress of the project is not marred with difficulties. The problems that project managers face in product production are where customers do not explicitly specify the quality requirements and quality benchmarks and metrics. This causes a substandard product or job that is either reworked or rejected, which eventually causes the project to fail (Buhalis and Marinakou, 2017).

Project Cost:

A successful project manager must create a project that hits the client’s needs, which is affordable and timely (Rakos, Dhanraj, Kennedy, Fleck, Jackson, and Harris 2015:44). Encompassing project expenses within the given budget is one of the most important facets of a project’s life cycle. Projects often begin with rough projections because of unclear criteria. At times, the project estimation is smaller than it will be to obtain final approval (Amalraj, Hernani, Ladouceur and Verma 2007:16). Another problem for project management includes contracting jobs. Where workers are overwhelmed and the market is poor, project costs are likely to increase and standards are compromised leading to rework charges and scope creep standards, leading to multiple rework charges and scope creep (Skulmoski and Hartman 2009:74).

Project Scheduling:

Should a project’s approval period be extended, the duration and resource distribution would be affected. Project preparation is done at project initiation. If the subject matter specialist is not engaged in the project at this phase, it becomes a problem for the project manager. If a timetable is not planned from the outset by trained project managers and schedulers, it can create needless confusion for the project team. Inadequate scheduling slows the job. A consistent plan at the outset of the project mitigates risk and reduces expenses over lengthy periods. Scheduling involves many aspects of a project including shareholders, project managers, and even municipal bodies, for example, laying the telecommunication cable needs the permission of the City Council (Keil et al 2016:44).

External Challenges:

External problems influences project progress, which the Project Manager cannot monitor and are as follows:

Labour:

A shortage of available labour requires that a workforce must assist the activity. A project may encounter difficulties in hiring the best workers because the people in the region do not have the expertise needed. This has the potential to affect the timing and the cost of the project. Another challenge is coping with labour unions which affect the labour force and obstruct project management. Trade unions dictate the race, ethnicity, or nationality that are preferred to be recruited. Often project managers and planners have varying operating hours that do not satisfy the demands of trade unions (Newton 2015:19). Projects can also find it difficult to recruit staff – for several reasons such as their location, the cost of living around the project, proximity to the area, and the availability of health and leisure facilities. In an isolated area, staff can face problems such as expensive housing costs, fewer recreational opportunities, insufficient facilities, and a shortage of qualified staff. (Amalraj and others, 2017).

South African telecommunications firms outsource their product production to organisations in China or India, while companies headquartered in South Africa focus on the installation, testing and deployment of the system. Due to the supply of qualified labour and flexible work arrangements, Chinese tech firms can produce applications faster than their South African counterparts. This poses problems for the simultaneous release of software and hardware (Bronkhorst, 2021).

Weather Conditions:

Another aspect that project managers cannot monitor is the weather. Conducting a project in a location that experiences severe weather, adversely affects the project schedule. Extreme heat and colds, and stormy conditions prohibit workers from working outdoors, affecting work schedules, and making it impossible to get to work. Operating in locations proven to be vulnerable to severe weather disrupts the plans of project managers (Buhalis and Marinakou, 2017).

Opposition from the Local Community:

Sometimes a group may oppose a major project which they believe may have a destructive impact on them. Within a municipality, as several workers arrive from other places to work, there is little rise in municipal tax revenue. These “shadow residents” live in the city for an abbreviated time. If the shadow population grows, the city faces problems such as housing shortages, without adequate transport facilities. The health care sector is also impacted by the increase of people who need community health care. These negative effects can render a neighbourhood an inconvenient place to reside, making it impossible to recruit the requisite number of workers capable of delivering the project on schedule and under budget (Caldwell-Gunes and Parham, 2019).

Lack of Authority over Project Team Personnel:

Whilst project managers are responsible for achieving project objectives; schedules; budgets, assessing alternatives; weighing risks and determining how to embrace, prevent, eliminate, or alleviate them, and leading the effort to a successful conclusion, they have little control over other staff that form part of the project team (Gillard 2009:22).

Stakeholder Interest:

The obstacle facing telecommunications project managers in South Africa is their multi-dimensional operating climate. The management office and the project team mostly manage day-to-day activities. An external organization also has oversight power within the project office. The intra-organization includes the parent organization, customer population, and contractor. The team often contains a multi-pronged combination of disciplinary, inter-organizational, geographically dispersed participants, internally working employees, and subcontracted or contract staff; the project manager must cope with fragile lines of authority and control and must communicate with multiple organizations and stakeholders often with conflicting agendas relative to the project (Gillard 2009:34). This monitoring arrangement can be tough for the project manager to exert authority.

Research Methodology:

The research was conducted using the quantitative research method. Data was collected through a questionnaire sent via emails from a sample population of 80 project managers from the five companies registered with PMSA in the field of the telecommunications industry. A pilot test was done with 5 respondents who did not form part of the 80-sample population.

1. Findings of the Study

The following findings were established from the study:

  • All the respondents were practising project managers
  • Male project managers dominate the field of project management
  • Most project managers were academically qualified to perform their duties
  • Most of the project managers had PMBOK & PMP qualifications and some were qualified in PRINCE2
  • More project managers used the PMI methodology in their projects
  • The reporting structure noted that respondents reported to the operations manager and their programme manager
  • At any given time, project managers were simultaneously managing five projects
  • Respondents believed that their project managers were not adequately skilled to successfully conduct their projects
  • Negotiation skills were rated as one of the most desired skills sets that project managers should possess
  • Communication skills followed by technical skills, leadership styles, educational qualifications, interpersonal skills and negotiation skills all were considered important criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of project managers
  • Challenges faced during a project were not the expected quality, higher costs, delays in obtaining approvals, improper risk planning, inadequate support and resources and diverse team and unclear lines of communication

Conclusion:

Delivering projects is the prime responsibility of a project manager whose task is to balance the elements of a project. These elements are time, cost, scope, risks, and stakeholders. This calls for certain characteristics, skills, and attributes on the part of a project manager; inter alia, communication skills; technical skills; good leadership style; educational qualifications; negotiating skills and people skills (KONG, 2017). It is, therefore, paramount that organisations ensure that project managers possess the relevant characteristics, attributes, and skills to ensure the success of projects, especially in the field of telecommunications which is pivotal importance in connecting us to the rest of the world.

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Author Debjyoti Shil

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