During my twenty-year professional life, I have led a long range of large project teams, says Hynek Orság.
My longest experience comes from Moravskoslezský region where we have managed more than 300 projects in 10 years with the volume of funding of almost 14 billion Czech crowns. Most frequently, we have administrated an environmental area, but far from only it. We were engaged in road infrastructure, administration of property, buildings, education, and many more.
The establishment of our own company, focused on custom project management, represented another logical step. We are most familiar with the area of environment, therefore we concentrate mainly on it. We also provide specialized consulting services.
At the moment, we actively collaborate on project management with approximately 10 % of public administration entities in the Czech Republic. Moreover, we collaborate with many private companies. Basically, we are here for all the entities which do not have their own capacity to manage larger projects so that all the legislative requirements are met, and at the same time the best possible result is achieved in a defined time.
In practice, we act as the representatives of investor within precisely defined powers and obligations. We have at our disposal all of specialized professions – lawyers, designers, specialists on legislation, and others.
The majority of our specialists possess an extremely deep knowledge of the field, but they do not possess the capacity to manage and coordinate relation to other professions. They need to be given the instructions and to process it.
We act primarily as career coordinators, as a guarantor supervising the adherence to deadlines as well as all the necessary requirements. We are competent to assume the control over the whole project – to plan it, manage it, make sure that all the relations were met and attend to the documentation.
Modern time brings more and more complications in a form of an extreme increase of bureaucratic procedures, which prevent the public administration entities, but also entrepreneurs, from dealing with their work (or business). The volume of ‘ballast’ has immensely increased even in a public sector, but it bears no relation to project management.
When dealing with an investment project, you need to have skilled specialists who can process the technical part of instructions very well, people who have experience with investments and an experienced project manager. Provided you have all these components, things may go well.
However, in the public sector political aspects may interfere at the same time. You cannot perform any fundamental act without the collective decision-making of a local authority. Therefore, making any step is much more complicated in a public sector rather than in a commercial sector.
In recent years, I have a feeling that the pace is gradually slowing down in a public sector. It is a matter of human resources – it is about the availability of high-quality and experienced people as there are only a few of them at the labour market. It is very difficult to find the right person – a person who can be easily integrated into a team without a need of a long training; somebody who can be entrusted with the necessary responsibility.
Then, of course, it is a matter of available technological tools necessary for project management and the way how we use them.
The result of all these influences is a fact that the permanent problem of today’s society is an endless procrastination. All the other problems are related to it.
A primary problem is a lack of skilled and motivated people. When you run a project, you often make investments amounting to half a billion Czech crowns – and you cannot entrust such projects to people who have never done similar work.
If we have a look at small villages, we can see that they have only a few workers at their disposal and there is nobody to deal with the project management. The same situation happens to small companies. Therefore, there is no space for the discussion of using a tool which would be of help.
A burning need emerges at the moment when you have to manage teams of tens of users.
Large ‘corporations’ – I have in mind ministries or state administration central authorities – have technological tools used for project management. However, I do not know many entities that would really use such tools – at least for meeting the deadlines, communication with all suppliers and partners and the overall overview over the activities related to the project.
A common reason for avoiding using electronic assistants is a mere human disinclination to be so-called “under control”. We have repeatedly tried to deploy the controlling systems in large organizations under the state administration. But we have always been facing unbelievable obstacles related to people’s mental state of mind. People perceived it as a ‘whip’ in the hands of a senior executive. Regardless of any explanation, we were not able to explain them that such an electronic assistant represents a great help.
Last but not least, it is related to work with the computer. Common users use only a fragment of possibilities that simple tools, such as Outlook or Excel, offer. At the moment when something more complex or, let’s say, more robust appears, the obstacle is simply too huge. Those people who were ready to become accustomed to work with the new system were in minority. We still collaborate with many of them up to now.
You can always manage a certain number of projects by using so-called ‘empirical way’. But once you approach this limit, you need to employ two important measures. First, you have to reinforce the team by finding other experienced people. Second, you have to help yourself by using some tool.
In the past, we were testing many things. My experience with using easily-available tools for project management was, let’s say... fifty-fifty.
Simple freeware tools have fixed bindings, which means that they did not allow us to use the necessary flexibility. Some of our projects are very complex and they will take X years to be completed. With those projects, the options were not sufficient at all and the efficiency nearly bordered on using a paper and a pencil.
Although massive and robust tools had the necessary flexibility, they also posed a huge acquisition costs not only during the investment, but also during the operation. Before a person learns how to use such a system, it takes a disproportionate amount of time. And even though you know how to enter the project into such a system correctly, when any change occurs, you have to manually re-plan all the deadlines and resources, which results in more time losses. At some moments, I had a feeling that it started to delay people instead of helping them.
For our company, it is immensely important that we can plan project management in our own way and work with the system that is flexible enough. As is generally known, projects change from day to day, and so we need to adapt non-stop to new situations and circumstances, as they influence the processes of preparation and implementation. Our day-to-day reality is about monitoring deadlines and constant recalculations of timetables and costs.
Right now, we prepare a seven-year planning period for our projects. At this moment, we already know that there will be such a huge amount of work that we will not be able to get along without reliable tools to manage it.
At one point, we will manage 20-30 large projects from one place. For us, a project means a collaboration of 5-6 professionals – specialists and about twenty suppliers – companies. We need to constantly communicate with all of them. We want to offer our clients the opportunity to actively online monitor the development of their project – what has already been completed and what is still being worked on.
APUtime is flexible enough for us, but at the same time it is user-friendly so that we can work with the system very well. There is also a huge conformity during everyday operation and during a constant recalculation of everything – such as deadlines for changes, the time needed, the time consumed, workload of people, and all the other things.
Personally, for me another important thing is that APUtime uses artificial intelligence, which means that we keep the lead ahead of the others (we already have it due to our experience and a great team).
We start with a basic ten-member group of project managers. However, all is heading towards the fact that the finite number of internal APUtime users will be around fifty. We will also consider the extent of employing external co-workers. To put it simply, we will be growing together.