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Projects are temporary endeavours. They are constrained by time, scope, and monetary resources. Projects must fulfil specific goals and objectives as explained in various phases that constitute the project life cycle. A project life cycle begins with scope definition followed by planning, execution, and finally delivering (Cadle & Yeates 2001). An important aspect of project management, which cuts across all these phases, is project evaluation. For instance, in the execution phase, the evaluation involves the attempt to establish whether various objectives and goals of the different stages of project execution process are realised (Zekic & Samarzija 2012, p.101). The goal of this paper is to discuss the process of project management in a project whose scope was defined as ‘designing and construction of 150-gigalitres expandable to 200-gigalitres desalination plant in Victoria.
Although the discussion of the project is limited to four stages that characterise the life cycle of a project (defining, planning, execution, and delivering), the stages are also part of the nine project management knowledge areas defined by PMBOK. Thus, the knowledge areas are found necessary in the discussions of this paper. PMBOK is ‘a collection of processes and knowledge areas that are generally accepted as the best practices within the project management discipline’ (Haughey 2012, Para. 1). These knowledge areas include scope management, cost management, time management, risk management, integration management, procurement management, and communication management.
The definition phase involves the establishment of goals, specifications, tasks, and responsibilities in a given project. The goal of the Victorian Desalination Project was to enhance the augmentation of water supplies within Geelong and Melbourne areas and their surroundings. Thus, the project was to be implemented in a manner that would make sure that this goal was precisely achieved within time and resources constraint. From the paradigms of PMBOK, the definition phase encompasses the scope management.
Scope management houses components such as ‘scope initiation, scope planning, scope verification, scope definition, and scope change and control’ (Tolbert 2008, p.57). The announcement of the intention to construct an Australian largest desalination plant on 19 July 2007 marked the scope initiation phase for the Victorian Desalination Project. The specification for the project was stated as planning and erection of a desalination project with a volume of 150-billion litres and flexible to 200 billion litres (Kjorstad 2010, p.7). Another specification required the plant to have seven channel-linking areas for water supply to Melbourne and other regions in South Gipps land (Government Initiatives 2012, Para. 6).
Additionally, the plant had to have underground power supply, which spans a distance of 87 km. These specifications defined the scope-planning component of management as one of essential areas of PMBOK. These specifications ensured that the planning phase would include the execution of activities, thus guaranteeing the achievement of the stipulated specifications. This implies that defining the specifications of the Victorian Desalination Project facilitated the development of procedures for allocating time and monetary resources to the project.
The definition phase of a project also involves subdivision of all major deliverables of the project into small manageable deliverables or tasks. In case of Victorian Desalination Project, a list of these tasks is available from Government Initiatives (2012). For successful delivery of the desalination plant objectives, its construction involved tasks such as the elevation of 225 hectares of land to form a coastal park, with water surrounding it, mainly for public utilisation. Construction of ‘long tunnels for intake and outlet to protect the coast and beach –200-billion litre capacity coupled with 84-kilometre two-way water transfer pipeline–200-billion litre capacity’ (Government Initiatives 2012, Para.5) were also other major tasks that constituted the Victorian Desalination Project.
Before defining responsibilities, scope verification is an important aspect of scope management. It refers to the process of formalising the reception of the plan’s range (Tolbert 2008, p.57). With regard to the desalination plant, scope verification was realised through conducting assessments followed by appropriate consultations on the likely impacts of the desalination plant. The assessment studies for the desalination plant determined whether the project was feasible. Upon declaration of the project as feasible, it became possible to define and allocate responsibilities.
Defining responsibilities involves establishing various roles and functions of the various parties that are involved in project execution, control, and monitoring. In the case of the Victorian Desalination Project, the responsibility of the project manager was defined as leading together with management of various project teams. The project manager also engaged in responsibilities such as recruitment of staff and consultants, co-ordination of the groups that were taking part in the project work, maintaining project plans, monitoring the performance of the project, and provision of status reports among other tasks. A project manager achieves these responsibilities through the help of managers in different project work units (Turner & Müller 2005, p.222; Pinto &Trailer 2005, p.49)
The government of Australia was the major project sponsor. Its responsibilities were defined as availing resources for execution of the project, approval of budgets, leading the project board, and setting strategies for resolving issues beyond the mandates of the project board or project manager. The government also played the role of championing for the project and/or making major decisions regarding the manner of project execution.
The definition of responsibilities also involves setting suppliers and project team members’ responsibilities. The suppliers have noble mandates for ensuring that ‘mandatory supplier requirements are met, managing the production and approval of the supplier side budget, making effective use of supplier resources within the approved budget, tracking performance of consultants, and taking the appropriate actions’ (Pinheiro 2010, p.9). In addition to playing these responsibilities in the Victorian Desalination Project, the definition of suppliers’ responsibilities also included managing suppliers’ staff members who were taking part in the project, ensuring quality of the materials delivered, and engaging in constant communication with the project managers to ensure smooth and consistent supply of materials to avoid delays.
Project team members are involved directly in the implementation of a project. They ‘provide functional expertise in an administrative process; work with users to ensure the project meets business needs and document and analyse current and future processes’ (Zekic & Samarzija 2012, p.105). For the Victorian Desalination Project, members were also required to facilitate mapping together with the identification of information needs, conducting user training, providing a definition for necessities in interfacing, and reporting practices.
The planning phase of a project incorporates aspects such as budgeting, resource planning, risk analysis and mitigation, scheduling, and staffing. From the context of PMBOK, cost management engulfs all vital tasks that are paramount in facilitating the completion of projects within budgetary constraints (Haughey, 2012). Before the desalination project commenced, costs budgeting was done. It entailed assigning the general cost approximations to individual job performance (Tolbert 2008, p.58). The project was estimated to cost the government approximately 3.1 billion dollars. Desalination plant was budgeted to take 47 percent of the total cost of the project. Marine structures were budgeted to take 18 percent while power supply was to take 7 percent. The transfer pipeline budget was 28 percent of the total capital cost (Mitchell et al. 2008, p.15). However, resulting from the financial crisis in 2009, additional costs were encountered, thus prompting borrowing of extra funds.
Resources that had to be planned for included materials for construction, human resource (staffing), and equipment. Upon conducting resource planning, the tender was awarded to AquaSure. The company proved that it had the required human resource capacity, technology, and equipment for executing the project. Millar and Schneiders (2011) support this claim by reckoning that AquaSure had ‘high energy efficiency membranes, producing high quality desalinated water matching Melbourne’s world-class water, with a solution that provided certainty to the delivery of water by the end of 2011’ (Para.3). The proposal by the company revealed that it was ready to offer highly dependable services.
The Victorian Desalination Project’s evaluation of bids was conducted by the end of 2009. In the same time, awarding of the contract was done. In the case of sequencing of the project’s activities that Murch (2001) and Nicholas (2001) refer as scheduling, various parts of the desalination plant such as marine structures, power supply, and transfer pipeline were allocated different times for starting and completion. The operation of the project was scheduled for December 2011. This date was set following the scheduling of completion of the project between September 2010 and June 2011. However, the operation date of the project was never realised.
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Projects encounter different types of risks, which may result in their failure. Consequently, the planning phase for projects requires development of strategies for risks management (PMI 2000). Risk planning entails identification and setting of strategies for responding to probable risks in a project (Alexander & Sheedy 2005; Kallman 2011). The main objective is to exploit the likelihood and cost of constructive proceedings besides reducing the chances and impacts of unfavourable actions on project goals (Mitchell 2008). In case of the desalination project, the government, the states and the contracted company agreed to assume various risks.
In the planning phase, the various risks that were likely to affect the project were identified. They included site risks, scope risks, designing, constructing, and commissioning risks, operational risks, industrial relations, law alteration risks, asset risks, and finance and sponsor risks among others. The state was to assume site risks, risks of key approval, natives’ claims, and land acquisition risks. AquaSure assumed environmental contamination and site conditions risks. Scope risks were planned to be taken up by the state. AquaSure planned to assume equally the threat of postponement of conclusion time together with the amplified building expenses accruing from other risks such as court rulings that prohibited the advancement of the scheme and law alterations. Lastly, AquaSure planned to take care of the risks of design and construction of various power supply and water systems.
The procurement department initiated the execution process by acquiring services and materials. The process of procurement required good management of the acquired material resources to ensure they were of the right quantity and quality. In the effort to ensure that the venture advanced as designed, the project administrator was required to prepare project development status statement. The government submitted and reviewed the reports. It was in charge of ensuring that the project delivered its deliverables on behalf of the public. Status reports were essential in ensuring the project delivered its set objectives as predetermined in the idea conception and planning stage.
In the execution of the project, change was inevitable. Bad weather and the impacts of economic crunch experienced in 2009 together with technical difficulties in the construction process made it necessary to make changes of the completion date of the project by extending it by one year. As part of change management, following the economic crunch on 2009, there were a myriad of change controls especially in matters of the project financing. These changes included procurement of various alternatives for funding to cater for the increased costs of resources for the project. These changes were incorporated to ensure that the quality of the final project remained as planned and specified in the project scope definition phase.
Monitoring and control of the Victorian Desalination Project was vital in ensuring the project remained on track never to slip from the path. Monitoring and control of the gathered data provided the means of forecasting the capacity of the project to comply precisely with the performance thresholds upon its completion as anticipated and developed in the planning phase. Forecasting also ensured that the project deliverables profiled the quality standards established for desalination plants. Through the project forecasts, the extents and thresholds to which the desalination project risks were mitigated so that they do not influence future performance of the project were determined.
Upon completion of a project, the project manager garners and releases the necessary documents detailing resources that have been consumed. These documents are then transferred to the project sponsors (Dessler 2004). In the case of the Victorian Desalination Project, managers sought administrative and legal acceptance of the project after having evidenced that the project delivered the objectives and goals that led to its creation.
When the project is accepted, the project manager releases the various staff members off their duties and responsibilities since the project does not exist anymore. Releasing staff people sets in the stage in which the project owner’s or sponsor’s staff that will be in charge of operating the project are trained on the project operations (Dessler 2004). For this project, AquaSure was the designer and the project executor. The company would also maintain and run the project operations for the next 27.7 years after are completion in December 2012. This implied that the organisation was to supply and train the human resource required in running the Victorian Desalination Project.
Before declaring that the Victorian Desalination Project was completed successfully, information on the extent to which all stakeholders were satisfied by the project, considering their claims, which translated into conflicts of interest in the planning phase, were provided. Such concerns also formed the basis of documentation of various lessons learnt from the project in a bid to ensure that other similar projects do not incur similar challenges in the future. Since the perceptions of the stakeholders on the project were satisfying and consistent with the performance and design requirements of the project, the project manager declared the Victorian Desalination Project complete, hence closing in December 2012.
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