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How technology makes project management more agile

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As traditional ways of doing business are constantly changing due to new technologies, businesses that embrace these changes stand to benefit significantly, while those that fail to respond could be left at a disadvantage, writes ALASTAIR SORBIE, CEO of IFS.

As traditional ways of doing business are turned on their head, a tidal wave of change is sweeping the field of project management.

Disruptive technologies, which encompass everything from artificial intelligence and robotics to machine-learning and the internet of things, are having a profound impact on business operations and processes.

While no industry can consider itself immune to the technology revolution, some sectors – manufacturing, construction and energy, for example – are being affected more than others.

And as the pace of disruption looks set to accelerate, organisations within these sectors need to embrace technological advancement, understand the implications for project management, and respond in a flexible and agile manner. By doing so, they stand to benefit significantly, while those that fail to respond could be left at a competitive disadvantage.

Beyond the impact of change on the project management function, in an increasingly tech-driven age, a chief executive needs to know how these changes will impact the boardroom. They need to be aware of the challenges, recognise the opportunities and understand the commercial realities.

Global enterprise applications firm IFS, a pioneer of agile business technology solutions, is seeing how the business world is responding, first hand.

Project management is becoming much more dynamic and multi-faceted, as a myriad of new devices and data streams continue to emerge, with companies increasingly implementing internet of things or IoT solutions. Rather than expecting project managers to simply tune into

this, businesses must communicate what is happening, clearly, from the top down, and weave innovation into their company culture and DNA.

Working with clients from a range of industries, IFS provides them with a range of tools designed to deliver visual insight, understand enterprise performance and enable better decision-making in an integrated way.

It is industries such as manufacturing and oil and gas, arguably the sectors most exposed to economic challenges and fluctuations, where an integrated project management solution can potentially deliver the biggest benefits.

However, organisations in these sectors need to adopt a management ethos that is both forward looking and efficiency driven, because for all the advantages that disruptive technologies such as IoT can bring to project management, as it becomes more widely adopted, it can create challenges.

A mismatch exists between the flexibility of these new disruptive technologies and the inflexibility of fixed mindsets that many companies bring to project management.

For example, project lifecycles tend to be complex in nature, and managers will often use different software products to manage various stages of the project from tendering through to commissioning and servicing. This fragmented approach is problematic as disparate

project areas are unable to ‘talk’ to each other. This leads to managers spending more time and energy mapping and monitoring their relationships and connections, which in turn leads to a lack of efficiency.

The IFS Enterprise Operational Intelligence solution enables an enterprise-wide, top-down perspective of processes and performance aligned with the business strategy.

There is also the issue of a technology mismatch, with many organisations relying on outdated, cumbersome legacy business systems that are unable to support modern IoT platforms. In a changing technology landscape, companies must ensure they have the right tools to adjust and take stock.

Resolving this type of challenge requires a change of mindset and culture. Sectors with ageing workforces will have to engage the more conservative project managers by educating them about these new technologies and how project management tools should evolve accordingly.

The benefits of an integrated project management solution, one that offers enhanced control and visibility, and real-time control over cost, cash, time, resources and risk, are being realised by a growing number of global companies.

The IFS Enterprise Operational Intelligence (EOI) solution enables an enterprise-wide, top-down perspective of processes and performance aligned with the business strategy, and was recently adopted by a well-known North American service provider.

Project success rates could be further increased if companies avoided off-the-shelf solutions and opted instead for solutions that can be configured to the needs of their industry and scopes of their budgets.

Organisations cannot afford to ignore the technological changes that are already taking place and will undoubtedly increase over time. It is imperative that they abandon traditional, fixed, process-driven approaches to project management in favour of one built around principles, and based on flexibility and agility.

Companies should now be focusing on an integrated project management suite, one that captures the true spirit of IoT, and enables them to adapt to constant change and disruption, and most importantly, to maintain their competitive edge for today – and for what’s next.

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Samsung unleashes the beast

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Most new smartphone releases of the past few years have been like cat-and-mouse games with consumers and each other. It has been as if morsels of cheese are thrown into the box to make it more interesting: a little extra camera here, a little more battery there, and incremental changes to size, speed (more) and weight (less). Each change moves the needle of innovation ever-so-slightly. Until we find ourselves, a few years later, with a handset that is revolutionary compared to six years ago, but an anti-climax relative to six months before.

And then came Samsung. Probably stung by the “incremental improvement” phrase that has become almost a cliché about new Galaxy devices, the Korean giant chose to unleash a beast last week.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is not only the biggest smartphone Samsung has ever released, but one of the biggest flagship handsets that can still be called a phone. With a 6.4” display, it suddenly competes with mini-tablets and gaming consoles, among other devices that had previously faced little contest from handsets.

It offers almost ever cutting edge introduced to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones earlier this year, including the market-leading f1.5 aperture lens, and an f2.4. telephoto lens, each weighing in at 12 Megapixels. The front lens is equally impressive, with an f1.7 aperture – first introduced on the Note 8 as the widest yet on a selfie camera.

So far, so S9. However, the Note range has always been set apart by its S Pen stylus, and each edition has added new features. Born as a mere pen that writes on screens, it evolved through the likes of pressure sensitivity, allowing for artistic expression, and cut-and-paste text with translation-on-the-fly.

(Click here or below to read more about the Samsung Galaxy S Pen stylus) Samsung Galaxy S9 Features)

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SA ride permit system ‘broken’

Despite the amendments to the National Land Transport Act, ALON LITS, General Manager, Uber in Sub Saharan Africa, believes that many premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

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The spirit and intention of the amendments to the National Land Transport Act No 5  (NLTA), 2009 put forward by the Ministry of Transport are to be commended. It is especially pleasing that these amendments include ridesharing and e-hailing operators and drivers as legitimate participants in the country’s public transport system, which point to government’s willingness to embrace the changes and innovation taking place in the country’s transport industry.

However, there are aspects of the proposed amendments that are, at best, premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

Of particular concern are the significant financial penalties that will need to be paid by ridesharing and e-hailing companies whose independent operators are found to be transporting passengers without a legal permit issued by the relevant local authority. These fines can be as high as R100 000 per driver operating without a permit. Apart from being an excessive penalty it is grossly unfair given that a large number of local authorities don’t yet have functioning permit issuing systems and processes in place.

The truth is that the operating permit issuance system in South Africa is effectively broken. The application and issuance processes for operating licenses are fundamentally flawed and subject to extensive delays, sometimes over a year in length.  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it is very difficult for applicants whose permit applications haven’t yet been approved to get reasons for the extensive delays on the issuing of those permits.

Uber has had extensive first-hand experience with the frustratingly slow process of applying for these permits, with drivers often having to wait months and, in some cases more than a year, for their permits.

Sadly, there appears to be no sense of urgency amongst local authorities to prioritise fixing the flawed permit issuing systems and processes or address the large, and growing, backlogs of permit applications. As such, in order for the proposed stringent permit enforcement rules to be effective and fair to all role players, the long-standing issues around permit issuance first need to be addressed. At the very least, before the proposed legislation amendments are implemented, the National Transport Ministry needs to address the following issues:

  1. Efficient processes and systems must be put in place in all local authorities to allow drivers to easily apply for the operating permits they require
  2. Service level agreements need to be put in place with local authorities whereby they are required to assess applications and issue permits within the prescribed 60-day period.
  3. Local authorities need to be given deadlines by which their current permit application backlogs must be addressed to allow for faster processing of new applications once the amendments are promulgated.

If the Transport Ministry implements the proposed legislation amendments before ensuring that these permit issuance challenges are addressed, many drivers will be faced with the difficult choice of either having to operate illegally whilst awaiting their approved permits and risking significant fines and/or arrest, or stopping operations until they receive their permits, thereby losing what is, for many of them, their only source of income.

As such, if the Ministry of Transport is not able to address these particular challenges, it is only reasonable to ask it to reconsider this amendment and delay its implementation until the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure it does not impact negatively on the country’s transport industry. The legislators must have been aware of the challenges of passing such a significant law, as the Amendment Bill allows for the Minister to use his discretion to delay implementation of provisions for up to 5 years.

Fair trade and healthy competition are the cornerstones of any effective and growing economy. However, these clauses (Section 66 (7) and Section 66A) of the NLTA amendment, as well as the proposal that regulators be given authority to define the geographic locations or zones in which vehicles may operate, are contrary to the spirit of both. As a good corporate citizen, Uber is committed to supplementing and enhancing South Africa’s national transport system and contributing positively to the industry. If passed into law without the revisions suggested above, these new amendments will limit our business and many others from playing the supportive roles we all can, and should, in growing the SA transport and tourism industries as well as many other key economic sectors.

What’s more, if passed as they currently stand, the amendments will effectively limit South African consumers from having full access to the range of convenient transport options they deserve; which has the potential to harm the reputation and credibility of the entire transport industry.

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