Walker, D. (2015), "About this issue", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 8 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMPB-04-2015-0031Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
About this issue
Article Type: Editorial From: International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Volume 8, Issue 3.
This issue comprises ten papers. There are eight regular papers, a Research Note and a Thesis Research Note plus one book review. The first three papers originally delivered at the 2014 EURAM conference in Valencia Spain were amended and updated. Papers 1 and 2 take different perspectives on public-private partnership (PPP) and private finance initiative (PFI) type projects while the third paper addresses relationships between product suppliers and designers in construction projects. The remaining papers relate to a variety of interesting and useful project management topics.
Sustainable energy innovation design for construction projects can help deliver important benefits to society in terms of the sustainable consumption of energy. The first paper is entitled “Assessing the quality of collaboration towards the achievement of sustainable energy innovation in PFI school projects” and comes from Sulafa M. Badi and Stephen D. Pryke from the UK. This is an important paper to readers with an interest in the critical analysis of antecedents to innovation in PPPs and PFI-type projects. The paper systematically investigates the systems integration role in interface management of the relationship between the innovation superstructure of public sector clients and users, and the innovation infrastructure of private sector designers, contractors and operators. The context of the paper is sustainable energy innovation using four new-build case study school PPP projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with key knowledgeable actors from the client-side local authorities, the special purpose vehicle (SPV) and the school stakeholders. Findings suggest that PFI has introduced a number of problematic issues that weakened innovation collaborative efforts. Contrary to often cited strong advantages of PPP/PFIs for design flexibility, collaboration enabling innovation and more effective risk sharing this study underlines the restricting internal contractual relationships within the integrated SPV and the misalignment of Design-Construction-Operation sustainability objectives. It also highlights ineffective communication with public sector clients and users brought in by the restricted nature of PFI engagement processes as well as the misalignment of public sector-private sector sustainability objectives. Its analysis expands our understanding of innovation and collaboration management processes in PFI/PPP projects in three respects: first, addressing the limited attention to innovation in PFI research, the study is the first to examine the quality of collaboration in PFI projects towards the implementation Sustainable Energy Innovation. Second, examining the quality of collaboration in PFI projects through the lens of CoPS provides a new understanding of sustainability innovation and strongly indicates that the CoPS model should be expanded to account for the dynamics of innovation processes in the procurement of sustainable complex product systems such as that found in PFI/PPP projects. Third, the explorative nature of the study was useful in generating research hypotheses that can form the basis for future research on sustainable PFI/PPP project innovation.
Improving our understanding of transaction cost economics is essential to understanding value for money in PPP or PFI delivered projects. The second paper also relates to PPPs though it is written from the perspective of transaction costs. It is entitled “Transaction cost analysis of public infrastructure delivery” and written by Steven De Schepper, Elvira Haezendonck, Elvira and Michaël Dooms. This paper considers and analyses three attributes of transaction costs: asset specificity, transaction uncertainty and transaction frequency. It uses non-parametric tests to analyse the transaction cost differences between different procurement types based on a sample of 172 Belgian public infrastructure projects. Research results suggest that construction firms make higher relation-specific investments to their transaction partners under a PPP than under traditional public project procurement alternatives. In addition, they found that PPP transactions are burdened by greater uncertainty and a less mature market than traditional project procurement transactions. The paper offers policy makers a means to form a better understanding of the transaction cost implications when evaluating different procurement types. While the project management literature related to PPPs recognises transaction costs in general this paper serves as one of the first systematic comparative analyses of the magnitude and determinants of transaction costs for public infrastructure delivery.
Our understanding of how to effectively manage the supply chain in construction projects is hampered by a dearth of recent research into relationships between the designer team and suppliers in a construction supply chain, particularly as project delivery forms are moving towards closer forms of collaboration. Paper 3 comes to us from Finland. It is authored by Rami Sarola and Miia Maarit Martinsuo and entitled “Framework for enhanced third-party relationships in project networks” and addresses an important part of relationship management in construction supply chains, particularly for construction components. This paper provides a useful thematic compliment to the first two papers in this issue. While there is much research interest leading to a better understanding of client/designer/contractor relationship management in the construction context, there are few research examples of data and analysis of the “hands-off” third-party relationships between designers and suppliers. The authors develop propositions and a framework in this paper on enhanced relationship strength between component suppliers and designers as third parties. Based on interviews with 20 design experts from a previous stage of the study and an extensive critical review of the literature, the authors develop a conceptual framework of factors that explain relationship strength between the suppliers and designers in project networks. The main contribution made in this paper is that it identifies cooperative practices for construction component suppliers to enhance their relationship strength with third parties in project networks and it offers important knowledge about third-party relationships of suppliers in project networks, beyond a simple dyadic relationship in the direct supply chain.
Effective learning about the field of managing projects is an essential component of a system to support improving the way that projects are delivered. Much of this learning these days takes place through post-graduate courses of study in project management by combining theory and practice and facilitating a structured learning experience that impacts on the learner outcomes to improve their participation and leadership of project teams. Paper 4 addresses this issue. It is entitled “Project management and leadership education facilitated as projects” and is authored by Arthur W. Shelley from Australia. Courses as projects with milestones that incorporate the “language of projects” into the course lexicon allow students to apply the principles of learning to their own practice as they learn to incorporate the theories and reflect on their impact for their projects, within their own contexts. They report this to be an effective approach because it reinforces their learning and highlights practical outcomes. An action learning research approach was adopted to develop and improve these masters and doctoral level advanced PM courses involving considerable reflection and feedback by participants and the course developer. Courses were significantly changed through each of four development cycles between 2011 and 2014, including insights from a virtual offering and an intensive mode offering in Vietnam. During that time these courses evolved from delivery to a small numbers of students (up to 15) working completely independently and primarily remotely, to the current format using a collaborative wiki and four intensive face-to-face workshops with numbers in the 25-40 range. Significant changes have been made to the structure, timing, readings and format of delivery during these four cycles. This foundational research illustrates what can be done to support the proposition that more sophisticated hybrid education processes will greatly assist to develop adaptable project managers and leaders. Shelley argues that embedding the language of PM practice into an experiential learning environment that necessitates application of theories as they are being learnt, with reflection about their impact, increases the relevancy of the learning and retention of the knowledge.
The topic area of processing information and data provides a link between papers 5 and 6. The process of estimation of costs associated with delivering software projects is far from certain when compared with, for example, processes of estimating construction project costs. This provides a valuable knowledge gap to be filled especially as software engineering and development is an area of rapid technological change. Paper 6 is entitled “Top management support in software cost estimation: a study of attitudes and practice in Finland” and is written by Jurka Rahikkala, Ville Leppänen, Jukka Ruohonen and Johannes Holvitie and, from Finland. The authors argue that software projects still suffer from inaccurate estimates and that this disparity may result from organisational hindrances. Their paper focuses on top management support for software cost estimation by identifying top management involvement current practices and attitudes towards software cost estimation and they analyse the relationship between these two dimensions and project success. Using data collected from a survey of 114 software professionals in Finland to capture the frequency of use and the experienced importance of support practices, they identified 16 top management support practices for software cost estimation. They found that top management invests a significant amount of attention in software cost estimation, however, correlations between the frequency of use, attitudes and project success were analysed and they found that their results did not reveal significant relationships between top management support in software cost estimation and project success. They discuss paradoxical and unexpected results to reveal insights into this important sector of PM activity.
We seem to see relatively few papers reporting on case studies in Japan and Singapore these days and yet these countries, particularly Japan, can teach us much about the value of knowledge and organisational learning. The seventh paper entitled “Emergence of common tacit knowledge in an international IT project: a case study between Japan and Singapore” by Miwa Nishinaka, Katsuhiro Umemoto and Youji Kohda, examines knowledge processes in an international IT outsourcing project between two countries when business knowledge is transferred from one country to the other. The authors present a theoretical model relating to knowledge processes in international projects which explains emergence of international common understanding as one of the solutions for knowledge-related challenges in international projects. The empirical study was conducted at the headquarters of a chemical company in Japan and its subsidiary in Singapore. The study employed a qualitative analysis method. Five interviews of 40-60 minutes duration were conducted with key actors relevant to the knowledge transfer in these companies and transcribed. The results were analysed according to grounded theory. The authors propose an “Analysis, Realization and Creation” (ARC) Model of Knowledge Management in International IT Outsourcing Projects, which is a new theoretical model of project knowledge management in international settings, taken from a localisation into knowledge processes perspective. They argue that international common understanding will emerge from an understanding of thinking of each locale that brings a project to a successful conclusion. As an academic contribution, they found that if a common understanding emerges, then localisation is promoted and they also found that tacit knowledge is transferred even in virtual settings. In addition, the research synthesises project knowledge management and cross-cultural knowledge management and expands the role of knowledge management into international project settings. As a practical contribution, the theoretical implications and the theoretical model contribute to international projects in actual businesses to promote localisation. Project managers and/or managers can utilise the model for what, when, and how they plan their strategies or manage their projects. This paper may also have implications for readers interested in understanding collaboration on projects involving both national and organisational different cultures.
Prioritising and managing resources within and across projects has been a continual challenge to project managers. Several theories of resource allocation have been widely used over many years but more recently, perspectives of value and benefit have required us to re-think how several of these isolated theories may be integrated to better serve the management of projects. The eighth paper entitled “Inclusion of strategic management theories to project management” by David W. Parker, Nicholas Parsons and Fitri Isharyanto from Australia addresses this issue. It explores the relationship between resource scarcity, resource dependency and the constraints that these phenomena place upon successful project outcomes. It first discusses the theory of constraints (TOC), resource-based view (RBV) theory, resources advantage theory (RAT), resource dependence theory (RDT) and conventional structured project management techniques. A conceptual framework of the combined theories is then described to allow a number of propositions to be identified that lead to an integrated, unified framework being developed. Results from exploratory testing against the Channel Tunnel and Heathrow Terminal 5 cases are drawn to test the framework’s validity. The contribution made by this paper is to examine the components of a successful project to highlight the validity of applying TOC, RAT and RDT into an integrated project-based management framework that offers new insights to resources management.
The ninth paper in this issue is an interesting research note from Steven Fox in Finland and Stefan Grösser in Switzerland entitled “Economical information and communication design for multi-national projects”. Research notes provide opportunities for emerging theories or research topics to be published to allow our PM research area to gain access to recent migration and adaptation of ideas from other disciplines or where new ideas are being exposed from the project organising field that need exposure and publication but may not yet be tested sufficiently to be submitted as a regular research paper. This research note provides some thought provoking new ideas for us to consider and absorb. Much of what can be considered as “project work” is about communication and sharing perspectives of what needs to be done and how it can be done to deliver projects. Information design seeks to improve the effectiveness of information, while communication design is concerned with the selection of media most suitable for carrying particular information to specific audiences/recipients. In this paper, an example of economical information and communication design for a multi-sector multi-national project is reported upon. This is a step forward from the few previous examples of information and communication design for multi-national projects, which have focused on more elaborate methods such as symbol systems and story boards developed with graphic designers that one of the authors had published in this journal (Fox, 2009). The paper used an action research approach with ten practitioners from five different countries and five different engineering sectors using business English to collaborate. When different people collaborate to co-create value through innovation they meet potential barriers relating to understanding and cultural interpretation of words and phrases and this impacts their capacity to form a consensus on purpose, aims and means for example as well as leveraging from literature and checklists to progress projects. Gaining a deeper understanding of means, processes and common goals to manage projects is essential and so this paper’s stimulating start on a focus on how economical information and communication design can be considered and applied presents a novel contribution to project management practice.
Paper 10 is a Thesis Research Note entitled “Influence of ethical behaviors in corporate governance” written by successful PhD candidate Eduardo V. Lopez from the USA and his supervisor Alicia Medina from Sweden. This PhD was undertaken at SKEMA in France in a programme that has delivered many PhD’s that have help advance PM practice and theory. The thesis (available from www.dropbox.com/s/1gikjlh6qw0v26u/Dissertation_Eduardo_Lopez_03122015.pdf?dl=0) reports on a study of approaches to ethics related to corporate governance that led to the development of two novel constructs, Small Sins Allowed and Line of Impunity. This corporate governance research was particularly oriented towards the fundamentals of ethics that govern individual and collective behaviours within the corporate world. This is a vitally important aspect of project management practice if true and sustainable value is to be generated through projects. It also provides a valuable contribution through providing insights into the candidate’s PhD journey and how SKEMA and the supervisors experience in facilitating this PhD thesis occurred. Many universities around the world have PhD part time candidates such as in this example, where they undertake a PhD while engaged full time in the career and PM practice.
Finally a book review is presented of a new book by Wearne and White-Hunt entitled Managing the Urgent and Unexpected: Twelve Project Cases and a Commentary, as part of the Gower series of short (around 100 pages) books on advanced PM topics. This book presents a series of case study projects which were initiated in response to emergencies, crises and to respond to unexpected opportunities. It should be of interest to any project management practitioners or scholars that are looking for insights into the delivery of projects in disaster recovery situations. It also makes a valuable contribution to our wider understanding of rapid response project delivery.
Fox, S. (2009), “Information and communication design for multi-disciplinary multi-national projects”, International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 2 No. 4, pp. 536-560