by Jurie Smith

Good Project Management, Good People Management

Human Resources

Managing human assets
Managing human assets

“For companies to survive, it is essential that they update their approach to managing their most important asset - their people.”- Gordon L. Simpson, Critical Importance of People Management.

Project Management – whether it pertains to a nation’s government or private sector – is all about people. The realisation of this fact is a catalyst for South African project managers to gain the skills they require to be on par with their international counterparts.

The human factor is an element that needs to be considered in strategic planning – that is: prior to the project being approved (preliminary planning), during the approval process, on implementation, and throughout the lifecycle of the project.

Fundamentally, people management is a key component to every project’s success.

Therefore, management can be defined as achieving the desired goals and objectives of the organisation, by the efficient and effective utilisation of resources through people. This involves planning, leading, organising and controlling both the physical resources as well as the individuals, in the project.

In my experience at PM Academy, project management requires a ratio of 80% people skills and 20% technical project management. This indicates that a great amount of effort and knowledge, of how to sell the undertaking to the essential ingredient – human beings, is indispensable.

If you can persuade people to work towards a common goal during the lifespan of the project, you have the greatest part of the project already accomplished!

However, this is easier said than done, and sometimes involves getting people to do things that they least want to do.

Proficient project management ought to bring a mixture of business acumen, project management experience, and people skills to the table. A good project manager is a strategic asset to the business as this individual is charged with spearheading the strategic and change initiatives within an organisation.

Projects are the architects of change in a business and as a result, one needs to closely manage the change that people will go through once a project has begun. It is not uncommon for people in a business to go through a gamut of emotions from denial to resistance to participation and, eventually, sometimes, acceptance during a project. Knowing how to manage this change cycle is important if a project is to survive.

Furthermore, according to Prosci's research-based methodology, the Project Manager, has to plan for change, manage change and reinforce the change the project will take the organisation through as well as what the people involved will experience.

When companies realise the importance of the people element and are equipped to deal with it, there might be a drastic reduction in the number of projects that fail.

According to information gathered at PM Academy, approximately 53% of South African IT projects fail; about 50% of IT projects in small companies flop; 37% of IT projects in medium-sized companies nosedive; and in large companies, failure happens about 59% of the time.

However, if a project does not fail altogether, the likelihood that it will supersede the budget is also quite high. The surpassing of the financial plan can be attributed, chiefly, to the inefficiencies surrounding people management, regardless of the size of the organisation. Overruns cost on average, per project, R73 000 in small companies and R908 000 in large ones, relating to information gathered at PM Academy.

While managing the skills, at a company's disposal, can prove to be an enigma, the lack of resources can be another predicament, all on its own.

In the long run, resources in an organisation are a scarce commodity. The more projects are embarked on, the more thinly spread the resources will be across the organisation. It is, therefore, of critical importance to look at the portfolio of projects that will be executed over the medium-and short-term to make sure that correct resource allocation takes place with the right skills and knowledge to execute successful projects.

Jurie Smith (MBA, PMP®, PRINCE2® Practitioner, and MSP®) is the CEO at the PM Academy. He is an experienced business executive with over 24 years’ experience in project management consulting and training. He is a Project Management Assessor registered with the Services SETA, an Executive on the Steering Committee of the Project Management Standards Generating Body and has held various executive positions at Project Management South Africa (PMSA). For further details, or visit
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Issue 29


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