IPMA International Project Management Association
17 December 2015 / 9:50

Sharing and Learning through Megaprojects: Building bridges on knowledge and competence

The project world that we live in is becoming megaproject world. Megaprojects are big investment projects whose purpose is to make the “mega” for client and contractors, from one side, but also for the community itself from the other side.

aerial view of the city overpass in early morning, HongKong,Asia China

In the megaproject world megaprojects experts explore their performance, why they fail often and what are reasons for that. KPMG in their 2013 report state that effective management of mega-projects relies on three key concepts: early planning and organizing, stakeholder communication and project controls integration, and continuous improvement. The UK construction industry often struggles to apply lessons learned from their own previous experiences, and from other projects in the industry. In his well-known book, Merrow (2011, Industrial Megaprojects) explains that megaprojects fail so often because of greed, schedule pressure, gap, up front spending, cost cut policy, risk strategy and firing people. In the period from 2013-2030, US $57 trilion is needed for global infrastructure investment – just to keep the growth of the GDP. On the other hand, 20% of gross global product (US $12 trillion per year) is spent on fixed capital projects worldwide. EY’s report from 2015 states that infrastructure investment will double in next 15 years. Although there is a boom in capital spending, 64% of megaprojects experience over run, and 71% of megaprojects expect to spend more on projects next year than they did this year. Well known iron triangle (time, cost and quality) gives base for only certain level of understanding success of megaproject and 65% of megaprojects does not fulfill its objectives (E.W. Merrow, 2011). EY’s research on the performance of 365 oil and gas megaprojects showed that 64% are facing cost overruns and 73% are reporting schedule delays. We can assume many reasons for this black statics, but for sure, one of them is competent managing of megaprojects.

World of megaprojects has been research focus of the: OMEGA Centre, NETLIPSE, COST ACTION MEGAPROJECT, CONCEPT, IMEC study and more others. Recently, MEGAPROJECT COST Action published Delivering European Megaproject book, an open source group of 30 cross-sectoral cases, where over 80 researches worked together in order to improve the design and delivery of megaprojects across sectors in Europe. The idea of the research was to bring together 50 European megaprojects and recognize characteristics that are associated with good and bad megaproject delivery performance. The work of MEGAPROJECT is documented in the following reports:

In the OMEGA Centre researches identified the key lessons for thinking differently about mega-transport project (MTP) planning, appraisal & delivery. Key mission of the Centre is to determine the success of those projects including complexities, uncertainties, risks and opportunities of those projects in different context. The OMEGA case studies describe project profiles of 30 Mega Urban Transport Projects (MUTPs) case studies from 10 different countries. Lessons learned from those case studies and 300 stakeholder interviews are:

  • MTP’s as ‘agents of change’,
  • MTP’s as‘open systems’,
  • MTP’s as ‘organic’ phenomena,
  • Proper framing of MTPs,
  • Power & influence of context.

A selection of key findings from this five-year research study of Decision-Making in the Planning, Appraisal and Delivery of MTPs is presented in the executive summary: Lessons for Decision-makers (OMEGA 2 Study).

Panama Canal

As a world’s first International PM Organization established in 1965 (we celebrated 50 Anniversary this year), IPMA is leading the way of managing projects through competence, knowledge and performance. IPMA is a Federation of more than 60 Member Associations (MAs) and represents the world’s first global project management association and it is the authority on competent project, programme and portfolio management. Sharing and learning are the key drivers for understanding megaprojects. It is a question of how to apply concept of megaprojects into different context, where there is a crucial importance of information sharing in megaprojects. Following that facts, IPMA’s practice covers three aspects of megaprojects trough:

IPMA ICB4 standard proves its value for practitioners and stakeholders. IPMA OCB is standard for organizations. It highlight PM knowledge, and the key competences expected from managers of projects, programmes and portfolios. The IPMA recognizes the importance of megaprojects in delivering the needs of the society and the complex challenges that they present in project delivery. More and more experts act cross-country and therefore are interested in an international exchange. Therefore, IPMA initiated the 1st Megaprojects SIG meeting as a contribution to the PM profession.

The importance of megaprojects originates from the fact that the society largely invests in available future resources, so megaprojects create and determine our future. IPMA competences offer knowledge to shape that future.






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Author of this post

Sandra currently works as Assistant to the IPMA President and Executive Director. Since joining IPMA in 2012, Sandra worked in FMCG sector for Procter&Gamble. She holds Master in Economics from Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Zagreb. After graduation she continued at the same University the doctoral programme in Business Economics. Her particular research interest is behavioral economics.