IPMA International Project Management Association
21 May 2015 / 6:45

Projects and Project Management in Malaysia

Last week the IPMA ExBo conducted a board meeting in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. The visit was already planned last year and based on an invitation of our new member, the MAPM Malaysian Association of Project Management. This report summarizes the most important events in the context of our visit and gives an overview of country, people, projects and project management.

Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia, which consists of different parts that border on Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and the Sultanate of Brunei. Approximately 30 million inhabitants live in Malaysia, including Malays, Chinese, Indians and a number of indigenous tribes. In addition, more than approximately 700,000 people from foreign countries work in the country. The majority of the population is Muslim, but religion does not play a dominant role in comparison to conservative islamic states. After the colonial period, the British Malaysia gained its independence in 1963. Malaysia is a founding member of the State Union ASEAN and has in recent years, particularly due to oil and gas production continued to evolve.

The economy has changed dramatically in recent years. In the 1970s, the predominantly mining and agricultural-based economy began a transition towards a more multi-sector economy. Today, especially the oil and gas production, tourism and various branches of production, enable a continuous upswing. This upswing shapes the capital Kuala Lumpur, high-rise buildings (such as the Petronas Towers) and major infrastructure projects characterize the city that always continues to spread in all directions. More than 3.5 million people live in the capital, and the numbers still increase. Thus, the government has transferred its administrative centre further to the outside Putrajava.  This city is artificially created on former tin mines and plantations and has more than enough space for thousands of administrative staff. Putrajaya consists of artificial lakes, residential space and vast green spaces, a convention centre, ministries and some parade examples of Islamic architecture. Very close is also Cyberjaya, a collection of technology centres and universities.

Projects take place in very different areas. The growing population needs to be provided with affordable housing in the cities. In addition, the conversion from an agrarian into an industrial country requires a large number of projects and the expansion of energy and infrastructure. Tourism also requires a transformation and new capabilities, such as the airport in Kuala Lumpur, which was opened in 1998 and serves as hub for tourists coming into the region. The most important issue for the future of Malaysia in transformation is the education of the people. The Ministry of Education is striving hard to improve the education of the population at all levels  in order to keep up with the increasing demands, reducing the dependency on foreign professionals or a knowledge transfer from other countries.


Recently, Malaysia discovered project management as an important success factor. In the past, mostly foreign professionals took over the responsibility for project management and provided their services as general contractors for the coordination of project work. In 2013 the Malaysian Association of Project Management was founded to support the development of necessary competences. Last year MAPM joined the IPMA to get support, network with other associations in the region and create a project management approach that fits the country-specific situation. MAPM started an Award programme, that is targeting achievements of project managers and young project managers. The programme is built on the renowned IPMA Achievement Award programme. Furthermore, MAPM in cooperation with Green Project Management started a special stream of awards for sustainable solutions in projects and programmes in Malaysia. The intention of MAPM is to extend the Award Programme and enable the recognition of excellent project management through the Project Excellence Awards.

During the stay of IPMA´s ExBo a start-up meeting was conducted for AsiaNet, a regional network of IPMA Member Associations and those to come. It was concluded by the attendees to regularly meet and to exchange experiences in moving the profession forward. It is also intended to have regional events, joint award programmes and other activities. Due to large differences in culture, economy and society in comparison to Europe, the region requires a customized project management. The IPMA ICB could be used as basis for the establishment of a national qualification framework and the development of customized curricula. But a thorough localisation is needed. Through the IPMA OCB the organisations could be supported to establish a framework for projects, programmes and portfolios.

IPMA´s involvement in the ISO/TC258 Project, Programme and Portfolio Management could be leveraged for the countries in that region. At the end of the AsiaNet meeting the participants concluded, that an IPMA Membership brings on the one hand a lot of benefits and support to them, on the other hand they can develop their own approaches and success stories based on the specific situation in their countries.


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Reinhard Wagner

Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.