China outdoes India in project management

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/10/24 22:53:39

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

Despite having suffered setbacks in recent years amid overseas expansion moves that have often taken the form of bidding and contracting, Chinese businesses are still seen as having done an impressive job in terms of nurturing project management professionals, especially in comparison to their Indian counterparts who have also mapped out a path toward global expansion.

China and India have very different cultures as well as different expectations. Chinese organizations understand the need to be dedicated to the long term, while Indian companies are more interested in the short-term goals and objectives and are less inclined to have a long-term vision. In regard to certification, not many Indian organizations support certification in the way that Chinese organizations do, so convincing companies of the value of project management is harder in India than in China.

What is also baffling is that IT accounts for a big part of the Indian economy, and IT project management is prolific. However, the Indians haven't picked up on project management certification. Instead, they practice a lot of what's known as accidental project management in which someone - an accidental project manager - with little or no formal training in the field ends up managing and overseeing the project, which is not an effective long-term solution.

The Project Management Institute (PMI), a US-based parent organization of Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, for its part, has invested the same amount of human capital and money in both the Chinese and Indian markets. Despite the fact that the PMI has been present as a wholly owned foreign incorporate entity in China and in India for relatively the same length of time, the rate of return on the institute's investment in China is several times more than that in India. The PMI has a little under 30,000 certified practitioners in India, according to the institute's statistics, but in China, that number is close to 150,000. 

That said, there is the possibility that India may pick up the pace in its shift toward a more long-term vision and thus give greater importance to project management certification. That should be partly attributed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's initiatives, such as "Make in India," which are dedicated to infrastructure development. Some of the most significant issues that India faces is that the country's infrastructure is fairly bad, especially its electrical grid, which is often considered unreliable. In order to have effective manufacturing and durable goods operations, India needs a stable and reliable electrical grid, as part of the government's long-term vision for putting the South Asian economy on the right track. If India follows through on establishing a more long-term vision, its economy would be highly competitive.

Nevertheless, even under this scenario, the number of truly recognized project management professionals in India would not be as much as what China has right now. Currently, China is the second largest market in the globe for project management, only behind the US. It is believed that over time, given the mere population difference and the chance for professional job offerings, the opportunity to grow the project management profession in China is significantly greater than it is in the US. Sometime in the future, the pure number of PMPs in China are expected to exceed those in the US.

Still worth noting is that this rise should not be taken for granted. Over the course of outnumbering PMPs in the US, it's advisable that organizations from China going to do business overseas need to understand the environment of business in that area, especially the political environment, and adapt their ways of doing things to how things are done locally.

The primary challenge, it should be pointed out, is that like any multinational organization that is attempting to do business outside its normal comfort zone, there are going to be cultural issues that need to be dealt with. The vast majority of time, there will be subcontract relationships that the overseas operations will need to develop. Along with those subcontract relationships, there is the issue of multi-functional teams and cross-functional teams that will need to be managed by the prime contractor. And if the Chinese businesses are the prime contractor, they are going to face issues in understanding business vernacular.

Other than meeting the business goals, Chinese companies should be flexible in adapting their businesses to local requirements in order to capture the full potential of their emphasis on professionalism in project management.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Li Qiaoyi based on an interview with Craig Killough, vice president of Organization Markets at Project Management Institute (PMI) in Beijing on Saturday on the sidelines of the PMI (China) Congress 2016. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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