The Environment External to the Project
Events external to the project often come as a surprise to the project team
and are therefore seen as obstacles to progress. However, projects generally
exist only because of that external environment. Hence, it is most important
for the project team to recognize that they must be responsive to it.
3.1 The Project Manager's External Responsibility
The project manager's job is not confined to controlling events within his
or her own project organization. Equally important - often more so to achieve
a successful project outcome - is the need to track the project's linkages to
the external environment. This is particularly true of "infra-structure"
projects which place emphasis on "development" and innovation and must
respond to increasingly rapid change.
It is not sufficient to think of project management as simply the monitoring
of time and cost by planning, scheduling and resource leveling, as many software
programs might have us believe. Nor even is it sufficient to include the many
other organizational tasks of the project manager, as leader of the project team.
Vitally important as all these things are, these are not sufficient for effective
and successful project management in today's dynamic world.
The reason is because every development project exists for a purpose relating
to, and within, its surrounding environment. It is convenient to refer to this
environment as the project's external environment, as distinct from the project's
internal organizational environment.
3.2 The External Environment
What is this project external environment ? It includes the established and
latest state-of-the-art technology in which the project is based, its customers
and competitors, its geographical, climatic, social, economic and political settings,
in fact, virtually everything that can impact its success. These factors can
effect the planning, organizing, staffing and directing which constitute the
project manager's main responsibilities.
This external environment represents a complex set of inter- dependent relationships,
which constantly react with the project as it is brought into reality. Conversely,
most projects are intended to impact the environment in one way or another, and
this is particularly true of infrastructure projects. Therefore, for the project
to be ultimately successful, these inter- dependencies must be taken into account.
Even more important, the factors noted above have a habit of changing during
the life of the project, especially if the project takes a number of years to
complete, and is brought on- stream in phases. This constitutes a high degree
of uncertainty or risk involved with the project, as a result of its external
environment. In fact, the greater the degree of interdependence, the greater
the degree of uncertainty, and the greater the challenge for the project manager
and his team.
Clearly, the environment will not be the same for every project. In fact, it
is likely to be determined principally by three considerations, namely:
- The product or service resulting from the project
- The technology and the manner of its application, and
- Its physical location
Thus, to identify potential difficulties, assess their probability of occurrence,
and to try to solve them in advance, the project team must learn to interact
frequently with those individuals and institutions which constitute the most
important elements of the project's external environment. Together with the project's
sponsors, owners and users, these people constitute the project's direct and
3.3 The Project Stakeholders
ŠOne technique for dealing effectively with this situation is to prioritize
the required stakeholder linkages by conducting a stakeholder analysis. Such
an analysis would be designed first to identify all the potential stakeholders
who might have an impact on the project, and then to determine their relative
ability to influence it.
Potential stakeholders may be thought of in the following categories:
- those who are directly related, i.e. suppliers of inputs, consumers of outputs,
and regulators of the process
- those who have influence over the physical, infra- structural, technological,
commercial/financial/ socioeconomic, or political/legal conditions
- those who are hierarchical such as government authorities at local, regional
and national levels, and
- those individuals, groups and associations, who have vested interests, sometimes
quite unrelated to the project, but who see it as an opportunity to pursue their
3.4 Stakeholder Categories
Having identified the various stakeholders, each may be assigned to a category
according to their relative ability to influence the project. There are three
- Those who are controllable
- Those who are influenceable, and
- Those who need to be appreciated
Within each category, each stakeholder may then be further rated by degree
of importance according to their ability to influence the project. Members of
the project team can then prioritize their efforts accordingly, and maintain
appropriate external linkages, to arrive at the best chances of ultimate project