The Project's External Surroundings
On some projects, events external to the project sometimes come as a surprise
to the project manager and his team and are therefore seen as obstacles to progress.
However, as noted earlier, projects generally exist only because of that external
environment and so it is essential for the project team to recognize that they
must also be responsive to it.
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 affect 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 translates into a high degree
of uncertainty or risk surrounding 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.
Not the Same for Every Project
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
To identify potential difficulties stemming from the project's stakeholders,
assess their probability of occurrence, and to try to head them off 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 indirect stakeholders.