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Project Management in Small High Technology Firms

Project management is important for companies and this certainly applies to small- and mid-sized firms challenging larger enterprises in a dynamic environment characterized by intense competition, globalization and customer demands for quality and timeliness.  A good deal of research has been done on project management in larger organizations; however, relatively little has been written about project management techniques in smaller companies with much more limited resources.  One exception is a paper written by Murphy and Ledwith that reported the results of a survey of more than 100 owner/managers of small high technology businesses in Ireland regarding various issues and techniques associated with their attempts to implement project management systems and techniques.

Key findings of the survey, as well as a review of related empirical studies by the authors of the paper, included the following: the critical criteria for assessing whether a project was “successful” included time, cost, quality and client satisfaction; the critical factors that contributed to the “success” of a project included top management support, clear goals and objectives, planning and control, resource allocation, risk management and client consultation; respondents strongly agreed that a well defined project management process was necessary for projects to be successfully implemented and that previous experience was a key factor in implementing an effective project management system; and respondents acknowledged that large organizations approach projects in a different manner than smaller firms and that organizational structure affects project management.

Owner/managers of small firms realize that larger organizations arguably have certain advantages over smaller firms with respect to project management—greater capital and resources and greater specialization; however, they did not accept the notion that project management was too complex and costly to be used by smaller firms.  When asked for specific ideas about how project performance could be improved they suggested making sure that project tasks took priority over other work, more control of project teams, clearer goals and communications channels and more emphasis on fact finding and client input at the conception stage.  The most popular project management tools and techniques among the respondents included formal project planning software, Gantt charts, project teams and change control processes.


Indian Business Systems

Traditional cultural values in India are high on paternalism, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, and loyalty towards community and Indian management systems are based upon centuries of rules and regulations from various dominating empires; different religions; a very influential caste system that, knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or unintentionally, influences the organizational system of Indian enterprises; the British Raj who ruled India for about 200 years; and more recently, the globalization of world economies and its influence on the Indian management system.  Things are gradually changing, however, as India continues to be exposed to foreign multinationals and the challenges of competing in the global marketplace and Indians become more open to adopting and accepting Western business practices and institutions including professional organizational and managerial structures and governance standards.  This report provides a brief overview of Indian business systems.


Strategic Planning for Research & Development

The activities of the R&D group should be consistent with, and fully support, the overall business and technology strategy of the company.  As such, the decisions made by senior management regarding the role that technology is expected to play in the company’s overall business strategy will impact the type and scope of the projects to be undertaken by the R&D group, the amount of resources that will be allocated to R&D activities and the manner in which the performance of the R&D group will be measured.  Each of these topics are discussed in this month's report on strategic planning for R&D.


Organizing Foreign Branches and Subsidiaries

When planning for the formation, organization and operation of foreign branches or subsidiaries, it is important to remember that the branch or subsidiary will ultimately need to perform many of the functional activities associated with any business.  The range of activities, as well as the timing for introducing a specific activity, will depend on the strategic purpose of the branch or subsidiary.  For example, if a branch is established exclusively to launch direct sales activities in the foreign country than it is obvious that the initial investment should focus on those areas that support sales – recruitment of sales personnel, development of marketing and advertising campaigns and customer support.  Other functional areas, such new product development and manufacturing, will continue to be handled at the headquarters level until the decision is made to establish those capabilities in the foreign country.  However, even if the activities are limited to a single function the branch or subsidiary will still need to establish procedures to satisfy accounting and financial requirements, locate suitable facilities and negotiate real property purchase and lease agreements, purchase and lease equipment and other personal property for the business, obtain insurance covering its activities; implement legal compliance programs and establish management guidelines and human resources policies and procedures to recruit and retain qualified personnel.  This month's report covers some of the detailed associated with organizing foreign branches and subsidiaries.