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Managing small and medium enterprises using project management principles
Wadzwanya, Faith Chivimbiso
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Although SMEs are aware of project management, it seems that a vast majority of firms are not actually well-informed about what project management is, and therefore, might not even be adhering to project management principles. Hence, the main objective of this study was to determine the extent to which SMEs (involved in construction, events and information technology and located in the Cape Metropolitan area in South Africa) apply project management principles. This study used a mixed method approach (both qualitative and quantitative) and various relevant instruments to collect and analyse data. A total of 223 questionnaires were administered to employees working in conjunction with a project management department, and five face-to-face interviews were conducted with owner-managers of selected SMEs. The statistical package for social science (SPSS) was used to analyse the quantitative data with results presented in a tabulated format; content analysis was used to transcribe qualitative data and categorise this data into themes. The study found that the project management sector is still predominately male-dominated, and project teams are not selected on the basis of experience. Furthermore, those who lack experiences are not trained. The nature of work done, company understaffing, time and financial constraints and poor team dynamics were all cited as factors affecting the application of project management principles within SMEs. Several recommendations emerged from the findings. First, it was recommended that women be empowered as active participants in project management, thereby reducing the evident gender imbalance; training and development should regularly be conducted to fully equip employees with vital skills and competencies. This will more strongly ensure that clients are satisfied with quality outcome and thereby establish a good reputation for SMEs. Project managers should create contingency plans for potential challenges. Additionally, the project manager should ensure that by virtue of the company being understaffed, specific roles and responsibilities of individuals should be clearly delineated, clearly communicated and clearly understood. Alternatively, the company may employ more personnel for particular projects, or independent contractors could be hired to assist. Moreover, time constraints can be eradicated by establishing timelines through the Gantt chart and measuring milestones. Finance and other resources should be allocated economically with and ongoing budget-cost analysis for monitoring expenditure. It was also deemed advisable that project managers send their teams for wellness training to avoid negative team dynamics, and as for labour unrest, senior managers should engage proactively with unions and delegates.