Performance Enhancement through Smart Modelling

Making Dammam Metropolitan City SMART


By Prof Mark Reeson

UK and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia



When you think of Saudi Arabia, what comes to mind?

Maybe you think of oil, deserts and a traditional lifestyle that steps back over a thousand years?

However, “With the sands of time, things are changing!”

Here is where the story begins.

Eighteen months ago, a decision was made that will alter how projects are delivered in Saudi Arabia, starting at Ministerial level and cascading down throughout the thirteen provinces. One such province, the largest and furthest flung of the East coast, simply known as “The Eastern Province” is leading that change under the guidance of the APM’s best practices.

Within the province’s capital, Dammam, a project is currently finishing its delivery stage and is ready to launch into operation this July. But what makes it so special? This project and its project sponsor have pushed the initial boundaries requested by the ministry and is attempting to shatter the glass ceiling of capability. In a region that is home to most of Saudi Arabia’s oil production and is fast becoming the global hub for the chemical industry, a new style of PMO and project delivery is ready to emerge!

For so long this region has been fragmented and although covered by multiple municipalities and governed through many ministries there has never been any major structure to the governance or government of the province. In September 2015 it was decided that this had to change and that a new approach should be undertaken. The first step behind this was to set up a project team within the main Municipality Building in Dammam and then draw in a project team that could deliver the project to change the city, not just for a while but for a sustainable future. The decision was made that the best way to deliver this major change would be to centralise the strategic planning of the whole region under one roof to be governed by one individual, the head of the Strategic Coordination Centre, Engineer Mosaad Mqhtani. His project team that would deliver this was made up of four different companies spanning eight different nationalities from Saudi Arabians, other Middle Eastern countries, American, German and Venezuelan, all headed up by Mark Reeson from England.

Although there were many major dignitaries involved in the decision making process of what was needed for the new Coordination Centre, a typical Arab approach to decision making, the major stakeholder after the Governing Prince was the Eastern Province’s Mayor, Jamal Nasser Al-Mulhim. With so much notoriety watching over the project this made every step sensitive to the needs of those making the decisions and the community that would be affected by the delivery of this new approach to project management in the whole province.

The first question that had to be asked was, what exactly is this Strategic Coordination Centre and where did this proposal come from? The Strategic Coordination Centre was the result of the proposal to centralise the coordination of projects throughout all the municipalities in the region. For far too long each municipality and authority had work independent from one another therefore creating a counterproductive working environment. This would then allow and demonstrate for a new way to look at utilising the resources within the Eastern Province more efficiently. What this new approach would offer was a clearer picture of what is happening in the province and more importantly, to allow people to understand why it is happening.

Further to this it was decided that a new way of selecting and prioritising projects should be brought into force through the new department. The prioritisation of work would be based on the need of the work rather than simply a wish and to also eliminate the amount redundant work which takes place within the region where roads, rails and electrical cabling is dug up once and then within weeks dug up again. As a further aspect to make this work more effectively, it was decided to enlist a team to write a specific bespoke piece of software that could monitor, control and report the whole region in one system to modernise the process of how municipality work was recorded. In addition to the requirement of the IT System, there would need to be a new procedural set up for the department and these procedures, objectives and the governance behind them would have to be drafted from scratch and then gain the highest level of stakeholder approval.


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 11th Annual UT Dallas Project Management Symposium in August 2017. It is republished here with the permission of the authors and conference organizers.

About the Author

Mark Reeson, RPP, FAPM, PMP

United Kingdom and
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia


Professor Mark Reeson is a project management specialist with over thirty years’ experience. A Fellow of the Association for Project Management, he has been involved in many project and programme consultative roles.   Most recently Mark has been working with the Saudi Arabian Municipality of the Eastern Province to change the way that project management is carried out within the region, using his newly recognised SMART Sustainability Modelling for project and business management.

He was appointed a Professor of Project Management at the University of Business and Technology, Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which was a culmination of his work in training and consulting in the region on matters that relate to project management, supply chain management and sustainability modelling. Having previously held the position of a specialist Sustainability Management Global Advisor he has moved forward from that position and now regularly supports businesses and projects alike in streamlining their approaches to change and strategic development providing greater longevity in their business planning.

Having started his career in the Royal Air Force, Mark has continued to develop by working and delivering projects in multiple fields of industry ranging from the nuclear environment, into pharmaceuticals, finance and also the international sporting fields.

Mark has developed his role within project management through further experience with the nuclear industry and is now the owner of M R Project Solutions Limited where he has fulfilled the role of Project Management Advisor for the last three and a half years covering every continent. His role is very much client facing and Mark now almost permanently travels the world meeting clients, developing solutions and providing training for their project families either directly through his own organisation or in support of others. Mark’s main role is the development and the consultation with many organisations on ensuring they choose the right approach or methodology to deliver their projects and then follows this up with the correct bespoke training programmes for how their company wants to share this learning with their staff members.

Mark has changed the approach to learning by the ongoing development of his original ‘Living Learning’ programme by introducing a new learning experience for all taking the classroom format and making it come to life with his popular and original ‘Applied Learning’ simulation training and coaching technique. He has taken this forward over the past few years to introduce this training style so that project management learning and behaviour has now started to be delivered into the schools and colleges looking to develop the technical, behavioural and contextual skills and attitudes of their students.

As a regular public speaker Mark now shares his experience, knowledge and commitment with those associations wanting to move forward in a more sustainable and successful manner.

Mark’s next aim is to develop this further and to spread project management knowledge and competency to many more organisations worldwide, having already started with successful deliveries globally.

Mark can be contacted at [email protected]