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Prototyping a project management application for collaborative research environment in the academia world

FEATURED PAPER

By C.M.M.,Chin and B.W.Chung

Department of Mechanical, Materials & Manufacturing Engineering,

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

Malaysia

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Introduction

In recent years, project works are significantly growing in numerous sectors and industries. However, a project requires execution to achieve an organisation’s strategic plan to displays unique service, product or result (PMI, 2000). Project management is a body of knowledge concerning with principles, techniques and tools to conduct planning, control, monitoring and review of projects (PMI, 2000). As such it offers organisations to be efficient, effective and competitive in a sophisticated and unpredictable environment (Ika, 2009). Nevertheless, methodology of project management is persistently questioned and criticised in project work (Smyth and Morris, 2007; Smyth, 2009; Meyer et.al., 2002) especially in the academia-industry alliances where project management are rarely well implemented (Nielsen et.al., 2013). The reason project management in managing academia-industry alliances fail is due to inconsistency between parties. Firstly, industry blatantly believes they can run research projects like lean based production companies (Nielsen et.al., 2013). Besides that, most project managers fail to identify the different types of uncertainty that requires a different management approach (Meyer et.al., 2002) and due to inflexibility in their approaches which contradicts with the purpose of project management. According to Kwak and Aanbari (2008), project management is the accepted way of getting work done in a flexible, outsourced and projectized environment.

Although there are published texts on project management and available courses, not many researchers undergo project management training (Payne et.al., 2011). For instance, Go8 Future Research Leaders Program in Australia advocates training to researchers from eight national universities for project management. However, academic researchers tend to outweigh technical skills more than management skills which subsequently resulted in poor project management.The potential benefits alliances between academic and industry are colossal for both parties. Both parties gain technology and expertise exchange, enhanced reputation and skill development. Industry specifically benefits from enrichment of corporate value and culture, technology testing and development, new perspectives and approaches, recruitment and retention. On the other hand, university aims for potential research funding for application and testing of theory (Nielsen et.al., 2013).

Project in research development are unique and challenging in contrast to other type of projects. The first challenge in research development is the duration of project terms. The average project term may extend to six years because the topic of research is novel and requires trial and error approaches. Thus, project manager is exposed to less number of projects. Besides that, projects vary greatly relevant to the topic of research. Past experiences maybe irrelevant on occasions. Projects in research were subjected to higher risk because the chance of success was lower. As a result, project managers fail more than succeed in such projects (Uchihira, 2012). The study therefore aimed to provide a potent method to increase productivity and efficiency in academic-industry research development projects. Besides that, it also aims to minimise issues of both parties by supporting the project manager in monitoring, running and improving the success rate of the project’s managerial aspect. Specific templates and tools were also designed and standardised to suit various projects in the research development.

Finally, the primary objective is to develop a project management methodology application to manage academic-industry collaborative research planning work. There were various aspects to consider in designing the system which were; (1) problems and challenges faced by the academic-industry research team, (2) the methodology of project management application (PMA) in the market and (3) the suitable design and structure of the system that would fit to the research environment. Firstly, data was collected from literatures to determine the situational relationship between academic and industry. How did they cope and interact to make a project success? What are their challenges and ways to improve productivity of their research development? Predicaments were taken into account and measurements are outlined.

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About the Authors

pmwj25-aug2014-Chin-AUTHOR1 CHINDr Christina Chinflag-malaysia

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

Malaysia

Dr Christina Chin is an Assistant Professor with the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus in the Department of Mechanical, Materials & Manufacturing Engineering. She holds an MSc in Computer Based Info Syst., D.B.A. and PhD in Project Management. Her main interest remains with project management with more emphasis on designing a methodology for use to managing complex, yet dynamic collaborative research between university academicians and industry partners which she is working on, publishing it to aid institutional in research environment. In addition, she is also looking at technological innovation in knowledge intensive industries. Apart from this area of interest, she is also conducting research in the area of renewable energy policies management & implementation, with the adoption of project management concepts & techniques, pollution management for a river basin conservation programme for Malaysia and lean concepts in the manufacturing industries. Being in academia and industry for more than ten years, Dr Chin had published and presented in many local and international conferences and contributed to the body of knowledge; supervised a number of undergraduates and postgraduates (MSc and PhDs). She is also very active as a reviewer for the Engineering Management Research Journal, International Journal of Innovative Technology and Research Science, Journal of Mechanics &Industry Research, Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis and the Open journal of Social Science Research. Dr Chin is contactable at [email protected]u.my

pmwj25-aug2014-Chin-AUTHOR2-CHUNGBoon Wue Chungflag-malaysia

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

Malaysia

Boon Wue Chung is a graduate in BEng (Hons) in Mechanical, Materials & Manufacturing Engineering from the University of Nottingham. He had completed a pilot version of the system as his final year project and will further enhance the prototype to be applied in the Entrepreneurship Society at the university. He is contactable at [email protected]