Program management helps solve the water challenges facing your community

Author: VT Madhavan

At a glance

What challenges are the water industry facing and how can an experienced Program Manager help overcome these challenges? VT Madhavan, North America Program Management and Construction Management (PM/CM) Leader shares his experience and insights.
What challenges are the water industry facing and how can an experienced Program Manager help overcome these challenges?

What are some of the challenges the water industry is currently facing? 

The water sector is experiencing challenges faced by almost every other sector in engineering and construction namely: availability of funds for required projects, replacing aging infrastructure, replacement of retiring experienced staff across the industry, construction labor shortages, supply chain and schedule challenges for critical equipment, challenges of building sustainable new large projects and programs to name a few.

In addition to these, the water and wastewater sector faces challenges unique to the sector: excessive use and wastage of water by some industries, energy usage and cost of desalination projects, impacts of water projects on environment, the amount of water and wastewater reused and recycled, identifying and treating emerging contaminants, extreme water events like flooding or drought precipitated by climate change and sea level rise.

The water sector must stand up to these challenges and become comfortable with rapid change, make deliberate and targeted decisions. An experienced program manager facilitates the conversation, asks the hard questions and can mitigate the risks to the local community.

How does Program Management help the water and wastewater industry?

A holistic approach to large program management can be used to prioritize projects and solve some of these challenges. The general idea is to look at the overall usage of money, time, resources and optimize them across multiple projects to obtain synergy and efficiencies not otherwise obtained if applied on individual projects. 

Program management becomes increasingly important when a large industrial player, such as the semiconductor industry, is moving into your community. Project prioritization by a utility, city, county or region involves asking hard questions and validating the need for certain projects. Program level resource planning evens out distortions in labor usage, minimizes downtime and avoids staff burnout. Cashflow management helps in the timely and efficient use of money and avoids borrowing excessive amounts at higher interest rates when it is not required. Active risk and change management helps avoid or mitigate schedule, cost and other risks. Program management also involves the increasing use of web based and automated solutions. Digitization of project and post project data and providing real time, relevant information to all program participants increases productivity and reduces duplication and waste. This is not possible if we try to manage multiple and concurrent projects independent of each other.

The total project lifecycle deserves a lot more attention. Construction makes up a large percent of cost and materials on projects, we need to focus on reducing energy consumption, reusing/recycling construction materials and water during construction process. We also need to remember a big portion (20% to 25%) of the cost and resource usage are in the post construction Operations & Maintenance (O&M) phase. Poor planning and decisions implemented during the design or construction phases continue to haunt projects for a very long time! 

What are you most excited about by joining GHD? 

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My two career passions are program management and the water/wastewater industry. I believe we can integrate and apply these two areas to solve challenges for clients and our communities. GHD is an ideal place that provides me with excellent opportunities to take this forward.

Everybody likes to talk about people, the environment and clean, green solutions but there are very few true practitioners. This is one of the few firms that walk their talk. I believe GHD’s commitment to employees and a sustainable future for earth and her citizens is rock solid.

In the past few months, I have met amazing and tremendously passionate experts from around the globe in water, wastewater, environmental remediation, and future clean, green energy within the organization. I am convinced the expertise and experience of these leaders provides innovative solutions for current and emerging global challenges.