Managing Opportunities in Infrastructure Projects

“How to increase client value in the planning and realization phase”

Author:  P.J. van der Wal BSc.

This research focuses on opportunities and opportunity management in the planning and realization phase of infrastructure projects. Opportunities are uncertain situations that can be exploited by the project team in order to create added value for the client and opportunity management is the systematic identification, evaluation and exploitation of those opportunities. It is expected that a better understanding of what opportunities are and how to manage these, can support project managers not only in achieving their project objectives, but also by exceeding them. In addition, this understanding can provide short and long term added value for the client. Objective of this research is to provide new knowledge on opportunities and the management of opportunities.

In order to achieve the above objective, three research methods were applied. (1) A literature study in the field of opportunity management by consulting and studying entrepreneurial and project management literature. (2) Empirical data gathering by conducting interviews with twelve experienced project managers of infrastructure projects. (3) Validation of the answers derived from the interviews in a workshop with project managers from the interviews and additional project managers.

On the basis of the research approach described, the research has shown that little literature is available on opportunity management for projects, especially for infrastructure projects. Using information from experienced project managers it could also be concluded that opportunities are more likely to be discovered than created. This means that project managers are more inclined to respond to change for identifying opportunities, than to pro-actively search for opportunities without a direct cause.

In the literature on opportunity management, identification of an opportunity is followed by an evaluation, whereby the added value is weighed against time and effort necessary for exploiting the opportunity. Although evaluation and exploitation are regarded as two separate steps in the literature, empirical information collected in this research suggest that both steps are very interrelated. From practice several important aspects were identified for opportunity evaluation and exploitation.

In addition to the conclusions on opportunities and the way they can be managed, two other conclusions can be drawn on the information received from the interviews and validation workshop. (1) Within practice, different interpretations on opportunity management exist. (2) Project managers are eager to learn more on opportunity management, but have little tools and knowledge available to assist them in this process.

To conclude, opportunity management is a part of project management that has always been done implicitly or not at all. This research aimed to provide an understanding of opportunity management by looking at both the theory and practice. It is the belief of the author that consciously applying opportunity management helps project managers in realizing added value for the client. Read more >