Contribution of Soft Skills Set of Project Managers on the Benefits Realization Management Process in the Construction Industry in UAE

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
The United Arab Emirates is one of the fastest growing, and developing countries in the world and consequently parallel to this growth construction industry in the UAE is rapid and dynamic. The country has already made a great sound all around the globe with challenging projects. Government is in full support of construction projects that drive and contribute to the UAE construction market as well as the UAE economy. Importance of project managers (PMs) are undeniable as their influence and contribution to projects directly affect maximization of benefits realization; therefore, the role of project managers becomes a crucial topic not only in literature but also in practice. Effectiveness of project manager, therefore, becomes a trending topic, and it is explained with the right combination of hard and soft skills, which is the general acceptance of scholars and practitioners. Blackburn (2002, pp. 199-204) believes that technical skills and body of knowledge should be developed over interpersonal and managerial skills. Although earlier hard skills which are more related with technical knowledge and strength were considered as more important for projects and main concentration was given in this area, nowadays contribution of soft skill concept is getting well understood, and this discussion becomes a popular topic in literature. Another developing concept in literature is the benefits realization management (BRM) process. BRM is a process that realizes and manages the planned benefits as a result of a change. PMI (2017, p.3) describes BRM as a process that starts with the identification of benefits that needs to be ensured during execution stage to realize and sustain those planned benefits at the project completion and even after completion. BRM has been getting recognized by organizations having known the fact that success definition and criteria for success are getting replaced with benefits realization concept. Success definition using the iron triangle, which are time, cost, and quality parameters are getting replaced with benefits realization concept. The ultimate aim of BRM is to support organizations to achieve the desired values based on organizations objectives and strategies. (Serra & Kunc, 2014) Although the majority of organizations’ maturity level of benefits realization has not yet well developed, in all type of organizations and different disciplines and professions, BRM is becoming more and more popular. (Breese, 2012, p. 341) Considering the fact that BRM concept is still premature as this concept is still evolving, the gap has been identified in the construction industry as there is lack of study and investigation has been performed in UAE related with this topic. This research intends to develop literature considering evolving both topics, soft skills of project managers and benefit realization management process and investigate further their relationship how those selected soft skills of project managers contribute benefit realization management process to fill the identified gap in this area. Reference to recent researches, it has been recently accepted as soft skills contribute projects more than hard skills and scholars and practitioners are in general agreement that benefits realization management process takes over earlier accepted success concept which was success criteria and iron triangle. This research aims to explore the significant soft skills set of project managers and check the influence of soft skills on benefit realization management process. The objective is to explore the literature on soft skills and personal traits of project managers concerning the benefits realization management process to provide a strong recommendation for future researchers. Along with this study, soft skills of project managers are getting investigated which are, communication, leadership, conflict management & negotiation skills, teaming and motivation skills, empathy / emotional Intelligence, time management skill, change management skill, and planning skill. They are all firmly accepted soft skills in the literature review. However, only communication, leadership, change management, and planning skills are considered as independent variables in this study as a result of their high correlation with the BRM process following the pilot study results. Contribution of those selected soft skills on BRM process and related BRM phases which are also commonly accepted in literature as “Benefit Identification”, “Benefit Realization Planning”, “Execute Benefit Realization Plan & Monitor”, and “Benefit Evaluation & Establish Potential for Further Benefits” considered as dependent variable in order to test the hypothesis of this research. Descriptive research design is considered to explain variations in the dependent variable, benefit realization management process by independent variables selected soft skills of project managers. A questionnaire with quantitative six-point Likert scale is chosen as a research tool to gather the required data along with non-probability, convenience sampling is implemented for the data collected through a selected population. Questionnaires are distributed within selected consultants and contractors in the construction industry in the UAE. Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) has been conducted for the statistical analysis. To interpret the collected data, different analysis, values, and coefficients have been used, such as arithmetic mean value, standard deviation, correlation, Cronbach’s Alpha, Regression, R Square, etc.. Along with SPSS, all collected data is analyzed, and hypotheses are tested, and research questions are addressed accordingly. It is found out that significant relationship between selected soft skills and benefits realization management process is proved and hypotheses, therefore, are accepted as selected soft skills highly contribute benefit realization management process and related phases. The main scope of the study is limited with communication skill, leadership skill, change management skill, and planning skill of project managers which are strongly accepted in literature review and found significantly correlated with BRM process as per the conducted pilot study. However, this research shall be further developed by future researchers considering other soft skills and personal traits of project managers concerning the BRM process and phases. This study is limited within the territory of the UAE and limited only with the construction industry. Participants of this research are 100% non-UAE citizen; therefore, the study is more relevant to expats rather than UAE citizens, which is another limitation related to this study. In the field of the project management process, skills of project managers are the right combination of soft and hard skills. However, in this research, only soft skills are investigated; therefore, the study can be further developed by adding hard skills set of project managers in addition to soft skills. It is important to note that mediating variables are not considered in this study but shall be considered by future researchers.
project management, benefit realization, project managers, United Arab Emirates (UAE)