The business benefits of improving the completion of projects in technology companies are clear. In many cases, the time a project takes to go on sale can have a great impact on profitability and competitive standing, and customers and investors invariably expect on-time delivery.

Yet when high-growth companies try to meet these expectations, they often find they begin to lose control of their expanding portfolio of projects.

Resources always seem to be in short supply and some projects never seem to finish.

The company's proposed solution is often a call for more effective project management', although in fact what is usually needed is a combination of project management and programme management.

Also, the need to link programme management with corporate planning also starts to become apparent.

For example, Picsel Technologies, a mobile phone software specialist based in Scotland, faced just this situation when its software engineering base of 60 staff needed to double within a year. We were able to assist by programme managing a cross-section of key customer projects, whilst also helping the firm to achieve ISO 9001 certification.

The project manager needs to be highly skilled to meet these demands.

In addition to scientific or engineering knowledge, project managers in technology companies also need all the skills of an effective manager, as well as being able to master the technicalities of project management itself.

A classic scenario for high-growth start-up companies is to begin with a basic design concept, quickly build a customer base, then find there is a pressing need to move swiftly into production.

Was the original prototype developed with manufacture in mind? Can it be readily developed into the next generation of products?

More often than not the prototype was a lash-up' and the need to go into production requires a partial re-design.

Developing proficient project managers and implementing good product strategy and planning are just a few of the numerous challenges faced by technology companies today.

Yet these problems are remarkably similar across many organisations, and solutions do exist. The answer often lies in the development of an appropriate project management system, supplemented by training and mentoring.

To achieve a streamlined high-tech enterprise, there are four organisational functions or layers:' Corporate strategy and planning, programme management, project management, and development.

There is ample scope for improving competitiveness and profitability within and between each of these layers of the business.

Oxfordshire is an excellent centre for high technology firms, with an enviable heritage of science and technology plus the infrastructure required for business growth.

A good supply of talented engineers and scientists is crucial to our success.

Although it is certainly a concern that technical degrees seem to be less fashionable than in previous decades, there is plenty of technical talent willing to give entrepreneurship a go, and the investment community seems equally enthusiastic.

But technology companies are often lacking in business experience, both at the director and management levels.

Fortunately, in Oxfordshire there are a growing number of former successful entrepreneurs who are willing to offer a helping hand.

Ultimately, there is no substitute for the combination of creative engineers who can turn technical ideas into commercial products, and enthusiastic entrepreneurs who can exploit their business potential.

Frequently, clients have required help with hands-on project management. For example, NemeriX, a start-up developing low-power GPS chipsets and applications, needed outside expertise to manage its portfolio, allowing technical experts to focus on developing the first product range.

However, the bigger general need has been to introduce project management systems.

Smiths Detection, a chemical agent detector, needed to enhance the project management capability of 50 engineers and scientists, while revamping its development system.

An extensive training programme and mentoring scheme was the answer.

Conventional training in pure project management does not have the desired benefit, and a more applied approach has proved to be more effective, particularly when it is geared towards research and development and often tailored to the client's individual needs.

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