Management of mega infrastructure projects in the United Arab Emirates

2017-02-17T03:08:21Z (GMT) by Al Nahyan , Moza Tahnoon
Since it became a Federation in the early 1970s, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has developed rapidly with substantial investments in infrastructure generally and transportation projects in particular. Reports in the local media highlighted growing concerns relating to project cost and time overruns, compensation claims, and client dissatisfaction. The need for improved management processes has been clearly identified as an issue of major concern that needs to be addressed. An examination of Transportation Infrastructure Projects (TIPs) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was conducted for this PhD research program. The overarching aim of this research program was to investigate the key factors for the effective management of TIPs in the UAE to ensure their future success. Based on a review of the relevant literature, three objectives for the research were outlined and six major research questions were developed for investigation. From stakeholder theory, five major stakeholders were identified (sponsors/clients, Government Agencies, management Firms, consultants and contractors) and three dimensions of stakeholder influence (power, urgency and legitimacy) were nominated. Management processes of interest included communication, coordination, decision-making and knowledge-sharing. A conceptual model for management of a TIP was developed incorporating three levels, namely: (i) the various construction stages, (ii) stakeholder importance, and (iii) management processes, all impacting on the four nominated project success indicators. A qualitative research program was employed involving four research phases. In Phase I, interviews were conducted with 20 key stakeholders from a variety of construction projects completed in the UAE over recent years. This phase found that the construction stages of design and planning were of primary importance in ensuring a successful project outcome. Major weaknesses in communication, coordination, decision-making and knowledge-sharing amongst the key stakeholders were also shown to be problematic for success. Phase II involved an in-depth examination of a mega Transport Infrastructure Project, namely the Dubai Fujairah Highway (DFH), focusing specifically on the design and planning construction stages. Phase II included document examination, interviews with 10 key stakeholders involved with the DFH Project, a site visit with interviews with site engineers, a focus group discussion session with key stakeholders, and finally interviews with the Minister and Director-General of the Ministry of Public Works. Among other findings, these results highlighted the complexity of this mega TIP and the influence that the major stakeholders can have during the life-cycle of the project and the range of measures used in defining project success. In Phase III of the program, all the findings from Phases I and II were summarised and nine principle factors were identified as key elements in effective management processes, leading to a successful project outcome. These included effective leadership, good stakeholder and staff selection, management education and training, accurate budgeting, proven administrative procedures, adoption of international standards and systems, definition of project success indicators and clear roles and responsibilities, and effective communication and coordination mechanisms. Finally in Phase IV, a preliminary framework was outlined for assessing TIP outcomes, focusing on its practical application for both the planning and design stages of a TIP. Another focus group discussion session with key stakeholders and a questionnaire survey were conducted to provide the ordinal data required for developing the framework. While this preliminary framework still requires further research and development, it has the potential to be used for assessing project success across the construction stages, stakeholder importance, and management processes. The framework incorporates stakeholder theory and stakeholder influence in terms of power, urgency and legitimacy involved throughout the various stages of mega TIP construction. The research program makes a number of important theoretical and practical contributions in the field. Theoretically, it contributes: (i) a three-level hierarchical conceptual model for examining TIPs, (ii) confirms the relevance of stakeholder theory in understanding how key stakeholders influence in terms of their power, urgency and legitimacy in a successful TIP, and (iii) identifies the principle factors that impact on management processes and hence on infrastructure outcomes generally. The practical contributions from the research include the preliminary framework for assessing TIP project outcomes when applied to the design and planning stages. The thesis ends with a number of recommendations made for improving the success of mega Transportation Infrastructure Projects in the UAE and suggestions for future research.