A background in Defence allowed David Hudson to understand the fundamental elements of project management, which prepared him for a role managing large programs and now a stint at the helm of a large project management association.
Like many project managers of his era, Hudson says he was unaware that what he managed were projects at the time. “I just called it work. I’d be given a charter to prepare a unit for a largescale exercise: we have these resources, we have a sequence, we have a time plan and it was risk-managed. I know now that I ran large programs, portfolios and projects in Defence. In those days you didn’t really look at it as project management.”
This self-confessed accidental project manager cut his teeth on smaller operations before launching into a three-year Defence program in northern Australia. But it was not until he left the defence force that he discovered mainstream project management with a role with the Queensland Government, a $300 million program to transfer more than 30 government agencies onto a new payroll and human resources system.
At the time he could see that there were gaps in the process that needed to be filled, which is where Hudson found his calling. “In 1996 I brought in a consultant into our organisation to develop a project management practice. I was really doing these things instinctively and I now see that what I did then has become standard practice for organisations.”
The birth of project management
“I walked straight into project management at the time when the most important things were being published,” he says of 1996, when the Project Management Institute published the first version of the Guide to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBoK) and the Australian Competency Standards were newly issued. “It was just logical and it reflected everything I’d done since I was a young officer in the army, to run within a time cycle, to manage resources.”
From 1996 to 2002, Hudson ran projects and programs, culminating in a major program for Brisbane City Council, which he says was particularly instructive for him. “We had a group and an early, but quite effective, project methodology and the program we ran there was almost—as someone referred to it—a boring project because it went by the numbers.”
More challenging was a contract role for the Queensland Government. “It was done under very difficult circumstances and I learnt a lot about the need to be clear and strategic in our objectives,” he recalls. “I learnt a lot about procurement planning and also about needing to partner properly with major contractors to achieve an outcome where we’d both be successful.”
He then joined Corporate Project Management (CPM) Group as a consultant, advising organisations and individuals, and assessing and benchmarking them in project management. The owner of CPM happened to be then president of the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), Colin Dobie.
“We all became members and I guess I showed the most interest from the staff in the company,” says Hudson. “I did papers and went to conferences and Colin was supportive of that. My first actual conference was 2003 in Alice Springs where I presented my first paper.”
After five years at CPM Group, performing roles as director of the training arm and lead consultant in project management maturity benchmarking, Hudson set up his own consultancy practice, Primal Solutions.
At the same time, Hudson’s involvement in the AIPM began to grow. He presented a number of papers at conferences and then became involved in the Queensland Chapter in 2005. His roles since then have ranged from chief judge at state and national level for the AIPM’s Project Management Achievement Awards to chair of the Assessor Panel, chair of the Standards Committee to Queensland Chapter President, which he relinquished to take the helm as National President of the AIPM earlier this month.
The people behind project management
Among the things Hudson pledged in his candidate’s statement was to highlight project management’s role as a critical success factor as well as to make AIPM a ‘household name’ in the private and public sector. Key to these two factors is increasing membership numbers and partnering with corporate organisations.
Hudson expects the institute will hit 12,000 members by the end of 2012 in a combination of individual memberships and corporate memberships. “People will just see it as automatic; ‘I’m project manager, I’ll join AIPM’, or ‘I have a group of project managers in my company and I’d like to benchmark them’.”