Office skills for bridge builders

Computer-Aided Project Management - Business Skills for Engineers and Technologists - Engineering Project Appraisal
March 8, 2002

These three books provide an interesting range of coverage of some of the management topics required for engineering degree courses suitable for accreditation under Sartor 3.

Business Skills for Engineers and Technologists is a general introduction. The subjects covered include organisational approaches, human-resource management and law, followed by a range of techniques for resource and project management. As befits a text directed primarily towards incorporated engineers, some basic theory is set out, but the emphasis is on application of the tools provided.

The chapter on "Meeting customer needs" is an interesting variation on the conventional section on marketing. The final chapter deals with information technology and electronic commerce.

The book is well illustrated with diagrams. Numerical techniques are demonstrated with well-chosen examples, presented in sufficient detail to be followed with ease.

Lecturers could easily base a course on this book. It is well suited to the second and possibly third years of a degree programme. Though particularly useful to the prospective incorporated engineer, it could well be used by others.

Engineering Project Appraisal is for more advanced readers. While all engineering undergraduates need to know something about project appraisal, this book approaches the subject in a manner more suited to MEng students in their third and fourth years, or practising engineers in industry. This sound and interesting text would be a useful learning tool for MEng students undertaking multidisciplinary design projects. It could also be used as a support textbook for a specific taught module. The approach and language used are those of management and economics. For engineers, they provide a useful immersion in the jargon without becoming overbearing.

The early chapters deal with decision-making and the various methods that may be used when a formal numerical method is appropriate. Then an interesting chapter on cost-benefit analysis of public projects takes the reader into the less quantifiable field of amenity values and the impact of public policy.

Part two takes this further by covering "non-economics-based appraisal techniques". Here the author shows his particular expertise and explores areas more likely to be of specific use in actual project work. The theoretical bases are carefully set out, for the numerical methods and for the ways in which non-numerical data may be quantified and compared.

The chapters of part two make interesting reading and provide a good preparation for practical use of the methods. There are some very interesting examples of their use in the appraisal of specific projects.

At the end of most chapters are references to more general context materials. The later chapters also give sources for more details of the theories and applications.

Computer-Aided Project Management goes the next step into actually running the project. There is a clear North American influence on this book, but the author takes care to present it in a manner suitable for European readers. It is the most specialised of the books under review, and it has the feel of an advanced treatise rather than an undergraduate text. Of course, it deals with the general theories and application of formal project-management techniques, but to quote from the introduction, "this textbook is all about project lines, arrows, circles, bars and graphs, now invariably made by computers, wherever located, which aim to help manage projects".

The author unashamedly states that computer literacy is a prerequisite, but this refers to the use of graphical representation of systems and flow charts rather than familiarity with a particular software system. Charts and generic computer reports are used to good effect. There is a useful list of software vendors in the field, with web addresses provided.

The book begins with an introduction to the principles of project management and ends with brief comments on procurement and materials management. The heart of the text is the exposition of the systems of project management in part two and an excellent set of case histories in part three. Each of the seven case studies highlights a different aspect of project management. They would be equally good as material for self-study or as the basis for a lecture course. Examples are drawn from the civil and construction industries but the systems and techniques could be applied in other areas.

The advanced student and practising engineer alike will find this book a very useful aid to study and practice.

David Pollard is emeritus university director, University of Surrey.

Computer-Aided Project Management

Author - George Suhanic
ISBN - 0 19 511591 0
Publisher - Oxford University Press
Price - £26.99
Pages - 496

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