Academics & industry

According to the University of Manchester, ” Academics generally work within a university, combining research, teaching and administrative duties. Academics are the life-blood of a university, without whom the institution would not exist”[1]. Academics have a very systematic approach to research which provides lots of benefits when it comes to the introduction or evolution of new/existing concepts and/or processes. The way academics detail out each and every aspect of a subject under consideration is amazing. Exceptions are taken care of from an academic perspective and most of the corner cases are covered in the research subject.

Industry, on the other hand, is the one which uses/builds on top of the research provided by academics to improve various aspects related to the subject matter. For instance, a new pattern recognition algorithm invented by academia is used by the industry to improve the accuracy of object detection and identification by the industry. Most of the technical research by academia is brought to the general public by the industry.

But my feeling is that process implementation, especially on business methodologies is a bit deviant and the research carried on by the academia is not taking real-life aspects into consideration. I was going through the excellent paper on best practices in project portfolio management for dynamic decision making[2]; wherein 9 different best practices have been highlighted. And I do agree that if everything would work as expected in the industry, many more companies would have successful project portfolios to boast about.

Some of these best practices, in today’s world in the industry, is just considered to be unnecessary overhead work providing very little value in terms of revenue generation. For example, one of the best practices mentioned in the paper talks about awareness of PPM in the organization. The arguments given in the paper are very valid but when it comes to the industry, giving training and investing in PPM awareness within the organization means adding overhead costs on people training. If the attrition rate in such companies is higher, it might need to spend more money for training purposes. Also bringing in people from various departments to sit together for such training is a statistical nightmare in large organizations.

Again, some of the projects run by certain departments can be seen as worthless when looked at from a portfolio perspective. An example can be an improvement in the CI process within a small department which takes in supplier deliveries. The improvement in CI process might mean little in terms of what the department is offering to its internal stakeholders. But the improvement might have an impact on the anticipated work in the future. These projects are also known as pet projects in the industry which do not show up on the portfolio’s and/or programs/projects generally run with the blessings of the line management.

Another aspect is political considerations which the academia for the right reasons cannot really concentrate upon. What I would like to see is a more practical approach to research where the research is validated against an industry. Many of the best practices need to be adjusted and probably re-evaluated in terms of investment efforts to check on the feasibility of implementation.

What is your view?

[1] – Manchester.ac.uk. (2019). What do academics do? (The University of Manchester). [online] Available at: http://www.academiccareer.manchester.ac.uk/about/do/ [Accessed 27 Sep. 2019]
[2] – Kharat, V.. and Naik, B.K.. (2018). Best practices in project portfolio management for dynamic decision making. Journal of Modern Project Management, 6, pp.89–95.