From number9dream to The Bone Clocks

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Since I read the book Number9dream I am a fan of David Mitchell. His latest publication called The Bone Clocks is another fantastic realistic journey throughout his universe. For all fans of his creations I recommend Kathryn Schulz semi-interview at Vulture. In particular have a look at the chart she has included in her blog post: An overview of characters re-appearing throughout David Mitchell’s novels. Reading through the comment sections there were two more characters mentioned that have been removed from final edit (they were included in the galley version). Now I have to decide whether to return to one of the earlier books and re-read sections of them or wait for the next book.

Macau – Cotai Construction in Photos – Studio City, The Parisian, Galaxy Phase 2 and Sands Cotai

Studio City under Construction

There are several new mega casino resorts under way in Cotai and here are a few construction progress photos of them. Above and below you can see Studio City, the new Melco-Crown enterprise at Cotai, which is in a similar state as Galaxy Macau Phase 2 several months ago: The facade is coming up and I believe that fit out has started on the podium and lower tower floors. From the numbers displayed on the floors we are talking about two towers with each 30 floors.

Studio City Construction 2014-09-14

Studio City Construction 2014-09-14

Galaxy Macau Phase 2, as already seen in the last posts, is in pretty good shape with facade nearly completed.

Galaxy Phase 2 Construction 2014-09-15

Galaxy Phase 2 Construction 2014-09-15

Galaxy Phase 2 Construction 2014-09-15

Sands is further working on their Tower 4 of Sands Cotai Central.

Sands Cotai Central Tower 4 Construction 2014-09-14

An impression from The Parisian, after its recent stop and resume of construction works, most likely linked to missing (or incomplete) construction permits.

The Parisian Construction 2014-09-15

Macau – Gaming Revenue Figures – VIP vs. Mass Gaming

MonthlyGrossRevenue

all figures in million MOP

 

As a continuation of my last post on visitor and revenue figures, this post will present further graphical representations of Macau’s gaming market on the basis of DICJ’s revenue figures (as above and below) and individual data showing the current distribution of gaming revenue based on VIP and mass market figures.

Growth - Month to Month

In the first graph of this post you can see the overall growth (and latest decline) in overall gaming revenue in Macau. February 2014 was the top spot with a total of 38007 million MOP overall gaming revenue. In the second graph you can see the development of revenue on a month to consecutive month basis in percentage. As exepcted there is an up and down due to seasonal changes, lengths of individual months, etc. The real picture, as reported in my last post and in the news, becomes however only apparent when one has a look at the development on a month to previous year month basis:

Growth - Month to Last Year Month

 

Revenue growth had been on a more or less constant decline since 2010, resulting in the current negative growth figures.

As raised towards the end of my last post and as mentioned in the newspaper, overall visitor figures are up, with revenues down, suggesting that mass market gamers increased yet VIP gamers withdraw from Macau. What does that mean for the current casino set up in terms of their revenue mix of VIP vs. mass market gaming. Having had a look at individual casinos annual reports I was able to find the following: SJM, Wynn, MGM and Galaxy are sharing information on their VIP and mass market revenue figures.

VIPvsMass

 

And as expected the VIP market segment reveals itself as the dominating source of revenue for these casinos with average percentages of 70% to 80% (based upon the sum of VIP revenue and Mass Market revenue; slots and other revenues not taken into account).

Given the fact that there are 6 new casinos under construction which are all trying to get their share of gamblers it will become a highly competitive market in Macau and only those casinos that are able to switch their revenue and profit sources quickly enough in line with the market developments, will be able to maintain their overall return on investment rates.

Disclaimer: All figures and percentages are given for information only without any guarantee of accuracy. I invite everyone to read the information sources by oneself to get more details.

Update: Graphical representation of VIP revenue in % of overall revenue (incl. slots, etc.)

VIP Revenue in Overall Revenue

Macau – Visitor Figures and Gaming Revenue for July 2014

July2014 figures

 

According to Forbes, and their reference, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, Gaming revenues fell in Macau for a consecutive third month. I am trying to put that in reference with visitor figures as issued by DSEC and above is a screenshot of the figures for July 2014 (the last released figures as of this point). July overall visitors went up by 7.3% compared to last year’s July. Yet also in July Gaming revenues fell by 3.6%.

Monthly Gaming Revenue

 

The main reason is speculated as follows:

There’s consensus that VIP revenue again fell in the mid-teens, while mass market revenue rose in the mid- to upper-teens.

VIP Gaming, i.e. high rollers with lots of money to spend, is in decline due to a multitude of reasons.If time allows I am preparing an overview of mass gaming vs. vip gaming revenues across individual casino operators. It will be very interesting to see if the ‘up in mass gaming’ can be effectively captured by those casinos who are currently focussed on VIP gaming. Hence the main questions will be:

Which casinos will be hit most and what does that mean for the new Cotai strip casinos that are meant to open in the upcoming years?

Project Management in Germany – A view to the inside from the outside by an insider

Cathedrale of Cologne in the evening sun

This is a repost of an article I have published at LinkedIn.

Having written about challenges encountered in India and in Macau, today’s post is about a country on which one usually does not read about in terms of problems with project management: Germany, my home country.

It is very easy to criticize and write about other countries when one tries to compare the ‘good’ things of one’s own work culture with the ‘bad’ things of another. The truth is that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are very subjective terms and in the end every difference from what one is used to, is in the end nothing else than a challenge that can be overcome. Looking at Germany there are also a number of things coming to mind that I would regard as challenges that other countries’ employees have to overcome:

The need to be assured. The projects that I have worked on in Germany tended to be very detail-focused and especially in the planning phase during the initial project calculation it was usual to go into every detail in great depth. On a project calculation up to 25 million euro twenty minutes of discussion could be spent on 500 euro. And most likely there would be a risk assigned to it. A risk that needs to be quantified and qualified and entered into a list, assigned with a responsibility and presented to higher management for sign off.

The need to have every planned. In line with above mentioned risk management behavior, Germans tend to have plans in place. Plans for how things will work out, how they might work out and what happens if they do not work out as planned, preferably with option A, B and C. A typical question in meetings is “and what if that doesn’t work?” This means that a lot of time and effort is invested not in making sure that the initial idea works, but in trying out every possibility of failure and creation of alternative solutions. There are scenarios in which I highly regarded this process as helpful, e.g. in life safety applications in the railway segment, yet there are other situations in which I would have tried to eliminate these discussions in afterthought. E.g. in attribution of IT costing to service lifecycle phases of a product line.

The need to think in processes and procedures. In the same way that Germans like to have risks assessed, like to have plans in place, we also like to create standard ways of doing things. In my time in Germany it happened several times that we encountered a very specific situation that required us to create a specific solution. And then we created a process out of that specific solution to also suit other situations that might or might not occur. Whether that would really have been necessary or not is another question but the principle is that we like to think in rules and regulations and whenever we encounter a situation where our rules don’t apply, then we try to create some. This can be very helpful as for project management my former employer had created a dedicated project management life cycle process that catered for all standard situations, documentation and team interactions. However in other situation it can be blocking the overall work flow as someone is being set aside to create a new workflow or new standard document for a situation that might not arise again within the next 6 months.

Off is off. Labor laws in Germany are strict and much more social and family orientated as the typical Asian work contract would grant. As such it happened often to me that people are really off after their standard work time is over, i.e. their mobile is off, they will not react to any emails and generally the next time you can ask them for a question is the next morning. Sure there are people that work overtime and yes there are workaholics that are available 24/7, but if compared to the general availability of project management staff or contractors in Macau who can be called upon starting from 6am to midnight, this is a different scenario. This means that whatever question you have you better get solved during your work time as otherwise you will not have the solution to your problem. And don’t forget that some companies grant 30 days annual leave (in addition to government holidays) surplus extended maternity leaves, sick leaves and educational leaves. As a standard rule in my past project calculations we would never assume that a FTE (full time employee) is really working 100% of his or her time for the project but up to 30% of his time would be attributed to other matters (as said before, holidays, administrative issues, etc.).

Strong unions, strong public, strong opinions. If you are used to work in China then you are used to get things done quickly in regards to public infrastructure civil works. In Germany, similar to other Western countries, public groups and stakeholders have a very strong say in the project progress, as can be seen in such government undertakings as Stuttgart 21 and the new Berlin airport. At Stuttgart 21 public demonstrations had to be resolved using police force, resulting in private law suits, and for the Berlin airport newspapers are reporting on the ‘latest’ failures on a daily basis resulting in increased internal political pressure for quick results. Without taking into account of these stakeholders it is impossible to complete a project within the agreed scheduled time.

As said in the beginning, there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ situations one can encounter, only challenges that are to be overcome. I am a person that loves to dive head first into these challenges and find new exciting solutions to overcome them. Any questions?Contact me!

Project Management in India – Challenges in New Delhi

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This is a repost of an article published at Linked.

Recently I wrote about project management in Macau and how different it is within its constraints of being in a tight labor market. Today I will highlight something completely opposite: Project Management in India and its challenges.

Transportation is a nightmare. In contrary to China, who is developing highways, railways and airports en masse, India’s transportation infrastructure is a nightmare. Delivering of goods from one city to another can take a considerable longer time than one is used to from Europe, the US or China. As an example a 400 kilometer drive from New Delhi along the National Highway towards the North took me 8 hours as the ‘National Highway’ was either a construction site or a heavily damaged two lane road full of trucks, cows and horse carriages. Also inner-city traffic is horrible with my daily commute from office to home taking up to an hour for a distance somewhere else covered within 20 minutes. Anyone who has visited Mumbai in recent years knows what I am talking about. In addition to the general traffic situation, customs and customs clearance will take longer than expected. During my own time over there I had to experience that imported goods were lost at airport and the local airport cargo manager requested for a special “expediting search fee” to find our cargo. Naturally we refused and as such were only able to get our cargo to customs clearance 4 days later.

Labor is readily available … India is one of the most populated countries in the world and as such there are millions of poor and unemployed labors on the streets that will take any job on a daily or hourly basis. The local economies are tailored towards this abundance of labor and you will see young men gathered around “chai wala” (tea street vendors) waiting for someone to approach them with a task. Minimum wages in New Delhi were low (as shown below) and as such every task that could be done by oneself, such as picking up copies from the printer or washing dishes or connecting a cable, is being outsourced to a cheaper labor. Field commissioning engineers would not touch cat 6 cables in my presence without their manual labor doing all the physical work for them. As such, quality and workmanship suffer.

… except if you need qualified ones. With abundance of labor an abundance of colleges and tertiary schools opened in India, calling themselves “Engineering Colleges” or “XXX of Technology”. Quality of education is poor at many of them, with teachers being employed on an hourly basis to deliver lectures and certificates in parts being faked. Henceforth with whomever you employ or with whomever you are working with in India, it is better to put forward a simple and brief test of qualifications. In my own time I experienced engineers who were not able to read simple drawings or administrative officials not knowing the principle rules of their area. As frustrating as it is, the important rule is to understand who has which skills and who has the potential in your team to be trained into the required position.

Red tape and paperwork. I just would like to highlight two sentences I heard in India during either meetings or discussions with officials: “you can only kill a paper with paper” and “we don’t trust in words, we trust in paper”. The basic meaning behind these statements is that the written word has a lot of power and contracts are often read word-by-word and followed word-by-word. With the advent of sophisticated rail and metro systems in India, whole contracts were imported and adapted to the local requirements, e.g. from Hongkong, yet the way they are being executed is a totally different one from the way the contracts were intended to. This can lead to ridiculous long amounts of time wasted to fulfill requirements for the requirements sake without actual benefit to either contractual party. A classic example I encountered is that a number of British or American standards and norms were copied into a particular contract, either out of convenience or to satisfy the need to have “state of the art” requirements. These standards however were not applicable in the least to the works to be executed. Instead of a simple disregard, e.g. via formal letter or informal meeting, a lengthy process had to be undertaken involving several consultants and experts to ensure that enough “paper” had been produced to “kill” the contract requirement, i.e. to somehow be able to say that “yes, this requirement has been fulfilled”. A lengthy process wasting man hours for both engineering and managerial staff.

Pollution, dust and lack of understanding. Having worked in an electronic industry, the need for a clean and dust-free environment is a necessity that often enough decides about the lifetime of expensive equipment. India’s ecological record is not the best and whereas China is often in the news on their PM 2.5 levels, New Delhi or other parts of India could have made the headlines at least as often. I have seen data centers with centimeters of dust on equipment racks, dead rats inside of fiber optic equipment housings, animals freely running around in operation centers, household air condition units (with overflowing condensate drains) above 100 thousand euro computer units and computers dying within a year or two of operation due to clogging and lack of filter cleaning. Provision of heavy duty equipment is definitely a wise choice, yet from own experience counterproductive in this highly price-sensitive market. Better invest in two or three additional site supervisors with cameras that take records of all non-compliant situations at site as basis of warranty voidance and claim for additional money against faulty equipment.

Intercultural understanding. With the above constraints taken into account, one of the biggest challenges in India is the intercultural misunderstandings that will happen between Western (or Eastern) and Indian mentalities. With the caste system being a very strong subconscious force, high poverty and un-education levels, multiple religions and sects as well as an upbringing totally different from other countries, one needs tolerance and patience to succeed in this area of the world. Asking the right question in the right way has proven very successful for me. Example given, instead of asking “Have you completed this list?” one should say “Yesterday I asked you to make a list, please show it to me now”. In the first instance the initial reaction most likely would be a “yes” whereas in the second instance, the answer is forced to be either a “here it is” or “I haven’t done that yet” (in which case you can give an immediate new deadline).

As said in the beginning and in my last post, I probably could write a whole book about the challenges one encounters and how to tackle them. I invite everyone who would like to know more to either leave me a comment here or contact me at MLVONSCHAPER AT YAHOO DOT DE.