Practicing project management

Many government entities are looking to increase their capabilities in project management to improve success rates

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Practicing project management Project management tools and practices are increasingly being adopted by government organisations.
By  Mark Sutton Published  August 28, 2015

Government IT projects count among some of the largest and most complex IT initiatives in the world, so it is a given that successful completion of these projects requires close oversight and application of standards and best practice. Even so, failure rates of large projects remain high. Only one in eight projects are completed successfully on time, within budget and meeting all original specifications, and the larger the project, the bigger the risk.

A 2011 study by Oxford University’s Said Business School and McKinsey & Co, which looked at 1,400 projects with budgets of over $170m, found that one in six large scale IT projects go over-budget by an average of 200%, On average, large IT projects run 45% over budget and 7% over time, while delivering 56% less value than predicted.

Government IT projects seem to be even more prone to failure, with specific factors putting additional pressures and challenges on the public sector. This can lead to some disastrous project failures, such as the failed US Airforce logistics system (ECSS) which was scrapped in 2012 at a cost of $1bn, or the UK National Health Service patient record scheme which was cancelled with an ongoing cost of well over $10bn. While no such high-level failures have been disclosed in the GCC, with increasing digitisation of government, comes a growing need for good project management practices and procedures to steer projects to successful completion.

Ihsan Anabtawi, regional manager, Applications and Services, Microsoft Gulf, said that there is an increase in technology tools for project management, like its Microsoft Project solution which is designed to assist a project manager in developing a plan, assigning resources to tasks, tracking progress, managing budget, and analysing workloads.

“Governments in the region are rapidly taking up technology as an important element in ensuring efficiency in project management. With government projects becoming ever more complex due to changing public demands, governments are embracing key tools to facilitate managements of projects on the go to guarantee quick service delivery,” said Anabtawi.

Emitac Enterprise Solutions (EES) also sees increasing maturity for project management in the public sector. Adil Haider, solutions manager, EES, commented: “Most of the government organisations are adopting project management best practices, however it’s a gradual move with a phased approach to end user adoption or readiness. As a general phenomenon, people don’t want to be tracked but this mindset is changing rapidly in the past three to four years. Looking at the economic expansion of the region, and with Expo 2020 ahead, which are resulting in a high number of projects, more and more, government entities are looking to have methodologies and processes to streamline their practices and improve upon them.”

The systems integrator has a project management practice, which offers a complete range of solutions including project management office setup, project management processes creation, and refinement and mapping of process onto tools, along with training. The company counts a number of government organisations in the region as its customers.

Project management solutions have already had an impact in industrial and infrastructure projects. IFS, which offers a complete project lifecycle management solution, has developed a strong user base with government customers in areas such as defence and utilities. Ian Fleming, managing director, IFS Middle East, Africa and South Asia, said that complex projects can benefit a great deal from a single integrated project management solution, which can allow stakeholders to automatically update on project plans from anywhere or at any time during a project.

Fleming said that this is particularly important when managing complex projects which may be delivered through a global supply chain and where costs are managed in multiple currencies: “These types of projects are inherently high risk, but IFS enforces a structured and holistic approach to the project management process which allows risks to be managed and issues to be identified early before they threaten the success of the project.

“What’s more, with all the information in its applications, completed projects become templates for successive jobs/projects. This makes costing and risk management so much easier and eliminates nasty surprises,” he added.

Haider said that one of the major differences between government and enterprise in project management is that the enterprise tends to have more defined project management processes and governance processes, which means that they just require processes mapping to the relevant technology, whereas government entities are trying to setup their PMOs and either have an independent division or PM is embedded within IT. Consultants or vendors are engaged for process consultancy and automation.

Haider also noted an increase in government organisations encouraging their project managers to get professional qualifications such as PMP, which helps to improve the use of best practice methodologies and tools for more effective projects, and which also help projects to meet standards and guidelines.

“This is one of the core KPIs of project managers as this would help them to understand PM concepts and be able to apply them in actual projects. Most of the federal and local governments’ projects are being monitored directly by the Project Management Office on a regular basis. Therefore timely and within budget execution of projects becomes a very critical factor, thus enforcing individual PMs as well as respective entities to work accordingly,” he said.

Anabtawi said that project management training could help in a number of areas including facilitating communication between stakeholders, developing leadership skills and assembling and managing project teams.

“Where courses were undertaken by a group from the same organisation the common learning of a standard method has helped in developing a consistent approach to managing projects using a common language. This common language to describe issues within a business has enabled clearer definitions of areas for development versus best practice,” he commented.

“Professional project management training can ensure that organisations of all sizes reap the benefits of a well-controlled, project-based approach to business. The training helps to develop a full understanding of the project goals, objectives and benefits before committing significant resources. It also helps to ensure that the project proceeds effectively through all the essential phases, from concept through to completion and is properly reviewed by the stakeholders at key stages including initiation and final acceptance.

“Training allows organisations to establish a structured approach for clearly defining roles and responsibilities for the delivery of the project and its work packages. This is critical to building commitment to the project objectives,” he concluded.

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