Knowledge Articles > Six Key Considerations for Effective Government Project Management

Six Key Considerations for Effective Government Project Management

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What is government project management?

A government project is any structured activity that has been planned and executed to provide a predetermined Project Outcome. These projects are often related to critical government programs or policy initiatives. Government project management is therefore the focused attempt to deliver project outputs required to achieve a project outcome and in turn program outcomes.

The structured nature of this approach should provide oversight for matters such as project governance, outputs, and outcomes, as well as project teams and their structures. In turn, the public and other stakeholders who rely on government services are assured that resources will be managed efficiently and that stated outcomes will be achieved.  Despite these efforts, government project management does not always lead to the achievement of these project outcomes.

Various studies have found that project delays occur in upwards of 60% of government projects. Such delays can result in reputational damage, disputes between contractors and suppliers, and increased costs. These factors can lead to projects being cancelled or placed on hold, further compounding damages to stakeholder relationships.

For government project managers to avoid these negative repercussions, and ensure projects maximise social outcomes and create sustained community benefits, it is critical that they understand these 6 key considerations for effective government project management.

Table of Contents

 

Know why government projects fail so you can avoid common mistakes

 Government projects can fail to achieve their stated goals for a range of reasons including:

  • A lack of alignment between the individual project and the organisation’s strategic program goals
  • A lack of flexibility – especially in relation to costs and estimated project durations
  • Poor stakeholder management
  • Inadequate or non-existent risk management and governance procedures
  • Poorly defined or unachievable targets, outcomes, and objectives

Many of these reasons relate to a lack of structure, organisational vision, and preplanning. To achieve the outcomes that their constituents rely on, departments should take a more rigorous approach to government project management.  By adopting proven tools and techniques, the public sector can overcome these limitations and use data to drive outcomes that scale with each new project. Without a doubt, the most cost effective and evidence-based solution to overcoming these challenges is in the adoption of a purpose-built government project management software system.

The first step in overcoming these challenges is identifying a software solution that maps to the unique requirements of project lifecycle management.

 

Understand the lifecycle of your project

The government project lifecycle is a high-level overview of the stages involved in moving a project from proposal to acquittal, or closure.

Using a lifecycle approach provides a systematic framework to project-based work and allows you to better structure timelines and reporting processes.

While there are a range of lifecycle frameworks, a common approach will involve a series of linear steps such as:

  1. Initiation – Determining project scope, business case, deliverables, milestones and timelines, objectives, budgets, and risks.
  2. Planning – Developing more detailed documentation around the project scope, determining performance indicators, the structure of the project, and a resource plan and detailed budget estimations.
  3. Execution – Budget is allocated, team members and other project stakeholders are continuously briefed and managed through task and workflow management.
  4. Monitoring, Controlling and Closing – These final steps all revolve around tracking spending, timelines, and goals to ensure they are aligned with your project plans. It is also a time for reflection, by reporting on outcomes and determining future plans.

Purpose-built government project management software is often mapped to these lifecycle stages, with features to streamline core business processes. As such, a digitised project management platform should contain key features such as:

  • document management
  • fund management
  • project scheduling and milestone tracking
  • workflows and automations
  • notifications, emails, alerts, and reminders
  • roles-based permissions and secure controls

Let’s explore how document management simplifies the initiation phase through a more collaborative approach to scope management.

government project management framework

 

Digitise your documentation and make scope management a priority

Effectively managing the scope of a project, i.e. the breadth of outputs, outcomes and the timelines required to achieve them, is essential to limiting uncertainty later on in the project lifecycle.

Given the range of stakeholders involved in any given project, different interests and expectations will inevitably emerge as projects progress. This ‘scope creep’ can impact performance as questions and competing ideas arise around costs, timelines, and goals.

Scope creep often compounds over time, making it essential that government project managers can iron out the details early in the planning phase, and ideally check in with stakeholders throughout the project delivery.

To ensure consistency in expectations and a clear project scope, it’s best to get everyone on the same page early. Documents such as a clear scope of work and a detailed business case help create an alignment between your project, your organisation’s strategic programs and its stakeholders.

Government project management systems such as Enquire provide cloud-based contract management, aligned to projects which are in turn aligned to larger programs. This provides project managers and their colleagues with anytime access to these documents, in one central location, as well as the strategic vision enabled by such a relational database of documentation.

While scope management is essential, it’s critical to remember that projects that are overly rigid also run the risk of failing. That’s why Enquire streamlines scope variation management for government projects, providing project managers with flexibility over timelines, costs and goals. With timelines in mind, let’s turn our attention to the role scheduling plays in project outcomes.

 

Utilise modern scheduling tools for government project management

Once a project manager has a clearly defined scope of work and timeline estimates for its associated activities, it is necessary to develop a timeline to forecast where costs and contractual obligations fall throughout the project.

In Enquire this process is handled in the scheduling tab of a project record, where incoming and outgoing payments, as well as contract milestones are recorded, actioned, and managed. This allows the team to review contracted and paid amounts in one glance, as well as the dates projects are due and ultimately completed.

With a searchable schedule with sort and filter capabilities it is easy for a project manager to assess the outputs of an individual supplier or assignee in a few clicks. Having this information on hand is essential as the public sector grapples with increasing demands to do more with less and identify high performing resources.

Financial integrations make executing payments from within the system just as simple, so teams can quickly transition from the planning phase of the lifecycle to actual budget allocation. Better still, the project costs tab can be used to link project costs to payment milestones. This becomes essential as projects move into the monitoring, controlling, and closing phases of the project lifecycle.

 

Transparently account for risks and stakeholder concerns

While accounting for risks and stakeholder concerns should really be a consideration throughout the project lifecycle, these factors come to particularly dominate the final stages of a project.

As outputs begin to materialise, it is important that they undergo quality assurance checks to ensure they deliver against the stated project outcomes. In smaller projects, these may be informal processes, but larger initiatives may require dedicated assessment workflows to manage and review their outputs.

Likewise, depending on the length of your project your reliance on status reports will vary. Enquire digitises the project status and client reporting processes, with configurable forms, comments, attachments, and a host of other features that allow your team to better understand how progress is being made against milestones, budgets and any identified issues or risks.

The richness of this data capture, and its integrated inclusion throughout the project management system makes identifying and responding to risks and issues a proactive process. Contrast this to the use of conditional formatting in an Excel spreadsheet, where by the time you’re seeing red cells you can already expect delays, increased costs and stakeholder blowback.

Risk management is more than a series of checkboxes. It is an active component of every project lifecycle and should be reflected as such in your software solutions. When you consider risk management in this light, it becomes easier to identify not only risks but opportunities – areas to reduce costs, enhance efficiencies and deliver greater outputs for all stakeholders. Enquire gives project managers the oversight required to not only identify these opportunities, but to action them.

If we take a step back and explore how this data is captured in the first place, we realise another key requirement in any government project management software. Namely, that configurability, of both processes and data points, is what gives government programs the ability to manage efficiently, while remaining flexible to project demands.

 

Use configurable reporting indicators to streamline project governance

A lack of defined goals, and strategic misalignment between projects and programs are hampering government projects. These issues can easily be overcome by adopting more configurable management systems.

At no stage in the project lifecycle is this clearer than in outcome reporting. By measuring and reporting outputs against projects, it becomes easy for managers to communicate their impact, compare their performance, and make better decisions at the program level. Establishing these indicators should occur early so that they can be reviewed and reported on throughout the project.

In Enquire indicators are integrated into your progress reporting, ensuring your external project partners report against your stated goals. The system’s interface provides clear indications of when and where reporting data was sourced, as well as how these numbers relate to program objectives. The easy-to-read interface provides an indication of the percentage completion of a particular target, making it simple for project managers to provide their stakeholders with precise project performance metrics.

This one feature tackles two of the biggest challenges in modern project rollouts, while also providing additional benefits to the transparency and governance of government projects. Such systems help keep the public sector accountable, improving the trust of constituents and their confidence in government services. To learn more about Enquire’s impact reporting features and what they can do for your organisation, click here.

 

Why you need dedicated government project management software

Enquire was purpose built to deliver enhanced oversight for government projects and grant programs. Its subsequent development has been informed by the feedback of local, state, and federal government clients and their constituents, who frequently report on the ease of use and sector-specific benefits of the system.

Tactiv Support Team

About Enquire

Enquire reduces the administrative burden of doing good, while increasing social outcomes. Manage funded projects and social investments with automations and configurable business process workflows to generate impactful outcomes that scale.

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