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Strong project management in public sector agencies establishes effective and cost-efficient outcomes for taxpayers by delivering value in a limited amount of time and with limited resources. It also enables efficient management of time-bound budgets by understanding how all project progress is tracking and where adjustments or reallocations can be made. Though project management has been in play for project-based work in some public sector agencies for 50 years, the need for PMOs has increased across all areas of government over the past decade.

The essential government PMO

Taking a page from the private sector, an increasing number of government agencies are embracing the PMO to improve project and program management, realising that they are essential for sharing project and portfolio management processes, tools and information.

A common misconception is that government offices don’t require dedicated project management because, unlike the private sector, they are not profit-driven. But one might argue that because government projects are subjected to much more criticism and scrutiny by the people they serve, it is even more critical for a government PMO to be established and maximised than a private sector office.

Due to the nature of public sector agencies and their necessity to react to unforeseen situations and civic changes, PMOs can help them not only react, but utilise proactive tactics without having to reinvent tools and techniques for every new project, planned or otherwise. Therefore, in dealing with the scope and responsibility attached to public projects, an effective PMO is key to improving the value and viability of a government office.

What can a government PMO achieve?

A well-oiled PMO can do more than facilitate the completion of successful projects. It can make government more agile by increasing flexibility while embracing an innovative culture. Public sector agencies are historically averse to rapid change, especially with technology, but with the implementation of a PMO and the uniformity it imparts on government projects, positive change inherently follows.

When an efficient PMO is in place, workers who were once used to limited access to government leaders and having to adhere to labour intensive administration and reporting that could stifle the flow of projects, are finally able to focus on delivering important civic work such as critical infrastructure or how to better serve the public.

Tips for Effective Government Project Management

A strong PMO requires all senior stakeholders to be on board and in tune with the needs of the organisation and its strategic goals, willing to implement a host of strategies that a successful PMO demands. Without buy-in and sponsorship from the top down, projects are at risk of being compromised mid-stream on aspects like costing and scheduling.

Onboarding senior stakeholders from the outset paves a path to better planning, enabling a clear direction and the allocation of stakeholders to specific duties to avoid conflicts down the track. This is also a good time to set clear project goals against agreed upon metrics and timelines so that no key project deliverables are missed.

Once the planning is done and the project is in flight, it’s imperative that the PMO team monitors planned benchmarks, deadlines and progress using PPM at its core. With large government projects underpinned by massive budgets, monitoring stages is critical. In projects of such magnitude, one missed benchmark could result in a multi-million-dollar budget blowout, compromising the credibility of an agency. So, the ability to make timely adjustments based on the tracking of stages is essential to the success of a government PMO.

PMO as a change agent

A government PMO does not have to be viewed as a policing tool by agencies. Instead, it should be seen as a supportive resource that can act as an agent of change delivering benefits across projects of all sizes. When used effectively in the public sector, it can help achieve better outcomes for taxpayers by tracking benefits against projects that serve the community. With more and more government agencies recognising the value of a modern PMO, they are giving credence to delivering successful projects with greater visibility, efficiency and outcomes.