Abogados de Alicante

Alberto Cañizares
8 de junio de 2014
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Public Sector Project Management

Rafael Eloy Montero Gosálbez

Abogado, MBA, PMP


A project, as defined by the Project Management Institute (PMI), is "a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result"1. A project has start and end dates, established budget, expected results, life cycle and need to manage resources.

Certainly, urban development and its management, public or private, and the development of many public activities can be considered projects, so they can be managed with the tools of the Project Management Institute.

Private and public management have different problems, so is worth considering them separately. So, this article stresses the issue of Public Sector Project Management, governance at the municipal level.

To understand the PMP methodology, it is necessary to understand its core and amplitude. Thus, the basis of Project Management is the Deming’s cycle or continuous improvement, also known as PDCA: Plan, Do, Check, Act.

Regarding its amplitude, it must be stressed that Project Management it is not only a method of management but a change in mindset resulting in better management and higher quality.

The application of project management requires assessing each case with a structured vision:

  • With 5 process groups: initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing.
  • And 10 knowledge areas:
    • Three restrictive: scope, time and cost.
    • Three insurers: integration, quality and risk.
    • Four facilitators: procurement, communications, human resources and stakeholders.

In the "initiation" will set the overall objectives of the project and collect the most important risks and stakeholders, also assessing the costs and / or the feasibility and financing activities.

At "planning" we work over the implications of the 10 areas of knowledge in the project objectives. We will establish, iteratively, every aspect required for the development of the project, issue or file into desired direction.

In "execution" jobs are executed and the information is collected to be controls carried out.

In "control" what has been done is examined, the quality analyzed and continuous improvement, both of the specific case and corporate processes, takes place.

At the "closure" of each project deliverables are transferred, the project is formally closed and lessons learned are collected.

Key aspects of Project Management are properly determine the scope (the objectives and limits we have), the stakeholders with power to influence the results, the main risks and the strategies and ways of communication. Integration or coordination of all processes is made by the project manager.

The issue of public management regarding the implementation of the PMP methodology is precisely the need for a change in mindset especially of policy-makers, and also of work teams..

As has been said, at the very beginning of projects before its release, before the "Project Charter" a review of the objective pursued, of key stakeholders (which may derail the project or enhance it), of risks (human, material, financial) has to be done, and we need also to think about costs, feasibility and project financing.

However, it is recurrent in many Local Authorities, to start projects without assessing risks, financing or stakeholders, sometimes without even thinking or be advised about the purpose or the ways to reach it.

The implementation of the PMP methodology in local governance would bring many economical, managerial and political advantages.

I mean, at first, it may seem that the introduction of the PMP methodology restricts political initiatives or somehow limits the policymakers and institutions movements, however it is not.

Quite the opposite, the implementation of PMP is an initiative that involves saving without needing public services constraints, also is a management improvement assurance, thus:

• A preliminary examination of projects or issues are made during the drafting of the Project Charter, which in this case would be integrated, in Spain, with the Municipal Management Commissions.

• By making a preliminary analysis of the risks and the feasibility and financial possibilities of projects, the work team makes sure to only implement viable projects.

• Allows to make a breakdown structure of the work and a realistic project schedule, so the distribution of tasks and the need for external contracts is planned well in advance avoiding delays.

• Concerning projects that may be in a dead end, staff, time and money efforts are saved.

• Allows political selling of a real improvement in in the management of public affairs.

In local public management body practical applications of Project Management could be:

• Structuring the Municipal Management Commissions as "Project Charters", incorporating data beyond the strictly legal requirements: realistic information on scope, cost, time, stakeholders, risks, financing, etc..

• The development of templates for management plans for each project, divided into 5 groups of  processes and 10 knowledge areas, to be developed before starting the drafting of documents and conducting external assignments, so that before starting project works team and stakeholders were is deeply aware of:

  • The scope of the project, its purpose, to the extent that it can be broken down into items.
  • The work breakdown structure itself (WBS).
  • work blocks divided into specific tasks, valued at time and cost, and its commission inside or outside the structures of the organization or company.
  • The schedule coordinated with the breakdown structure.
  • The assessment and mitigation of known risks.
  • The settlement of time and cost buffers for unknown risks.
  • Quality management.
  • Identification of relevant stakeholders pro and con the project and the strategies to be adopted to enhance its support to the project.

• The adaptation of the companies structures to projectized or strong matrix structures, so that the figure of the project managers could grow in authority.

• Clarification of communication channels with policy makers, citizens, and other stakeholders.

• The delivery to stakeholders, customers and citizens of a satisfaction survey.

• Set up a collection of templates.

• Coordination with eGovernment that is now beginning to be implemented in many local authorities.

• The creation of an archive of learned lessons ordered by process group and knowledge areas, for example:

  • Standarized procedures.
  • Strategies against recurring stakeholders: government, financial institutions, large landowners.
  • Strategies against recurring and known risks.
  • Estimation of temporal duration of projects or phases.
  • Strategic for quality management, document management, communication requirements classified by type of case, etc.

In Spain, and in many other countries, the key obstacles that may be have the implementation of this methodology can be basically, the resistance of the public agencies themselves and the lack of convincing of policy makers that these tools enhance their management rather than discourage it.

Just like quality management systems, if the belief of the need and benefits of implementation (opposed to the traditional management Local Administrations), do not come from policy makers, these management methods won’t implemented.

An example of public management improvements we find in UK, whose government created the management method PRINCE2, which today is implemented in a many international institutions.

When a project management methodology will be implemented in the Spanish Government?

In future articles we will delve into other perspectives of Project Management.

Quote 1 A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)—Fifth Edition.

Rafael Eloy Montero Gosálbez

Lawyer. MBA.

PMP®, certified Project Manager Professional.

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