Project Management as a Tool for Governments in a Contracting Economy

Last Updated: 05 Jul 2021
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Project management can be regarded as an important application especially as to how this approach highlights the focus of a particular project that takes place within a specific period, resources and other constraints. Project management has therefore introduced means to achieve many goals of an organization without having to put the entire institution at risk; this is to say that since projects are defined according to their uniqueness and given constraints, its management needs to be specific according to what needs to be executed based on the established limitations.

In the government sector, governments come up with numerous projects of various nature which can be said to be also driven by many factors such as, for instance, the incumbent administration and other political forces that may further define the potentiality of a certain proposal.

Similar to other organizations, governments rely on contracts as a means to push through with a certain project; however, what makes this scenario unique is that other than the political factors, there are a greater amount of considerations involved such as the degree of stakeholder influence and at the same time, depending on the height of the profile of the project, the project itself can be easily subject to public scrutiny. This is why, as Howes (2001) pointed out, government project management approaches are typically found to be restrictive with high demands on "productivity, accountability and cost containment" (Howes, 2001, 214).

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This is a stark contrast between the project management approaches in the commercial sector which, according to Howes (2001), have become prevalent because of the greater number of project management in the commercial setting; in this regard, the author pointed out that even though there are the common principles applied between the two practices, it is important to see their differences because they have significantly diverged in vocabulary and in practice, and the fact that as commercial project management approaches are common, government project management techniques are found to be usually different.

As a tool, project management in the government sector has been important especially as the government continuously have projects of varying magnitudes. However, unlike in the commercial practices, it is notable that these projects are also subject to many filters such as policies, regulations, and other components that need to be considered in order for the project to move on (Crawford & Helm, 2009).

Hence, in such scenario, it can be said that in the government context of project management, the complexity is due to the amount of bureaucracy that is present which, as compared to the commercial sphere, can be regarded to be too many (Frame, 2002). This paper therefore presents an evaluation of different government project management case studies which further distinguishes them from the more common commercial context. It should be noted that governments also get their projects and grant contracts to commercial bodies, thereby, certain factors need to be considered.

Therefore, from the case studies, it can be examined how certain commercial or private entities have managed to address and adjusted to the government framework of project management. 2. 0 Review of Literature 2. 1 A Discussion on Projects and Project Management As a means to comprehend what project management is, it is initially significant to define what constitutes a project. In general terms, a project is "a one-shot, time-limited, goal-directed, major undertaking, requiring the commitment of varied skills and resources", and has a "finite, lifep" (Stuckenbruck, 1981, 1). Webster and Knutson (2006, 1) further discuss a project as, ubiquitous. Projects are the driving force for many organizations in most industries. Projects can be looked upon as the change efforts in the society, and the pace of change has been increasing. From this, it is evident that it is through projects that certain goals and objects are achieved because this is how they get actualized. For instance, a government may have envisioned integrating information technology as an essential platform of the future; this can take place when the government implements a project that solidifies that vision, such as for instance, computerization and digitization.

Hence, a single or a multitude of projects can be implemented as long as they serve a common or a single goal. This is why it is critical for projects to be managed whether they are small-scale projects such as fundraisers or huge projects such as the construction of a new bridge or government building. In any case, it shows that projects are enforced not just by objective but also by its function or outcomes (Webster & Knutson, 2006). When it comes to the execution of the project and its management, Howes (2001) discussed the many elements that need to be considered especially in the aspect of skills.

The author pointed out that it is important that the ability to comprehend the relationships among the people, budgets and technologies, in addition to the execution of planning for the maximization of productivity, motivation for execution, the analysis of the results and the revision and fine-tuning of the plans as a means to respond to the realities every project is subject to. This also reflects what Frame (2002) mentioned as to the changing business environment.

All projects are bound to face countless obstacles that demonstrate that projects are still prone to external forces; which is why it is important to manage them and implement approaches as a means to prevent any risks or problems from arising at critical levels.

2. 2 Project Management in the Government Context

Project management in the government context is discussed by Procca (2008) in which the author mentioned a project that would develop a model specific for a government initiative.

This is an important example of how project management principles are modelled and designed after the requirements of a particular government agency or initiative. As Procca (2008) explained, the importance of these applications which change over time can be seen in the changing environment of the agencies and in the societies. Hence, in the formulation of an effective project management approach for a government sector, Procca mentioned the integration of government-driven initiatives such as research and development as among the fundamentals in the design of a specific project management technique.

Arif (2008) presented a case study on an e-government initiative in a municipality in Dubai; the author mentioned the amount of adjustments the government sector had to make in order to make room for a critical development in the municipality, especially for an IT project management. Arif mentioned that since change was about to take place at the municipal level, in order for the project to become successful, the stakeholders were informed and their responses were assessed.

The author also pointed out that the success of such projects rely on the aspects of communication and knowledge.

3. 0 Research Method and Data Collection

3. 1 Purpose of Study

This paper aims to highlight project management as a tool used in the government settings, and highlight how the actual applications have made this distinctive. As a means to further distinguish the practice from the other project management approaches, this study examines selected cases which demonstrate an application of a project management methodology in a government project.

Hence, this study also aims to show some projects which the government may take project management depending on the proponents that will be included in the initiative. This research therefore assesses these examples as a means to define distinctive elements that make project management work best as a tool in the government given that the methodologies, processes and work environment are different from the common examples.

3. 2 The Qualitative Paradigm

As a means to effectively execute the aim of this research, this research utilizes the qualitative paradigm and identifies it as an effective methodology for this initiative. According to Potter (1996, 57), it has been observed that the three facets of qualitative research are people, institution and text; the author also mentioned that the qualitative evidence gives way to a venue of exploration especially as to what is to be examined can be considered as a phenomena. Hence, although the qualitative paradigm does not give a definitive or quantifiable result as compared to the results from the quantitative methodology, the qualitative approach allows an investigation as the needs of those who use certain tools such as project management.

This therefore demonstrates an examination and a presentation of project management in a specific context. In this regards, through the qualitative paradigm, this study presents a comparison of case studies in which project management is applied in government projects, and from there, an analysis of the important points of the selected case studies will serve as the points of analyses of this study. 3. 3 Data Collection This paper identifies the following articles/case studies presenting project management applications in the government setting:

An e-government initiative is examined by Dye (n. d. ); in this paper, Dye mentioned how a the project portfolio management can benefit government projects especially those that have a technological nature. This time, the author proposed means to effectively implement a project that can provide improved services to the people and organizations while at the same time, acknowledging the government aspect as a proponent in the project. The next case is the examination of the Department of Energy projects as assessed by an independent research team.

This document by the Civil Engineering Research Foundation specifies the important points in the evaluated series of projects implemented by the DOE. This document thereby gives a comparative resources as to the approaches, implementation and status of some DOE projects. This source provides a comprehensive overview as to how project management was approached in this specific government agency. From these resources, the next provides an overview of these studies and from there, the different aspects in the project management approach are identified.

4. 0 Analysis and Discussion

4. 1 Project Management

Portfolio in an e-Government Project: Considerations In an article by Dye (n. d. ), the author mentioned that governments have been embracing the advantages of the electronic world especially in terms of how it can effectively provide service to the people through this specific platform. The author enumerated five important factors that have further enforced such initiative as the outcomes can be generally considered also beneficial to the government. These factors are as follows:

  1. Through the e-Government platform there was the foreseen reduction in the costs of the operations especially as most transactions will be done electronically. Hence, there is the cited decrease in the overhead of the operations. ? Economic development was identified to be further encouraged especially as this initiative can help the promotion of sectors such as tourism in addition to meeting many business needs. ? The efficiency was seen in the integration of information and communication, especially as to how this can lead to easier access and utilization.
  2. There is also the increase in the access across the government sectors at national, regional and local levels. Generally, the initial approach to project management in this case needs to apply the basic practices in any project management initiative. As Dye (n. d. ) mentioned, it is important to consider the following factors that even the government should not overlook: ? Examining the capacity of the agency in responding and accommodating the possibilities of the project.
  3. Identifying the resources needed to make it possible, and how, in effect, the project still maintains a good business sense. ? Identifying the projects or sub-projects that need to be pursued not only by means of prioritization but also relevance. For instance, for an e-government project, what are the platforms that need to be implemented --- Government to Government, Government to Business or Government to Citizen? From here, it is important to further identify which initiatives should be done first.
  4. In addition to identifying the projects that need to be pursued, it is also important to identify which projects may have to be accelerated (as based on a pressing need), which projects have to be continued, and which projects have to be terminated. From this case, this shows that the government has to identify the many kinds of returns it can expect, from the business to the social responses. It is therefore inevitable that as the government uses resources in order to make its electronic projects possible, the calculation of the return-on-investment tends to be only natural.

As Dye explained this case (n. d. , 5): Saving money should not be the broad vision that should motivate e-gov. Quantifying value is not necessarily about financial return. While the return to a “for-profit” business may be an increase in the financial, the primary return on e-gov is increased efficiency, however it is measured by the myriad of stakeholders... As e-gov investments continue to come under more scrutiny, selecting the right projects becomes even more important.

Moving beyond simple financially- based decision criteria enables governments and their agencies to invest in the projects that most closely match the desired goals and objectives. In this regard, the project management approach in this context is by means of identifying the right goals and objectives that enforce the e-Government project and at the same time, ensure that the previously mentioned "capacity" also include the presence of political sponsorship and desire; information policy; infrastructure; human capital; and existing resources for the budget.

In terms of the management aspect, Dye (n. d. ) mentioned that the project management and control should come from those in the upper management, especially when it comes to making logical and difficult decisions; when certain structures need to be changed; and that the management is open to evaluation as a means to gather knowledge by means of the lessons learned. In addition, since this is a government project, whether the project management team and the main contractors are in-house or outsourced, it is important to emphasize the following factors:

  1.  The case of privacy and security, especially as public records are being handled;
  2. How to address the gap between institution and citizens, and how technology is supposed to help in this concern;
  3. The acknowledgement of the public sector in terms of the limitations of the initiative, especially as the electronic platform also enables access to the global audience;
  4. The reality of continuous demand for technology which the government agencies need to maintain.

4. 2 Project Management Approaches at the Department of Energy

According to the independent study by Civil Engineering Research Foundation (CERF, 2004), projects at the DOE during a certain time frame can be considered as a success because of the following factors:

  1. The presence of effective Integrated Project Teams (IPT) which include those who will deliver the main tasks of the project in addition to personnel who would also function as procurement and facilities/user.
  2. The presence of an effective DOE Project Director who possessed the competitive skills needed in the leading and the management of the different projects of the agency.
  3. The said director was noted to differentiate and demonstrate substantial skills and leadership and how to efficiently direct the execution of the projects.
  4. In addition to the Project Director, the study also identified that another success factor is the presence of Contract Managers who were competitive in their skills and leadership. Generally, the report demonstrates how the success of these projects mostly relied on the combination of structure and people.

In the projects at the DOE, it was shown in the study that the project management methodologies had to comply with certain policy requirements which is a standard in government projects. Hence, the Policy and Order for these DOE projects also determined the scope, schedule and budget of the projects. Primarily, the standards applied in these project demonstrate how they managed to pull through within the specific policy and order that was imposed on the projects; these policies and orders spell out the project management processes and procedures that need to be complied with.

Apparently, the presence of these agency-imposed standards were critical in these DOE projects especially as these initiatives were of high value and of high risk. In addition to projects costing millions of dollars, these projects required critical skills. Examples of these projects were environmental management initiatives which include decontamination activities and building projects which would house nuclear-based activities and products.

4. 3 Analysis

Based on these two documents it can be gathered that the factors that differentiate government-based project management approaches are as follows:

  1. The number of the stakeholders involved are usually greater, especially as the eventual beneficiaries of these projects are the public, in addition to the fact that the costs of these projects are substantial.
  2. The presence of important project management structures that combines the best practices of the principles and at the same time, the integration of the relevant government policies and regulations that need to be acknowledged in the execution of these projects.
  3. The emphasis on the importance of good leadership and management as expected from the individuals coming both from the project team and the government agency.

As a tool, project management is definitely important in the government setting although as governments have many pre-conditions, how they approach project management is different from the usual approach as seen in the commercial settings. In a sense, what these studies can show is that projects in the government are not easy; there is indeed the acknowledgement of the presence of the bureaucracy thereby making the project management processes more complex.

Moreover, it is also inevitable that in certain cases, government projects have been questioned, especially for projects that would become too controversial. This is because as the government project usually concerns the public, both the government and its projects become subject to scrutiny. From this it is important to look at certain successful government projects such as those reviewed by the CERF as to the general success of the projects implemented by the DOE.

Apparently, the success has been attributed to the people themselves and how through effective leadership and management, the government structure through policies and orders, have managed to work with the project management principles. This is therefore an important aspect in the success of these projects because a project moves dependent on the mobilization of the members of the project team as led by its leaders and managers.

5. 0 Conclusion

Governments need to apply project management approaches as tools in the successful execution and implementation of its projects that are representative of its goals and objectives. As can be seen in the examination of the two primary sources of this paper, the general project management principles and best practices still apply in the government setting especially as these best practices would prove to be the forces behind the successful government projects. It should be also noted that as a tool, project management requires leadership, effective management and the competencies of the members of the project teams as a means to ensure that the success does not only rely on the results of the project but also in the quality.

In any successful project management initiative in the government, it is therefore important to integrate project management knowledge and practice, and at the same time, make sure that the established standards of the agencies are followed because these define further the greater scope and impact of government projects.

6. 0 References

  1. Arif, M. (2008). Customer Orientation in E-Government Project Management: a Case Study. Electronic Journal of e-Government, 6, 1-10. Center for Technology in Government (2004).
  2. New Models of Collaboration: an Overview. Civil Engineering Research Foundation. (2008)
  3. Independent Research Assessment of Project Management Factors Affecting Department Energy Project Success. Crawford, L. , Helm, J. (2009). Government and Governance: The Value of Project Management in the Public Sector. Project Management Journal, 40, 73-87.
  4. Dye, L. (n. d. ) Project Portfolio Management: A Critical Tool in Managing E-government Investments. Frame, J. D. (2002).
  5. The New Project Management: Tools for an Age of Rapid Change, Complexity, and Other Business Realities. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Howes, N. (2001).
  6. Modern Project Management: Successfully Integrating Project Management Knowledge Areas and Processes. New York: AMACOM.
  7. Potter, W. J. (1996). An Analysis of Thinking and Research about Qualitative Methods. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Procca, A. (2008). Development of a Project Management Model for a Government Research and Development Organization. Project Management Journal, 39, 33- 57.
  8. Stuckenbruck, L. (1981). Introduction. The Implementation of Project Management: The Professional's Handbook, L. Stuckenbruck, Ed. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Webster, F ; Knutson, J. (2006).
  9. What is Project Management? Project Management Concepts and Methodologies. The AMA Handbook of Project Management. P. Dinsmore ; J. Cabanis-Brewin, Eds. New York: AMACOM.
  10. Williams, T. , Klakegg, O. , Magnussen, O. ; Glasspool, H. (n. d. ) Practical Implications in Governance Frameworks for Public Projects.

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Project Management as a Tool for Governments in a Contracting Economy. (2018, Jul 25). Retrieved from

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