Project Management

3 Top Challenges for Government Agency Project Management and How to Solve Them


Project management is the art and science of rallying a team, creating a plan and executing on it. That simplified definition hides a whole host of complications – and government agencies have a unique set of challenges to overcome to drive project completion, achieve key success criteria, and do it all while meeting specific compliance requirements.

According to the Project Management Institute’s 9th Global Project Management Survey, “Pulse of the Profession”:

  • Agencies waste an average of $97M for every $1B invested in projects
  • Less than 50 percent of agency projects are completed on time
  • 26 percent of project budget gets lost if a project fails

Those are frustrating numbers for agency project and program managers and directors struggling to meet requirements, attract and retain top talent to work on their projects, and squeeze the last bits of use from legacy management tools and programs. Agencies can more effectively respond to those changes and deliver substantial, incremental value to users by taking advantage of new project management innovations that allows them to better adapt to shifting project mandates and priorities.

Managing project requirements

Cited as the second-most common reason for project failure, the inability to manage project requirements leads to 51 percent of project and program dollars being wasted – and only a third of agency leaders value requirements management as a critical competency.

This is a major disconnect. To be successful, the team must define “success” well before a project begins, find agreement on measurable outcomes to shoot for, and use metrics to track progress toward them.

Ideally, the project leader will make sure the project contributes to larger objectives that the department is pursuing. If it doesn’t, this might be the wrong project (or it might be the right project, but at the wrong time). Different types of teams need to share an understanding of different things. Agencies can organize and document agreement on project requirements using Jira Software, which houses tasks and dependencies, manages risk, and generates accessible reports on progress and task completion. Requirements management and communication is handled end-to-end in Jira Software, and further facilitated and documented through Confluence. Real-time updates and changes can be communicated in Trello, Stride, or Hipchat.

Talent management

Even if a project has clear and agreed upon requirements, it can go nowhere without the right team. According to PMI, retirement is the number one reason for currently unfilled project management positions. In addition, only 37 percent of agencies have a formal knowledge transfer process in place, and 1 in 5 workers attribute project failure primarily to “inexperienced project managers.”

No project is ready to lift off without gathering people with the skills needed to solve the problem.

As agencies aim for multi-disciplinary teams with a variety of backgrounds and problem-solving styles, PMI research shows that diverse teams deliver better results. The changing demographics of the workforce indicate that workers are increasingly drawn to more nimble and flexible styles of organized collaboration and communication.

As the inevitable personnel turnover occurs, document knowledge in collaboration-based systems to ensure that critical information doesn’t vanish, or isn’t locked in email or people’s heads.

Outdated or undeveloped systems

Any project will suffer without a clear definition of success and with an inexperienced project management team. One way to get that team up to speed is to put a current, top quality process and set of tools in place that easily coordinates and propels proper requirements management. The fastest way to get there is a strategic team investment in updating its project management systems.

Even well into the 21st Century, as much as 70% of governments’ IT budgets are spent on maintaining legacy systems, the oldest of which may still be running programs based in COBOL, a programming language first developed in 1959.*

Ultimately, the right kind of project management tools can bring a team together and set the course for successful, on-time project completion. When collaborative, flexible, nimble and responsive project management software is used properly, it can help teams deliver projects on-time with a minimum number of emotional scars.

With flexible tools from Atlassian, project management teams are enabled to more efficiently execute mission-critical tasks, faster and more effectively. Explore their infographic for an overview of how tools like JIRA and Confluence can help government agency teams overcome project management challenges, and see how their solutions can help agencies reduce cost and labor.

*Konkel, Frank “Legacy systems still power much of government” FCW

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