Projecting forward: operating central project management teams

Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels
January 26, 2021

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Governments have played a key role in delivering most of the world’s biggest and most ambitious projects: think the International Space Station, the Global Positioning System, the 2012 London Olympics and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.

Yet government is not an easy place for project and programme management (PPM). Short budgetary and political cycles, awkward supplier relationships and media attention can make for an unpredictable environment, while leaders often find it difficult to work across departmental boundaries, keep managers in post or build specialist workforces. And digital technologies – ever more central to government’s work – present a new set of challenges, often sitting uncomfortably with traditional business planning, budget approval and risk management systems.

To overcome such challenges, many national and state governments have set up project management offices (PMOs): central units that provide oversight, tools and assistance for delivery teams, help to build specialist workforces, and drive forward supportive reforms. Such offices exist in countries including the UK, Australia, the USA and Canada, as well as US states such as New York and Michigan. Tracking project development, offering training, developing policy and deploying specialists, PMOs can play a key role in driving up governments’ project success rates.

At this Global Government Forum webinar, project management leaders from around the world explored how best to shape the structures, powers and activities of PMOs, giving projects and programmes across government the best possible chances of success.


Webinar chair: Siobhan Benita, former UK senior civil servant

Siobhan Benita was a senior civil servant with over 15 years’ Whitehall experience. She worked in many of the major delivery departments, including Transport, Environment, Health and Local Government. She also had senior roles at the heart of Government in the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury, including supporting the then Cabinet Secretary, Lord O’Donnell to lead work on Civil Service reform and strategy. Siobhan left the Civil Service to run as an independent candidate in the Mayor of London election. She subsequently joined her alma mater, Warwick University as Chief Strategy Officer of Warwick in London and Co-Director of the Warwick Policy Lab.

Amy Paris, Product Manager and Digital Service Expert, U.S. Digital Service at the Department of Health and Human Services, USA

Amy Paris is a Product Manager and Bureaucracy Hacker with the U.S. Digital Service at the Department of Health and Human Services. In this role she is responsible for leading the SMEQA hiring strategy within CMS as well as contributing to digital systems interoperability and public access to health data. Amy has worked with CMS since May 2020, and is passionate about improving how government recruits and hires skilled technologists.

Prior to CMS, Amy served as Policy Architect at a consulting firm supporting the Office of the Federal CIO and the Federal CIO Council on issues including open source software policy, data center modernization, and cloud migration. She has previously served as a policy and communications consultant in two presidential administrations and has been an instructor at a number of colleges and universities. She received her bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Rhode Island and master’s degree in International Science and Technology Policy from The George Washington University.

Janice Vella, Graduate Architect and Civil Engineer, Project Design and Engineering Directorate, Works and Infrastructure Department, Ministry for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects, Malta

Janice Vella is an Architect with a special flair for Landscape Architecture and Construction. For over 10 years, she designed and monitored landscaping projects in Malta and Gozo, having a key position in Malta’s largest Landscaping Consortium, who shaped the urban face of the island through a large network of green spaces, public gardens and their maintenance to very high levels. Janice also had a leading role in Malta’s Annual Infiorata for 7 years and undertook other private landscaping projects, creating unique settings for hotels, private entertainment areas and small enterprises. Janice has left the Consortium to join the Public Sector and, together with a big team of Architects and Planners, is currently involved in the embellishment of Malta’s biggest National Park at Ta’ Qali.

Sonja Varga, Head of Programme, Ghana Operations Hub, UNOPS

Ms. Sonja Varga is a development professional with an MA in International Affairs specializing in national aspects of development. A Canadian from the West Coast, she has spent the last 17 years in the service of United Nations agencies working primarily in Less Developed, Post Conflict and Lower-Middle Income countries. She is accredited in the Prince2 methodology, and passionate about deploying good practice in project and programme management to optimize the effectiveness of development programmes for the benefit of the communities we serve.

With assignments in post conflict countries such as Kosovo, Afghanistan and the DR Congo, she has been involved at all levels in delivering infrastructure development and reconstruction projects amidst highly complex and dynamic environments. As a Trust Fund Manager for the Enhanced Integrated Framework on Aid for Trade she was responsible for fiduciary oversight and advice to trade related institutions in several countries across West Africa and overseeing projects in support of Aid for Trade strategies. As the Project Manager for the Ebola Emergency Response Project (EERP) in Guinea, she led a multi-disciplinary team to rehabilitate health infrastructure for 42 of the most remote communities in the country amidst a regional epidemic.

Sonja has been a fervent member of the UNOPS team in Afghanistan and Africa for more than 14years. She joined the Ghana Multi-Country Office as the Head of Programme in 2015. In her current role, she oversees a programme covering five (5) countries in Anglophone West Africa with projects ranging from Infrastructure development to large scale Procurement to Technical Assistance and Project Management. She is committed to harnessing her knowledge and experience in diverse projects and settings; building on lessons and sharing best practices in project and programme management for the successful delivery of projects for the benefit of the populations of the countries in the portfolio.

Allan Thomson, Global PPM Product Ambassador, AXELOS

Allan is the Global PPM Product Ambassador responsible for representing AXELOS externally with regards to PPM products. He is a result driven PRINCE2 qualified Project Manager with over 25 years’ project, programme management and PMO experience. Particularly adept at implementation of PRINCE2 into organisations, Microsoft Dynamics solutions, risk management, business implementation, new product development, business improvement, software implementation and change management.
Allan is an experienced Project Leader who through collaboration techniques integrates and leads teams to achieve business objectives. Have gained experience in agile delivery methods and their inclusion into PMO reporting.