Exploring Government Sector Project Management

Whether managing projects for the public or private sector, project management is the discipline of overseeing and managing all aspects of project work. In contrast with standard business operations, which tend to be ongoing, repetitive, and permanent functional activities, a project is usually defined as a temporary effort with an established beginning and end. Most projects are designed to investigate and implement changes to business operations and have specific goals, or deliverables.

Projects also often face constraints, such as resource availability, funding, and deadlines, which affect the course and final outcome of the project. The challenge for project managers is to direct a team to produce an optimal solution that meets the objectives of the project, all while operating under existing constraints. Because of the differences in the nature of business operations and project work, managing these two activities requires different skills sets and strategies.

Businesses and Organizations that Need Project Management
Project management isn’t just for large organizations. If an organization has goals and objectives that significantly impact the organization, it often follows that project work will be needed to accomplish these goals. Just about any business or organization could benefit from project management, including businesses in the construction, chemical, architecture, and information technology industries. Public sector organizations, including the government and the military, also need project managers.

Trends in Project Management
The coming year should see some changes in project management driven by some larger scale trends affecting businesses and the economy as a whole. New practices are emerging, including virtualization, global workforces, and cloud computing, that will affect the nature of work teams and the ways in which they carry out their day-to-day tasks. Also, as countries like China and India make significant impact on the global economy, U.S. businesses will need to update their processes and innovate to remain competitive.

These trends will foster some changes in project work and project management:

  • Programs, which are comprised of multiple related projects, will increase, requiring highly advanced skill sets supported by appropriate tools and methods to successfully execute.  Businesses will likely invest resources into training and developing program managers in order to better support organizational goals.
  • Collaboration software will become an essential tool for project managers and their teams. As projects become more complex, project teams will require more efficient ways of managing communication and work flow.
  • Project management will require a tighter integration with business process management. As new projects are evaluated, those that have the highest likelihood of reducing internal costs will be ranked higher and project success will be judged on actual operating cost reductions and productivity or efficiency improvements.

Project Manager Duties
A project manager is responsible for the overall planning, initiation, execution, and closure of a project. Project managers must have a variety of skills, including the ability to lead and manage diverse groups of people, resolve conflicts, and create and execute project plans. They also should possess general knowledge about the project topic. Project managers need excellent communication, management, and organization skills. They may also be responsible for estimating costs, developing a budget, documenting project work, and presenting project updates to senior management.

Project managers in the public sector may also need to be familiar with relevant legislation or other requirements that may impact the project outcome. Public sector projects are often subject to greater scrutiny, face more significant constraints, and may be impacted by political differences. To succeed within this environment, public sector project managers must have top notch communication and conflict resolution skills.

Project Management Job Outlook
As more organizations in both the public and private sectors recognize the value that project managers can provide, the demand for skilled project managers should be on the rise. According to a study published in October 2008 by the Anderson Economic Group, an average of 1.2 million project management positions will need to be filled each year through 2016.

Those interested in a career in project management may pursue a master’s of Business Administration degree or an MBA in project management. The Project Management Institute offers several certifications, including the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner. PMI certification is considered the gold standard in project management certification and can help create career opportunities.

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Jason Monaghan writes on education topics for military and veterans. He also writes on topics such as business administration and corporate sustainability for a number of universities through the University Alliance. 

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