1 Managing projects: the role of a project support officeA. HamiltonBSc, CEng, FICE, fimeche , FIEI, FAPMThe management of project work is an increasingchallenge to most organisations. Projects are becomingthe fundamental internal building blocks that organisationand business entities use to satisfy their missions,strategies and outputs. project management, as amanagement discipline, is not generally understood nor isit commonly practised at strategic level by public sectororganisations that commonly handle a mix of project workand non- project work. This paper explains the increasingrecognition of projects as vehicles for creating internalchange alongside, in the public sector, the provision of newproducts to satisfy social need.
2 The paper also introducesthe concept of the project support office. This type ofsupport facility offers a visible entity for organisationalreform and a means to establish a balanced working ethosbetween project work and, the often predominant, non- project work. Although project support facilities havebeen established in some organisations, their benefits areanecdotal and little information has been published thatwould clearly confirm the advantages. Launching aresearch programme that would investigate projectdelivery performance by organisations with such facilitiesis thus a matter of great importance and project WORK AND NON- project WORKP rojects, and their management, need to be viewed within thebroad context from creating organisational change to individualprojects that provide outcomes, referred to in this paper asproducts.
3 In other words, the two types ofproject worknormallyencountered, and specifically in relation to the public sectororganisation, are(a) creatingchangewithin an organisation(b) creatingproductsthat the customer (society) the outset it is worth explaining a few terms used withinthe project management industry that help in understandingthe concept of structural support facilities for portfoliois a collection of programmes andprojects that may not have a common business ororganisational objective. On the other hand, aprogrammeisa collection of projects normally having a common increasingly the vehicles throughwhich an organisation s strategy is implemented, andthrough which it creates of organisational failures raises questions about thevalue of projects and their management.
4 However, failure canoften be linked to the selection of projects that do not support theorganisation s mission statement, or failed projects whosefunding levels could not reasonably be justified when comparedwith the expected model (seeFig. 1) helps in understanding the linkage between(what the author refers to as)management by projects(MBP) andproject management(PM). The processes that MBP and PM useare ostensibly the same, so in effect the terms are not of the terminology simply clarifies whether strategies ortactics are the related topic and whether a project is internal orexternal. If a project is internal and is to create some aspect ofchange within the performing organisation, the process isreferred to as management by projects.
5 Accordingly, if a projectis to create something that the performing organisation producesfor a client or customer, the process is referred to as , but not uniquely, top management increasinglycreates organisational change with middle managementsupport through initiating internal projects. The MBP approachis what progressive organisations refer to as the operationalprocess for achieving their strategic objectives and other organisations, particularly those in the publicsector, are believed to be much less mature. The recognition ofthis position is relatively recent. Very few of theseorganisations have reached a level of maturity where theirplanned work and work in progress can be considered as aprojects projects utilise PM processes with teams being staffed bypersonnel normally from the lower tiers of the organisation,although some middle-ranking personnel may be engaged oncertain projects.
6 Top management s relationship with clients andcustomers would normally be of an overseeing nature, gettinginvolved only when organisation considering the adoption of a PM ethos shouldapproach it with great care. The PM process requires the use ofadditional resources and this can create strains on the traditionalroles and relationships within an organisation. Projectmanagement is best considered when the benefits derived fromits use clearly outweigh any additional costs; in most cases this ismore than likely to be the Engineer 159 Issue ME3 Managing projects: the role of a project support officeHamilton141 Albert HamiltonSenior Consultant and Professor,National Centre for ProjectManagement, MiddlesexUniversity, London, UKProceedings of the Institution ofCivil EngineersMunicipal Engineer 159 September 2006 Issue ME3 Pages 141 146 Paper 14442 Received 28/09/2005 Accepted 19/06/2006 Keywords:local government/managementMany organisations handling projects are invariably engaged innon- project work of some sort or other.
7 In most public sectororganisations this is the predominant type of work but, as apercentage of total work, it is decreasing while the percentage ofwork identified as project work is on the increase. Non-projectwork refers to continuous effort in which work is ongoing, haslittle or no uncertainty attached to it, and varies little hour byhour or day by day. For instance, in a local authority theprovision of various social services would be classified asnon- project work. However, an element of this sameorganisation s effort would be spent on project work such as thedesign and implementation of a new passenger bus REFORMING THE ORGANISATION STRUCTURETO HANDLE PROJECTSIn many organisations where PM is of growing significance, thereis likely to be a need to reform the organisation.
8 Based on theauthor s experience, an effective way of achieving reform is toestablish a team of specialists whose mission and focus is projectsand their management. Assigning these resources to a specialistunit, or units, provides a basis for inculcating reform. Thestructure of these units and how they operate will depend on thePM maturity of the organisation, the proportion of project workand non- project work, and how strategic issues are organisation s structure needs to have a decision-makingprocess that takes into account environmental forces, strategicchoices and technological factors. A well-designed organisationstructure eases the flow of information and decision making,clarifies authority and responsibility, and creates the desiredlevels of coordination between three key factors in defining an organisation structure are3(a) formal reporting relationships, including the number oflevels in the hierarchy and the span of control of managers(b) grouping together individuals into departments, along withthe grouping of departments into the total organisation(c) effective systems for communication, coordination andintegration of effort across three factors apply to both vertical and horizontal aspectsof organising.
9 Vertical linkages are used to coordinate activitiesbetween the top and bottom of an organisation. Organisationsmay use any of a variety of structural devices to achieve verticallinkages, including hierarchical referral, rules and procedures,plans and schedules, positions or levels added to the hierarchy,and formal management information systems. Horizontallinkages refer to the amount of communication and coordinationspanning horizontally across organisational essential horizontal linkage device used when undertakingproject work is achieved through a designated management rolefor an individual staff member. An individual called a projectmanager (Fig. 2) has the responsibility for coordinating projectwork across several departments.
10 The human resource withindepartments assigned to work on projects, shown as solid circlesinFig. 2, would report to one, or more, of the designated projectmanagers. This form of integration works very well regardless ofwhether a project is internal or this horizontal linkage is accepted into an existingorganisation depends upon the grouping approach being are four main organisation structures, each havingstrengths and weaknesses.(a)Functionalstructure the activities are grouped together bycommon function from the bottom to the top of theorganisation.(b)Product structure sometimes this is called a divisionalstructure because divisions are organised according toindividual services, projects or whatever the organisationDepartmentADepartmentalresou rcesDepartmentalresourcesDepartmentalres ourcesDepartmentalresourcesProjectmanage r No.