‘Proyektniy Olimp’: from Theory to Practice

3 november 2016

The discussion on the second day of the Conference on Practical Application of Project Management in the Public Sector focused on themes like myths and misconceptions about Agile, successful project teams, priority development areas, and some others. On November 3, the event’s venue hosted 5 round table discussions, each with its own particular topic.

At the Round Table entitled Successful Project Teams: Developing and Assessing Project Competencies of Staff and Management the experts debated whether it was a charismatic leader or a professional team that was more important for the success of a project. According to Yury Kim, CEO of the Centre for the Assessment and Development of Project Management, a project can potentially be successful in both cases: a strong and competent leader may make it work despite the odds, or a team of professionals can work together to achieve the desired end. However, he admits, as a projects assessor for ‘Proyektniy Olimp’ he enjoyed the projects with a more systematic approach. ‘What is important is the balance between the leader and the team because it helps to minimize the risk of failure should the leader leave the project for one reason or another before it is finished,’ the expert explained. Yuri Trubitsyn, Advisor to the Head of the Analytical Center, believes however, that it is the team of professionals that supports their leader and helps him/her to carry out the project successfully. The expert cited Formula-1 races as an example: the driver is the one who wins, but there is a whole team on whose coordinated effort the final result depends to a large degree. ‘You can see how well coordinated a team is during pit-stops,’ Mr. Trubitsyn said. ‘They keep getting better and better. In 1950, an average pit-stop lasted more than 60 seconds, in 2010 it was just 8 seconds, and in 2013, they managed to cut down pit stop time to just 3 seconds.’ Every project needs a leader but a good team is equally important for strategic development, Mr. Trubitsyn stressed. Creating and developing teams is an important competence in project management, but team building techniques are still developing in Russia, and that means there is plenty of room for improvement.

At the Round Table entitled Prospects and Obstacles to Using Agile Methods in Public Sector Project Management in Russia, the experts looked at the way Agile methods can be used in government agencies. The experts believe that Agile and other flexible software development technologies could prove more productive, transparent, and better in terms of quality and cost effectiveness than the traditional methods. ‘Agile methods improve productivity, predictability and efficacy of management when it comes to managing correspondence groups. They also improve morale and motivation in teams and reduce project risks,’ says Evgeni Ustinov, McKinsey & Co manager. The expert gave a detailed account of international experience in using Agile in the public sector. The approach is used a lot in the US (there is a standard web-portal for it: justice.gov) and in the UK (where they also have a single public services portal: gov.uk), while in Denmark digital technologies have helped improve the efficiency of company registration, Mr. Ustinov noted.

The Agile approach is used primarily as part of digitization projects, and as more and more government services get digitized, the opportunities to use Agile in the public sector increase accordingly, the participants in the discussion believe.

How do we go about improving cooperation between the Russian Government, federal executive bodies, and regional and municipal governments while implementing priority projects and introducing project management? That was the question that the participations of the Project Management at the Federal and Regional Levels and Project Management in Russian Regions: Do we Need to Join Forces Round Tables were trying to answer. The experts noted that a lot of project management tools have already proven their efficiency and helped achieve some good results, such as a simplified approval procedure, more objective IT-based monitoring systems, pro-active risks and opportunities management, higher personal responsibility and result-oriented work.

A representative of Leningrad Region shared some positive experience in developing project management in their region. ‘The first thing you need to do is sell the idea to the leaders, because their support is essential. Then you need to set up a project office, develop the procedures, and then launch a pilot project,’ the expert explained. You also need to talk to people explaining the idea to them, educating them about project management and the terminology used, and of course, it is important to take your time and introduce things gradually, without rushing them, the analyst believes. ‘To really start getting results in this area you need not only an engaged leader, but also an engaged project management expert. As a rule, half of your project management office is made up of civil servants who know how civil service works, and the other half are project management experts,’ believes Pavel Shestopalov, Administrative Assistant at Project Management Department of the Russian Government.

The Conference ended with a Round Table entitled Development Priorities: First Successes and Difficulties. Here the experts shared their experience in setting up project offices and introducing project management mechanisms for the first time. In order to ensure that all project participants understand the goals and priorities of a project, it is necessary to explain things to people as much as possible, as well as to prepare several sample federal project passports that could be studied and emulated in the regions, Natalia Zolotareva, a representative of the Ministry of Science and Education, believes. One of the most important steps, according to the experts, is to create a project road map specifying key milestones to be monitored on a regular basis (there must be more of these than in the project passport). This kind of system already exists, for example at Rosatom. The state corporation’s representative Dmitry Muratov explained how it works. He agreed with Ms. Zolotareva and added that at the very beginning of a project, it is necessary to hold joint staff meetings to ensure that all the participants of the project understand the goals and objectives of the project and interpret them in the same way.

The Ministry for Economic Development has been using project management for a long time, but they have now set up a project office on the basis of a project management unit they had before, and Deputy Minister Oleg Fomichev has been put in charge of it, according to Ministry Representative Andrey Galkin. At the moment, employees are undergoing training and a contract has been drafted to install an IT system to monitor the implementation of projects online. By and large, all the participants of the round table agreed that putting a good monitoring system in place was one of the most important elements to project management.

Sberbank representative Alexander Ozharovsky also noted the importance of having a single portal or some other type of information resource where all project participants can freely communicate with each other. Andrey Badin, Deputy Head of the Department for Project Management of the Russian Government, said that the project management website currently being developed by the government will probably play the role of such a digital portal with active feedback options.

Partners of ‘Proyektniy Olimp’ contest: PAO Sberbank and SC Rosatom.