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Critical Appraisal on Project Management Approaches in e-Govemment

Demetrios Sarantis, Dimitris Askounis

School of Electrical and Computer Engineering National Technical University of Athens Athens, Greece dsaran@epu.ntua.gr
Abstract-This contribution provides a critical appraisal of three of the contemporary project management approaches against e-Government challenges. Most of the project management approaches, put forward during e-Government projects' implementation, are more suitable for the management of the overall development of information systems, rather than being directly targeted on the specific e-Government needs. The incorporation of information technologies in the public management raises different challenges compared to ones encountered in the private sector. This paper identifies the major challenges that characterize the management of e-Government initiatives. This paper recognizes the weaknesses of the contemporary project management approaches against the identified e-Government challenges to make the appraisal more systematic and more suitable for the successful management of eGovernment projects. Future analysis of the results will guide the identification of project management gaps, contributing to the better understanding of the factors that lead to governmental IT projects success or failure. Keywords-IT Project Management, Public Government Information Systems

Steve Smithson
Information Systems and Innovation Group London School of Economics and Political Science London, UK main driver for e-Government and the lack of sufficient administrative reform to accompany e-Government are also cited [10]. As implementation projects for transforming government mature and tend to become closely interrelated, the need for successfully tackling project management emerges: without a project management method, those who commission an eGovernment project, those who manage it and those who work on it will not have the necessary tools to plan, organize, monitor and re-schedule tasks, responsibilities and milestones. The analysis performed has been based on a solid methodological framework for screening existing methodologies, identifying core issues and formulating points for embellishment. This article is organized in five sections. The second section introduces the research methodology that has been applied in the research. Section three highlights the specific challenges encountered during implementation of e-Government projects. Next, section four, examines the weak points of the conventional project management, focusing on the satisfaction of the specific challenges identified in the previous section. Finally, section five presents conclusions and future perspectives of this work regarding new approaches that could be used to improve the rigor and relevance of e-Government transformation projects management research.



The inability of governmental organizations to successfully complete public information technology projects threatens to undermine efforts to implement e-Government. Additionally, an increasing number of countries formulate ambitious action plans for implementing e-Government. As OECD [1] states "Unless governments learn to manage the risks connected with large public IT projects, these e-dreams will tum into global nightmares. Governments must get the fundamentals of IT right if they want to harvest the huge potential of going online". e-Government project failures are all too common - some make the headlines, but most of them are quickly forgotten. A survey of e-Government projects in developing and transition economies revealed that as many as 85 percent are a partial (unattained goals) or total (abandoned implementation) failure [2]. Though the exact numbers are uncertain and depend to some extent on how success is measured, the minority of government transformation projects are those countered as successes [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]. The reasons for failure are many and varied. Common reasons include: lack of internal ownership, absence of vision or strategy, poor project management, inadequate technological infrastructure and obstacles to data interchange [9]. Lack of a business case for the project, overreliance on technology as the

The methodology used for analyzing project management methodologies is based on gradually structuring literature fmdings and comparing their characteristics with some widely used project management methodologies, in order to research the extent of coverage of each project management approach against the identified e-Government challenges. As shown in Figure 1, this process consists of the following phases and steps: Phase 1 - Literature review: A review of current literature in e-Government area is used to identify factors found to influence the success of e-Government initiatives. This review includes the scanning of top journals, book chapters and case studies in information systems and public administration with a focus on e-Government initiatives. The analysis in this step is focalized to derive the specific management and implementation challenges that are been confronted in projects of e-Government domain.

Phase 2 - Exploratory Research: The analysis in this step examines some of the most popular project management approaches selected based on their visibility and central role in e-Government systems project implementation. The study has been utilized a methodology that is based on exploratory research. Available literature and case studies have been reviewed and authors' personal experience in e-Government projects implementation has been exploited. The type of exploratory research was chosen because it can provide significant insight into a given situation, facilitating the structure and identification of new problems. This phase consists of the following three steps:

The models and methods applied in private sector information technology projects have been viewed with much skepticism in the literature on public administration and public management [11], [12]. The main dissidence summarized in Sayre's [13] standpoint that public and private organizations are 'fundamentally alike in all unimportant respects'. Allison proceeds furthermore to argue that 'the notion that there is any significant body of private management practices and skills that can be transferred directly to public management tasks in a way that produces significant improvements is wrong' [14]. This fact is often not alluded to by those supporting greater introduction of private sector management practice into government transformation projects. There is no agreement on which project management methodology is effective and efficient concerning implementation of e-Government projects. None has been particularly successful so far. A number of critics note that management is characterized by the adoption of fads whose popularity has little to do with actual evidence of effectiveness [15]. These fads are usually abandoned after a few years in the face of less than impressive results before a new fad is embraced equally as enthusiastically [16]. If public and private information systems projects are fundamentally different, there is little point in seeking to apply the existing project management methodologies from the private sector without considering these differences and adapting properly the existing methodologies. Government projects demand for flexibility and the ability to address change. Following this path, the identified gaps in the traditional project management methodologies are usually cemented with more measurement, more control and more rules [17]; hence the calls in governments of developed countries for use in e-Government projects of more planning, more measurement, and more strict methodologies [18]. The list of e-Government challenges that are identified is enumerated in the following list and the literature citations are provided. First the challenge is presented, then the differentiation is illustrated in italics and the relative literature source citations follow . 1 Human resources, Skills inadequacies in knowledgeable personnel. Bacon 1991 [19]; Perry and Porter 1982 [20]; Willcocks 1994 [21]; Caffrey 1998 [22]; Brown 2001 [23]; Dawes and Pardo 2002 [24]; Ho 2002 [25]; Moon 2002; Holden et al2003 [26].

A. Project Management & Development Approaches Screening

The different project management strands and approaches have been analyzed based on the following sources: Extensive research in bibliographic databases regarding scientific literature in project management Project management approaches documentation Professionals and practitioners project management case studies Web search facilities and articles concerning features of contemporary project management approaches


Weaknesses Identification

In this step the research identifies the core weaknesses of project management approaches.

C. Weaknesses Organisation The identified weaknesses have been mapped to the related e-Government project challenges identified in phase 1.



Phase 1: LiteratureReview



&perience Paper; Analysis

Fonnulabon of Factors af'e.ct:ing the succe.ss I fa:ilure! <)f eGovemrnent projects

f I f

"--~---------~---------~--~-----~-~-----------~------~. ...,

<> ~------------------------~---------------------------~
Ph.arc 2: Eq.loratory Il.cscll"Ch


Approaches Screening


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2 Work milieu, More bureaucratic. McCurdy 1978 [27[;

Rainey 1983 [28]; Boyne 2002 [29]; Bozeman and Kingsley 1998 [30]; Farnham and Horton 1996 [31]; Bozeman and Scott 1996 [32]; Bozeman et al1992 [33]; Bretschneider 1990 [34].

The selection of the appropriate project management methodology is significant to the healthy development of eGovernment projects. However, up until now, the project management framework of e-Government has not been thoroughly developed, as most of the project management models put forward by authoritative organizations are generic, some of them have been applied in plain IT implementation projects, and they are not directly targeting the specificities of e-Government transformation.

3 Relation within and across organizational boundaries, Greater interdependence increased, external review and control, large number of stakeholders with conflict interests.
Bretschneider 1990 [34]; Bellamy 2000 [35]; Harris 2000 [36]; Landsbergen and Wolken 2001 [37]; Burbridge 2002 [38]; Dawes and Pardo 2002 [24]; Rocheleau 2003 [39]; Willcocks 1994 [21]; Brown 2003 [40].

4 Project failure impact, Loss of public trust as failure consequence. Willcocks 1994 [21]; Margetts 1991 [41]; Margetts 1991 [42]. 5 Goals definition, Ambiguous. Baldwin 1987 [43]; Chub and Moe 1988 [44]; Solomon 1986 [45]; Dawes and Nelson 1995 [46]. 6 Project dimensions, Multiple and interrelated. Bellamy and Henderson 1992 [47]; Margetts and Willcocks 1993 [48]; Taylor and Williams 1990 [49]; Morton 1991 [50]; Page et al 1993 [51]. 7 Planning horizon, Short term planning, formal methodologies use, large scale projects. Bozeman and Bretschneider 1986 [52]; Kenny et al 1987 [53]; Ross 1988 [54]; Willcocks 1994 [21]; Box 1999 [55]; Gauch 1993 [56] ; Bretschneider 1990 [34]. 8 Best practices, Lack of exploitation. Lee et al 2005 [57]; National Audit Office 1991 [58]; Satyanarayana 2004 [59]. 9 Legal and regulatory issues, Influencedfrom legal norms and political requirements. Snellen and Schokker 1992 [60]; Bretschneider 1990 [34]; Dawes and Nelson 1995 [46]; Chengalur-Smith and Duchessi 1999 [61]; Harris 2000 [36]; Dawes and Pardo 2002 [24]; Mahler and Regan 2002 [62]. 10 Politics driven nature, High involvement of politicians. Bretschneider 1990 [34]; Bajjaly 1999 [63]; Heintze and Bretschneider 2000 [64]; Mahler and Regan 2002 [64]; Brown and Brudney 2003 [65]; Rocheleau 2003 [39]. IV.

specific e-Government challenges identified in the previous section are presented. The review of current literature in project management and information technology implementation methodologies is used to identify factors found to influence the success of eGovernment initiatives. A. Projects in Controlled Environments (Prince) Projects in Controlled Environments (PRINCE) is a project management methodology covering the organization, management and control of projects, developed and maintained by the UK National Computing Centre [73]. Since its introduction, PRINCE has become widely used in both the public and private sectors and is now the de facto standard for project management in the UK. The latest version of the methodology, PRINCE2, is designed to incorporate the requirements of existing users and to enhance the methodology towards a generic, best practice approach for the management of all types of projects. PRINCE2 is a process-based approach for project management providing an easily tailored and scalable methodology for the management of all types of projects.

Summarizing the current conceptual base of project management could be a logical place to start, but our intention is to provide the state of the art of the contemporary applied methodologies concerning e-Government projects and not to epitomize the existing well based project management theories. As Winter et al [66] states, the most dominant strand of project management thinking is the rational [67], universal, deterministic model- what has been termed the 'hard' systems model [68], emphasizing the planning and control dimensions of project management. Most popular project management textbooks and methodologies, presented below in this section, are mainly based on this approach. Hard type project management methodologies include time, cost and quality [69], the traditional measures used to establish project success. They have however been criticized for failing to deal adequately projects including human issues [70], community perception, legal acceptability, political, social impacts benefits [71], stakeholders and communications [72]. Many well established project management methods may be commonly used by public or private sector organizations that are trying to plan, organize and monitor e-Government projects. In this section we make a selection and present an overview of three of the commonly used project management approaches, examining their "behavior" against e-Government needs. A brief description of each of the selected methodologies is provided and their weak points regarding the

B. Project Management Institute (PMI) Method The Project Management Institute (PMI) published the first Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide [74] describes the sum of knowledge within the profession of Project Management (PM) in an attempt to document and to standardize generally accepted project management information and practices. Generally accepted does not mean that the knowledge and practices described in the PMBOK framework are or should be applied uniformly on all projects; the project management team is always responsible for determining what is appropriate for any given project. The Guide is process-based, meaning it describes work as being accomplished by processes. Processes overlap and interact throughout a project or its various phases.

C. Goal Directed Project Management (GDPM) Goal Directed Project Management (GDPM) is a powerful, pragmatic approach for gaining consensus from all stakeholders on the overall objectives of a business program or project [75]. It provides a single-page, top-level view of the goals of the project (a milestone plan), which is used as a highlevel communications and control tool. GDPM complements, not replaces, detailed product or activity-based approaches that project managers are used to producing.
Table 1 presents the more important weak points of the three generic project management methodologies relating them with the relevant e-Government challenge (1st column) identified in section three.

The e-Government projects have now become the end to end transformation of all the activities performed to design, market, sell, produce, deliver and support a set of related products and services, to deliver business value from the government to its citizens/enterprises.



Relation with e-Government Challenge 5






Definition of the project plan at initial stage. Complicated activity diagram Inadequate management of organizational change Generic - must be tailored to suit the occasion Responsibilities transfer risk

Unnecessary time is spent managing and documenting the project causing significant delay Public administration essential organisational changes during the project implementation are not addressed efficiently It is method and not a cure. People who use it should tailor it efficiently to the project in hand Because of the various roles and responsibilities involved, participants in the project can easily blame each other when something goes wrong Splitting up a project often results in a lack of knowledge of the project by responsible persons. Human factors are not within the scope of the methodology Lessons learned are recorded but they are not exploited in future projects in a systematic manner The project is structured in a bottom-up manner, not in a top-down one It takes the view that the go ahead has been agreed and that the project now needs organising and controlling
It does not cover the necessity of continuous project planning update It does not cover the full project management spectrum, it is used to increase the project management effectiveness of other models or methodologies Too much time could be spend on project design and get caught up in designing it rather than the actual implementation





6,8 3

applied applied



6,8 3 8 5,10 10

Splitting up a project often results in a lack of knowledge Dearth of specific project roles Not systematic knowledge reuse Bottom-up structure Not covering the original need, solution generating and feasibility studies Planning is an ongoing effort throughout the project Not a full project management methodology Schedule focused

applied applied applied applied applied applied applied applied applied applied applied

5,10 7


applied applied





This is a modem view with a focus on public services; however the traditional project management methodologies tend to be activity centric to deliver cost savings and productivity improvements quickly. Although this type of project management approach is a good start, and is easily cost justified, its emphasis on the IT enablement of individual processes through the development and deployment of specific applications has a number of major issues. Project management of e-Government projects does not have to mean the rigid application of a complex methodology: the best results will come from an intelligent application of principles of the existing methodologies to suit the nature and scale of the task at hand. The absolute value of the conventional project management techniques of the previous section, together with their convergence in common topics, certainly indicate that there is a solid ground for e-Government projects; yet from the specific nature of e-Government transformation projects, analyzed in previous section, and the extent of coverage of the eGovernment challenges from the contemporary project management methodologies and techniques show that there are limitations and gaps that should be identified and covered respectively. The identification of such gaps is meant to be a way to inform e-Government practitioners and researchers interested in developing new research in e-Government project management, and as an input to this forthcoming research agenda.

The main argument of the paper is not that the extant project management body of thought with its concepts, methodologies and tools is worthless and should be abandoned, but rather that a new approach is needed, in order to enrich and extend the field beyond its current intellectual foundations, filling the identified gaps and connecting it more closely to the specific challenges of electronic and transformational government projects.
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