Thursday Aug 22, 2013

Why Government Agencies Need to Prove Value by Doing More with Less: The Role of Innovation

How many times have we heard the phrase, "government agencies need to do more with less?" Although over-used, it remains true, especially in today's environment. Facing a bleak future of flat or reduced funding, agencies need to find new ways to increase efficiencies and reduce costs from their current budgets. To do this, agencies will need to get creative in their thinking and be comfortable making the tough decisions of which projects to cut and which to save. An example of an agency already doing this is NASA. Riding the ups and downs of the fiscal uncertainty rollercoaster and experiencing multiple cuts to popular programs, NASA is still "trying to ensure that the agency can maintain the health of its mission, which includes developing multi-generational rocket programmes." Internally, this requires new thinking, collaboration, and most importantly, innovation from all levels of the agency. NASA has implemented traditional cost saving measures including standardizing spending on travel and reducing the number of conferences employees can attend. In addition, the review process of projects has drastically changed and they no longer say, "yes" to projects they can't realistically pay for. Priorities are reviewed every budget cycle, officials go through a review process to see what programs can be trimmed, and programs are reviewed at key points in their cycle to ensure they are on target and will deliver a positive ROI. Although many of these changes sound small, they can add up to big cost savings in the end.

In a new Economist Intelligence Unit research report, Proving value in an age of austerity: A new normal for US government programmes, they discuss three steps federal agencies need to accomplish to prove value and accommodate this new environment – demonstrating value, doing more with less and producing incremental value.

Read the full Economist Intelligence Unit research report here, to learn more.

Thursday Aug 15, 2013

Why Government Agencies Need to Prove Value by Demonstrating Value

By: Amy DeWolf

In a new Economist Intelligence Unit research report, Proving value in an age of austerity: A new normal for US government programmes, they discuss three steps federal  agencies need to accomplish to prove value and accommodate this new environment, one step being – Demonstrating value.

Demonstrating value is essential to keeping your budget. As the report suggests, the days of Congress approving large, multi-year programs on the promise of ROI are long gone. According to Chris Mihm, Managing Director for Strategic Issues, GAO, "agencies will have to be more able and willing to identify the savings and productivity improvements they produce with a specific investment." To do this, he urges agencies to not over-promise potential savings or exaggerate improvements seen from a project. By reporting on the real data, documenting actual productivity, and presenting the performance improvements that tell “the proper story,” agencies will be able to show tangible improvements to Congress, and most likely maintain their current level of funding. 

Demonstrating value may not be as easy it sounds. As Jon Desenberg, Senior Policy Director for The Performance Institute notes, "demonstrating return on investment requires more than sending reaps of spreadsheets and numbers to Congress." Much like an employee would approach his boss for a promotion, agencies will need to prove value in numbers, show improvement over time, and articulate their ROI clearly and accurately. It may take more preparation than in years past, but it will be worth it in the end. 

Read the full Economist Intelligence Unit research report here.

Friday Jan 18, 2013

Executive Visibility: Four Key Ways to Improve Project Information

Gaps in key pieces of information are causing many C-level executives to make important decisions about projects without fully understanding the inherent risks and opportunities.

This is one of the main findings in
“Putting the Truth on the Table,” the latest in a series of reports about strategic project portfolio management by The EPPM Board, an international steering group of senior industry executives, academics, and commentators.

This report analyzes the root causes of information gaps and concludes that executives should be focusing on four areas: evolving corporate culture to gain more-accurate information, analyzing opportunity as well as risk, achieving greater visibility into supplier operations to help mitigate risk, and implementing practices that improve the relevance of information presented to management and enhance the overall health of the project portfolio.

1. Evolve the Culture Toward Truth and Visibility
The EPPM Board found that senior leaders might not get the insights they need due to how staff members report issues and problems. One example is excessive optimism, which was apparent when the Cranfield School of Management analyzed 400 projects and found no reports of impending glitches. To address behavioral challenges such as these, the C-suite must have technologies in place to collect information anonymously, such as through mobile devices and apps.

2. Analyze and Weigh Opportunity As Thoroughly As Risk
Operations and delivery teams often concentrate on identifying and managing risk, but this approach can miss important opportunities. Using enterprise project portfolio management technology can identify opportunities for turning portfolios into strategic assets that produce measurable benefits. The portfolio can then be viewed as an investment that can be advanced in different directions as the fundamentals behind a strategy change.

3. Reach Beyond Organizational Walls for Insight into Supplier Operations and Capabilities
Suppliers and contractors are often judged solely by their ability to meet deadlines and manage costs, but this limited criteria may conceal underlying risks. The C-suite should insist on detailed reports about how effective major suppliers and contractors are at delivering projects when confronted with change. This level of visibility enables executives to make strategic decisions on the suitability of third parties beyond mere cost.

4. Implement Project Assurance Practices
Project assurance provides impartial assessments about the necessary resources and risks needed to ensure successful implementations of capital investments. But some organizations fall short when developing unbiased and comprehensive analyses. Creating the new role of chief project officer may provide a resource who can gather and present data in a way that is relevant to C-level leaders.

The full report delves into each of these areas in detail—and reinforces The EPPM Board’s findings that improving C-level insight is critical to enabling better business decisions.

Download “Putting the Truth on the Table” by The EPPM Board.

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