Project-oriented approaches have long been standard practice in the city of Leonding. The requirements to be met by administration continuously rise and hence, the number and complexity of the projects to be implemented. Therefore, the existing standards of project handling were to be revised, adjusted to manifold challenges and made fit for the future.
"We faced the challenge to manage optimally more and more projects that, on top of it, differed widely with regard to their volume and complexity. Other important goals were to ensure that everybody involved has the same level of knowledge in project management and to make available a consistent project management tool," says Mag. Walter Brunner, Mayor of the fourth biggest Upper Austrian city with a population of 28,000 residents, to describe the situation.
"The objective also was to ensure the habitually high quality of services rendered to our citizens while largely achieving cost neutrality," adds City Office Director MMag. Heinz Bindeus.
Given this context, an even more professional project management approach was to be developed on the basis of the existing model for all projects carried out by the city. This requires harmonized standards. Thus, Leonding looked for a suitable partner to support implementation and found it in the project management expert Dipl.-Ing. Helmut Berger. The manager of the Austrian office of the training and consulting firm CONSIM International offers long-standing practical experiences, is an Austrian delegate in the international committee ISO/TC 258 "Project, programme and portfolio management" and was involved in the preparation of ÖNORM ISO 21500.
"I proposed to set up project management in line with the guidance provided in the recently published standard ÖNORM ISO 21500. The effort of introducing standard-compliant project management is definitely worthwhile and involves neither high formal requirements nor high costs," explains Berger. Like all normative documents, ÖNORM ISO 21500 "Guidance on project management" documents the state of the art in technology and business and offers confirmed technical knowledge. "The topics and contents of projects implemented in a dynamic city like Leonding are highly diverse. They range from construction projects and social facilities to IT infrastructure solutions and cultural events. However, no matter how special the individual projects are: It was important to me that there was consensus on the objectives and to bring across that project management only provides added value if it controls the product process well," says Berger.
In workshops, the expert provided information on the standard and on project management. Moreover, he presented suitable project management tools and, together with the senior staff of the municipality, developed simple processes. For example, an environmental project analysis and a work breakdown structure were used to ensure transparency of the complex requirements of the different projects. A desirable side effect was that, owing to joint work on the project, all the persons involved developed a common view. This is an important point for project manager Berger: "it is essential that all the parties involved share the same view of the requirements. The most important issue is to realize that there are different perceptions and that it is necessary to become aware of them, to discuss them and then achieve a common quality standard. The issues addressed by projects may differ widely, whereas the methods that can be used to prevent problems are very similar in most cases."
The workshops, of course, also addressed classical project management issues, such as roles and clear definition of roles, processes, tools and project controlling. At the end of 2013, the project manual was finalized and, in early 2014, a pilot project was kicked off to establish the Leondinger Veranstaltungs- und Kulturservice GmbH, which will be completed in summer.
Mayor Brunner and City Office Director Bindeus are convinced that it was a good decision to introduce a standard-compliant project management system: "The project management system according to ÖNORM ISO 21500 allowed us to ensure the more professional management of our administrative processes, but also were able to strengthen co-operation between the specialized departments and, as a result, raise the efficiency of implementation. We defined an organized project closure process that is to make sure that lessons learnt in a project also benefit persons working in administration who were not involved in that project." Project management expert Berger is satisfied with the results, too: "The municipality of Leonding was an exemplary client in the introduction of the project management system. In addition to transparent communication within the organization via intranet, external project marketing was great as well."
Having 28,000 residents, Leonding is the fourth biggest city of Upper Austria. The city's administration, which is among the most modern ones of the country, has to manage projects of diverse complexities on an ongoing basis. In 2013, Leonding was the first Austrian city to introduce a professional project management system according to ÖNORM ISO 21500 "Guidance on project management".
The certified project management expert HELMUT BERGER supported the municipality of Leonding during implementation. The manager of the Austrian office of the training and consulting firm CONSIM International is a member of the professional association Project Management Austria (PMA) and, as an Austrian delegate, was involved in the development of ISO ÖNORM ISO 21500.
Author: Herbert Hirner