Weaving innovation into the fabric of infrastructure: Project Management Offices and their role in the infrastructure pipeline

14th January 2021


A Project Management Office (PMO) transcends all aspects of the project life cycle. The mechanism supports issues such as maturity of design, procurement strategy, constructability and physical project interfaces. As project controls professionals on infrastructure mega projects, we often encounter issues that require us to think differently, to transcend traditional methodologies, and to adopt agile management tools. This presents an opportunity to harness the holistic oversight afforded by our role and consider how we can be infrastructure innovators and future-proof our industry.

The question is, how?

PMOs recognise that there is a need for both due diligence and resilience throughout the project life cycle. The management of cost and change, mitigation of risks, elimination of waste and optimisation of delivery timeframes, adds valuable assurance to infrastructure delivery. A PMO captures a range of data that can be analysed to enable decision-makers to take informed action. Thus creating the opportunity to deliver better quality outcomes for our customers. People, processes and systems – the building blocks of project controls – all need to be aligned to project needs. The ability to translate data into opportunities for meaningful intervention and innovation is key to agility and adaptability.

So how can innovation be woven into the fabric of infrastructure delivery?

In Australia, the 2020-21 Federal Budget has revealed the Government is increasing spending on its infrastructure pipeline from $100 billion to $110 billion over the next 10 years. In New South Wales alone, the Government has announced $33 billion dollars of transport infrastructure investments in its 2020-2021 State Budget. This economic stimulus will only have the desired positive effect if suppliers and industry partners continually strive to optimise processes and establish shared efficiencies.[1] This reveals the potential for PMO providers to improve collaboration across the control environment by helping to build efficiencies across the whole supply chain.

If we are to move from issue management to innovation management, from risk management to opportunity management, we need to begin with the end in mind; to tailor our delivery management and project controls to pre-determined outcomes, to an integrated baseline.

In an environment where emerging change is inevitable, the control model evolves continuously.  If we embrace innovation as an enabler of advancement, the approach then shifts to asking ourselves how we can optimise not just our outputs, but our inputs; not just our projects, but our processes.

Looking beyond best practice

In the PMO space, our criterion for cutting edge practice must translate threats to our processes, people and systems into opportunities; it must not just exemplify “best-practice”, but must offer “beyond-practice” indicators. Arguably these indicators can only emerge by establishing tools and training to future-proof and/or digitise traditional paradigms. To transcend traditional paradigms, innovation needs to look beyond what we know and better equip us for any risks and uncertainties that the future has to offer.

Across industry, and at events like the recent Global Projects Control Expo, we are witnessing increased dialogue on artificial intelligence (AI) in the project space. AI builds on existing practice and applies new technology as an enabler of future capability, offering PMOs a tool for ensuring both agility and accountability in the control environment. For PMO data to remain a source of truth, machine learning provides a means of understanding emergent practices, patterns and trends that may be driving complexity and uncertainty on projects.

Through our annual CRUX report, HKA has undertaken extensive research to better understand the fault lines in the delivery of mega projects.  The complexity of a mega project means it is crucial for all stages of the project life cycle to interface as seamlessly as possible. By fostering greater collaboration and innovation, PMO can play a key role in optimising infrastructure delivery. Innovation cannot be an individual act, it cannot be a siloed act; it must be a collaborative, collective pursuit of future-proofing our practice.

If you’d like to collaborate with HKA or learn more about how we make PMOs more agile and resilient, we’d love to continue the conversation and help embed infrastructure innovation into the future.

[1] An Assessment of Australia’s Future Infrastructure Needs The Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019

This article is in follow up to the a presentation given at the Global Project Controls Expo 2020. The original presentation can be viewed at the following link.

About the Author: 

Combining creative intelligence with infrastructure intelligence, Jessie Schilling consults within the Strategy & Optimisation stream of Advisory services at HKA. During her career, Jessie has been established in the Project Management Office across two Metro projects. She has honed her skills in risk management and change control across multi-billion dollar packages of works.

Jessie is a certified practicing risk associate (CPRA®) with a passion for innovation. At the core of her work are processes and people, where she seeks to implement agile strategies and solutions within complex project environments.


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