Brisbane’s project management first

By Jane Garcia

In the May edition of Government News magazine we reported on Australian Government plans to widen the use of Gateway reviews to monitor program and project management, especially in IT (Volume 26, Issue 4, Doorway to success, page 11).

Brisbane City Council  (BCC) was the first local government in Australia and one of the first in the world to implement Gateway. It piloted the UK Office of Government Commerce’s Gateway review methodology in November 2004 and officially adopted it as council policy in September of last year.

“Gateway was born out of issues with ICT projects in the UK’s central government,” says David Stewart, executive manager, Major Infrastructure Projects Office  (MIPO) at BCC.

“However since its inception, Gateway has been applied to projects with a focus from marketing and civil infrastructure to billion dollar military procurement programs.

“The Gateway Review Process was introduced to support Council’s project governance framework and to significantly improve Council’s ability to deliver successful outcomes for major projects.

“The primary focus of Council’s Gateway Review program is on project governance arrangements for major projects. A project is considered a major project if it has a capital cost greater than $5 million.”

The council’s review team usually consists of three members, independent of the project, who examine project documentation and interview project team members and stakeholders. Review team members are generally senior council employees – project managers from MIPO or other parts of the council, or external consultants selected for their relevant expertise, he says.

“Gateway Reviews involve independent, short, structured reviews of projects in order to identify issues that need to be addressed to ensure the successful delivery of the project,” Mr Stewart says.

“Gateway Reviews independently assess whether an appropriate level of discipline is applied through the project lifecycle.

“The review, facilitated by council’s Partnerships Unit, is held over two to three days. Review team members assess the project documentation for robustness, good process, value for money and project management/governance. Reviews also include interviews with key personnel and stakeholders.”

Gateway Reviews assist project owners in addressing potential weaknesses in projects and promoting better outcomes, such as more accurate scoping and estimates; reduced time and cost over runs; improved alignment of service delivery with available funds; and improved procurement discipline.

Mr Stewart says the council has undertaken 12 Gateway Reviews on major projects since September 2005, with 10 projects subjected to a review.

There were another 10 projects scheduled to undertake a Gateway Review by the end of the 05/06 financial year and to date Council has more than 30 projects scheduled to undertake a review in the 06/07 financial year.

But he warns that the set up of a Gateway Review program can be both cost and labour intensive.

“The UK government and Australian state government experience is that the overall cost of the review program in terms of the total out-turn costs of the projects it reviews is approximately 0.01 per cent,” he says.

“At the local government level this cost increases to approximately 0.1 per cent, due to the smaller size of projects under review.”

Whilst the program is internally focused at this stage, Brisbane has fielded enquiries from a number of local and state governments and not-for-profit organisations in regard to managing reviews for them. This is a service Mr Stewart says the council may consider in the future.

The council has also met with LG Infrastructure Services (LGIS), a joint initiative of the Local Government Association of Queensland and the Queensland Treasury Corporation,  in regard to the council’s program.

“As part of its [LGIS] commitment to providing quality infrastructure services to the local government sector, they have developed a Project Assurance Review service aimed at local government throughout the project delivery lifecycle,” he says.

“LGIS Project Assurance Reviews are largely based on the Gateway Review process. Council fully supports this initiative, with its focus on project support for local government.”


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