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Despite a decade of focus and billions in investment, public sector projects have failed to meet delivery expectations, and a lack of project management professionalism has been identified as a contributing factor. This research sought to understand the context and map the
competencies required to deliver projects in the Australian Public Service (APS) in order to tailor project management education and improve project outcomes.
Semi-structured interviews were undertaken, and the key statements that described the operating context were drawn from the interviews and grouped into an affinity map. Additionally, a broader cohort of current APS project management practitioners completed a survey assessing the relative importance of competencies to the effective project delivery in the public sector. The competencies were drawn from both the International Project Management Association Competence Baseline 3.0 and public administration competencies theorised as being critical to public sector project management.
The affinity diagram showed that the operational nature and strong hierarchies of APS agencies were in conflict with project management practice, sub-optimising its effectiveness and efficiency and negatively impacting project outcomes. The prioritised competencies from
the survey aligned to areas of weakness described in the affinity map, suggesting that the challenges in the operating environment may be broadly reflective of the experience of project managers across the APS. The International Project Management Association International
Competency Baseline 3.0 was found to be relevant to public sector application, but required supplementation of public administration competencies to comprehensively cover the suite of skills needed for effective project delivery in the APS.
The research findings noted that the specific needs, values and functions of project management in the Australian Public Service are not well defined, and therefore there were limited criteria against which public sector project management competencies could be designed and measured. Therefore, it is not possible to be certain about the correct composition of a public sector project management competency typology for the APS until organisational requirements are further advanced.