Project Management Institute

Raise up project management practices at a country level

should each country have a national project management office (NPMO)?


PwC - Saudi Arabia

Project management is an important vehicle in achieving nations’ strategies. Raising up project management practices among other management practices increases the chance of strategy execution success. Project management practices improve naturally as a result of industries’ forces. However, governments can expedite and stabilize this improvement by establishing a focused national entity.

That entity role differs based on current country project management maturity as well as its economy type and targets. In order to make sure this entity will succeed, a group of “Wh-” questions should be asked and answered throughout its establishment and operation phases. This paper will raise these questions in order to discuss the mandate and impact of having a national entity to raise up project management practices at a country level.

Keywords: national project management office, project management maturity, benefit management, national strategy execution, strategic impact of projects.


Nations seek unique positions through obtaining unique competitive advantages. In order to build those advantages, nations should develop a national strategy and execute it locally and internationally. Such strategy development, it should be led by government with civil society cooperation.

In order to execute a national strategy, there are several management disciplines to be utilized. Project management and operation management (OM) are two main vehicles to execute any strategy. Where project management is used to manage enhancing and changing the business through initiatives, OM is used to manage and optimize the day-to-day operations. Improving both project management and OM effectiveness will increase nations’ success in their strategy execution.

Project management practices are winning new ground day after day because of their successful role in implementing organizational strategy. Where establishing a project management office (PMO) in organizations is crucial to build and operate project management practices. PMI reported in its 2016 Pulse of The Profession® that 44% of enterprise-wide project management offices (PMOs) are highly aligned to organizational strategy (PMI, 2016). Similarly, if governments improve the overall country project management practices, this will guarantee better alignment and execution to the national strategy.

While there are many ways to enrich project management practices at a national level, this paper will discuss only the mandate and impact of establishing an entity to raise up project management nationally. This entity will be called a National Project Management Office (NPMO), regardless of its final name or functions in reality. The following sections will cover the aims and concerns of establishing and operating this NPMO.

The NPMO discussion will follow an updated version of the golden cycle approach, which was introduced by (Sinek, 2011). He found that the successful organizations and leaders usually ask three golden questions (Why, How, and What) in each element of their work. Since the aim is a successful NPMO, this paper will ask the same three questions after adding “Who?” to complete the road map for implementing and operating the NPMO (See Exhibit 1).


Exhibit 1: NPMO updated golden circle.



In a changing and challenging world, government and civil society try to co-create their national competitive advantages. Such co-creation requires innovative understanding and response for the local and international facts. As per (Porter, 2008): “A nation's competitiveness depends on the capacity of its industry to innovate and upgrade.” These industries consist of a group of companies, which work under government regulations and policies. Both governments and companies should align their strategies formulation as well as executions.

To establish a shared national vision and strategic direction, a group of techniques and analyses such as Porter competitive diamond and PESTEL should be utilized. This establishment presents a source of general directions for all governments, industries, and companies.

National general direction can come for example in clustering decision. Where “A cluster is a geographic concentration of related companies, organizations, and institutions in a particular field that can be present in a region, state, or nation.” (Institute for Strategy & Competitiveness, 2016).

Another example for national direction is adopting a national transformation program as Malaysia did on 2010. The Malaysian government remained focused on the allocation of resources, and formulated targets and quantified outcomes for economic growth based on social aspects such as quality of life, cost of living, the safety and security of the rakyat and promoting the values critical for the achievement of our goals (Performance Management & Delivery Unit, 2014). Regardless of national planning approach, governments detail and share those national directions with its ministries and civil society which by turn adopt it as main inputs for its organizational strategies.


Strategy is a group of general directions. These directions will be translated into either enhancing or changing the business or keep operating the traditional activities. Any change is an initiative, which may turn into a project, or program, which require project management. While continue the regular work requires OM to ensure smooth delivery.


Exhibit 2: Organizational strategy and management context, adopted from (PMI, 2013).

Exhibit 2 shows how each organization after finalizing its strategic directions can utilize different management disciplines to execute it (PMI, 2013). Portfolio, program, and project management are collectively named “project management.” Project management interacts with operations and resource management; together they are the vehicles of executing strategy.


Project management practices can be predicted from the definition provided by PMI: “The application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements” (PMI, 2013). However, since project management refers to the three domains (project, program and portfolio), then the word project mentioned in the definition should be referring to program and portfolio as well.

Another aspect should be considered essential part of project management practices is benefit management. Benefit management includes identifying, analyzing and planning, delivering, transiting and sustaining benefits (PMI, 2013). Adopting benefit management will help in bridging the gap between strategy formulation and project management.

Another gap that can be avoided by benefit management is the mislinkage between project management and operations management. Therefore, benefit management should be seen across the three project management domains, not only as a part of program management as some standards used to locate it.

Based on the above discussion, project management practices can be redefined as “Applying the knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project, program, portfolio, and benefits to all related activities to meet the strategic objectives.”


For government and private sectors to build and maintain their competitive advantage, a dynamic strategy and agile execution should be adopted. From a process point of view, strategy creation can go in cycles, and each cycle can be managed as a project since it is a temporary endeavor and will produce a unique document (PMI, 2013). So, for the strategy formulation team, project management practices will help them produce their strategy document in an efficient way.

On the other side, strategy execution contains regular operations and establishing new initiatives. The operation team will be affected by project management practices, because any enhancement in the operation will be considered a project need to be managed. Therefore, a minimum level of project management awareness is required for operation teams, while the initiatives’ teams are required to master project management practices to manage their initiatives. As a result of this discussion, it is necessary for all teams to practice project management at different depths, based on their needs. It should be fundamental part of any technical skill.

This conclusion (everyone should practice project management) also can be reached by calling the essence of project management; as it was constructed based on many management disciplines. Today, project management practices are given back to all management practitioners after reformatting and repositioning.


THE 20 OF THE 20

There could be many ways to raise up project management practices at a national level. Unless there is a unified vision for project management practices improvement, each involved party will develop its project management practices differently. Establishing a specialized and focused national entity will present a central mind to orchestrate all related initiatives. This entity should be named based on its main functions. However, it is called an NPMO for the purposes of this paper.

Raising project management practices effort can be divided by 80 – 20 role. Where 20% of that effort will result 80% of the expected results. Understanding the full picture and the general directions in the country is the first step of distinguishing the 20 and 80 efforts. Linking the national plans and unifying improvement directions is reapplying 80-20 role on the winning 20. The NPMO effort will be the 20 of the 20 which will tremendously save time and effort additionally will multiple and expedite the effect.


Raising up project management practices can be seen as a temporary task by developing a set of policies such as the “Policy on the Management of Projects,” which was developed by the Canada Treasury Board Ministers. NPMO also can be seen as a permanent job, such as the Major Projects Authority (MPA), which provides independent assurance on major projects. Also, it supports colleagues across United Kingdom departments to build skills and improve the way they manage and deliver projects (Gov.UK, 2016). Choosing an NPMO to be temporary or permanent should be based on its mandate, where the NPMO should remain until its mandate is accomplished.


Since the NPMO is responsible for raising up project management practices, it is expected that the NPMO will face two kinds of challenges in order to overcome it. The first type is the national challenges, where project management practices help in keeping all initiatives aligned to the national strategy and participate in achieving it. It also will keep reporting those initiatives’ progress to support decision making. Another help an NPMO can provide here is proposing regulations, which support better project management adaptation.

The second type of challenges are the project management practices, where the NPMO can help in improving these practices by supporting the application of necessary knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques. This may include working with education ministries, training institutions, and federations.


On 1 January 2016, the MPA merged with Infrastructure UK to form a new organization, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority. This new authority brought £100 billion in government and private investment to infrastructure to deliver important projects that are vital to grow the economy and improve people's lives (Gov.UK, 2016).

Another example is the Centre for Public Project Management (CP2M), which was established in Singapore. It provides project management advisory services to public sector agencies. The Centre evaluates and monitors the government-wide pipeline of projects to maximize value at the whole-of-government level (Government of Singapore, 2016).

Qatar also established Qatar National Project Management (QNPM) to help build and support the project professional management capacity in Qatar's public service. Its services included a framework for managing projects based on a project life cycle, with preset templates, job aids and other resources to help the public automate project management tasks and work with teams online (Qatar Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics, 2016).


Exhibit 3: Proposed Saudi NPMO Functions, Adopted from PwC Saudi Arabia Co.

Saudi NPMO is another real example, where exhibit 3 shows a group of functions which were proposed by PricewaterhouseCoopers company in Saudi Arabia (PwC SA). PwC presented these functions as a respond to the published mandate for NPMO. PwC SA proposed functions can be categorized into two main streams. The first stream is enabling project management practitioners by project management methodology and models, project management education and training and project management research through functions 1, 3, and 6. The second stream is enhancing project management practices which includes function 2 performing quality assurance and function 4 monitor and report. While function 5 change and communication will serve both streams (PwC, 2016).

In addition to the previous examples, some countries established a PMO on a national level to focus only on certain types of projects or national programs. An example from Canada is the Major Project Management Office (MPMO). It was established to “support the Government of Canada's new approach to the regulatory review of major resource projects – an approach that ensures a more effective, accountable, transparent and timely review process” (, 2011).

Another example from the Philippines, also called NPMO, but was focused on the Secondary Education Development and Improvement Project. It was established to take care of daily projects implementation and management.


A good way to identify all involved parties with the NPMO (stakeholders), is to track its life cycle, as illustrated in Exhibit 4, where calling for NPMO may come from someone or entity based on understanding the need for it. This need is constructed mainly on the current economy status and related reports and surveys. Since the initiative is on a national level, it is expected to be approved by the Prime Minister. However, the ownership is not necessary to be given to the individual or entity which called for it.


Exhibit 4: NPMO Stakeholders

The assigned owner is expected to utilize different resources to establish the NPMO, either by its resources or be outsourcing external ones. NPMO operations may start during the establishment phase or overlap at the end of establishment activities. Building and operating the NPMO should be customer centric. Therefore, other governments and civil societies should be involved across all NPMO life cycles, as they are the main beneficiaries of NPMO services.

Saudi Arabia's need for a NPMO was addressed by several entities and experts. Management writers, conference papers, and a council of Saudi engineers are source samples for that call. Because the Minister of Finance saw the need during reporting projects progress, they got the message, prepared the initiative, and proposed the idea to the council of ministers. Quickly, the idea was accepted; however, ownership was assigned to the Ministry of Economy and Planning, which assigned both internal and external teams to work on designing, establishing, and operating the NPMO.


After defining the mandate and stakeholders of the NPMO, designing an operating model to guide its operations activities becomes a necessity. Such a model will enable the NPMO to build their operation-level agreement (OLA) to organize its internal works. Also, it will reflect the service level agreement (SLA), which will construct the relationship with other entities.

NPMO as a program is recommended to be established as an independent entity. This independence will empower its staff as well as its decisions. It is expected NPMO to be either reporting to the council of ministers or one of the ministries. In Saudi case, it reports to the Ministry of Economy and Planning.


Exhibit 5 shows a suggested operating model for a Saudi NPMO. This operating model was designed by a company called Araamis, where the author of this paper led an innovative team when he used to work for it.

Reading that model should start by the stakeholders. NPMO beneficiaries mainly are the council of ministers, Saudi economy and the citizens. While at the bottom NPMO end users come. Beneath the beneficiaries and the end users, all other parties are listed. Considering the NPMO a program which will deliver a stream of benefits, there should be a board for that program. Who consists of the assigned his excellence (H.E.) the Minister, committee, a group of advisors and the NPMO program chief executive officer.


Exhibit 5: Suggested operating model for Saudi NPMO, adopted from Araamis Co.

Both beneficiaries and program board set NPMO strategy and its directions. They also participate heavily on its design and improvement. While NPMO working group and initiatives lead implementation and maintain services offering. NPMO program management may include main three heads in addition to the administration. Research & development, project management excellency and Support & Monitoring. Under these three functions a group of sub functions appears. All these functions and sub functions will be interpreted into several initiatives.

A general framework for all initiatives was suggested which included design, implement, maintain and improve phases. It was clear that all phases are benefits driven. These benefits will be offered for the program end users which may include individuals such as current and future project management practitioners, special program such as national programs and entities such as ministries’ PMOs.

Another aspect was highlighted in that operating model which is the collaboration. NPMO should seek for international alliances to utilize the global best practices by establishing several agreements with international project management institutes and experts. Meanwhile, the NPMO should count on the local experiences since each country has unique characteristics including project management maturity level, culture, demography, etc. These local entities may include, experts, education providers, professional unions and associations. For instance, each PMI chapter can develop a special PMBOK® Guide extension for its local government and culture.


NPMO services come as the result of its functions. These functions originally were derived from the NPMO strategic objectives. That is why those services should be aligned all the time with the strategic objectives which naturally are national based and connected to country economy conditions. As a result, it will position the NPMO correctly to contribute in overcoming the national challenges as discussed earlier under the mandate (Why) section.

These services should address project management practice challenges at a national level. Therefore, it is necessary to understand current country level practices. In other words, to what extend the project management knowledge, skills, tools and techniques are being applied to project, program, portfolio, and benefits in order to achieve each entity strategic objectives. That is exactly the meaning of project management maturity. In addition to the current national maturity, NPMO should define what maturity level the country should target and how.

It is expected there will be variety between different entities’ maturities. Both governmental and private sectors will show different adherence to best practices. However, the main aim of measuring country project management maturity is to ensure and size the required services to be delivered by the NPMO.

‘OPM3 Portugal Project’ was a good example tried to measure country level project management maturity. “The objective of this project was to assess 100 organizations, from various activity sectors, and perform an analysis of their organizational project management maturity, presenting an improvement plan to each of them. Furthermore, it intended to develop a sectorial-level and a country-level assessment of project practices” (David Silvaa, 2014).

‘OPM3 Portugal Project’ published the result which included a group of improvement recommendations. Some of these results addressed few sectors such as IT & Telecommunications. Also, the result tried to distinguish between companies’ sizes. Another distinguish factor was government and non-government.

This paper recommends the same start of ‘OPM3 Portugal Project’, however, it recommend to find a national sponsor as well as national participation in the assessment. Also this paper sees it is necessary to involve all industries so the result may feed into the original national strategy and Porter clustering competitive advantages approach.

Based on the national assessment, NPMO services will try to sustain the strengths areas and improve other areas. Linking the services to the maturity level will produce streams of services which may include:

1- Enabling project management application by facilitate obtaining skills and availing knowledge, tools and techniques.

2- Suggest Regulations and policies which encourage utilizing project management such as establishing a special unit in government organizational structure and embed some project management techniques as part of government contracts.

3- Cooperate with project management communities to market and spread the discipline.

4- Create project management career path with clear salary ladder for project managers especially in government to encourage employees to join this field.

5- Manage special fund for establishing PMOs for ministries and companies in some industries.

6- Monitor and supervise national projects and programs performance

7- Encourage maturity improvement by adapting or creating maturity model.

8- Represent project management hub and repertory to capture, create, unify, and share knowledge and best practices

9- Project management methodology and toolkits

Each stream presents a portfolio of initiatives; each initiative may be translated into short term project or long term program. Based on the nature of project management discipline and the related global best practices, there are two principles must intervene all services streams; People must come first and all services must be benefit driven.


Human aspect is still and will remain the most important part of improving the national project management maturity. When Jim Collen the author of “Good to Great” were asked about the success factor number one in organizations he answered; People, when he was asked about the second, third, fourth and fifth factor, he kept the same answer; People.

On a national level, South Korea one of many countries which considered people education and health the most effective way to develop their country. After it was one poorest country, South Koreas became one of the 20 major economy.

When PMI discussed project and program complexity in Navigating Complexity (PMI, 2014), it described three elements to be considered for all project management practitioners. These elements as shown in Exhibit 6 includes technical project management, leadership, and strategic and business management. These three elements can guide NPMO how to support the people side of the national project management maturity.


Exhibit 6: Capability Requirements for Managers of of Programs or Projects with complexity


In general, a benefit is a measurable enhancement in a specific performance. NPMO services should be designed to enhance its stakeholders’ performance and enable them to do the same for their extended stakeholders as well.

A service such as monitoring mega program, should utilize benefit management as main performance measurement mechanism. This will lead to better national strategy alignment. On the other side, unified project management methodology should market benefit driven approach on the three domains; project, program and program.

Benefit Management fills major gaps in organization management context. First gap is between the strategy and portfolio management by benefit identification, second gap is between portfolios management and program/project management by benefit planning and delivery. The third and last gap is between program/project and operation management which will be bridged by benefit transition and sustainment (Alsadeq, 2015).


Project Management is an essential management discipline to formulate and execute nations strategies. Project management practitioners should encourage their Government to take a centralized role in improving project management across the country. This role may differ based on the national plans as well as the national project management maturity. However, as many countries did, establishing an entity such as NPMO is a common approach.

Because of the continues expected benefits and role of NPMO, it should be designed as an independent program, structured and positioned based on country conditions, got expected beneficiaries and end users involved across its life cycle and operated by benefit driven model.



Mr. Alsadeq started his career 19 years ago in software development business. Progressively, he built deep project management experience, which enabled him to deliver coaching, consulting, and training services for private and government sectors in various fields, including IT, construction, and R&D.

Imad has been leading different initiatives for establishing and operating Enterprise PMOs based on an agile and business-driven mindset, while as a certified P3M3, and OPM3, Imad conducted different assessments to form workable improvement plans for many PMOs in telecom, mining, and government fields. He cofounded two consulting firms to help clients innovate, excel, change, and harvest their transformation and impact.

This accumulative and real experience helped Imad tremendously to author and present a group of new project management concepts in technical papers and speeches (Australia, USA, Oman, Turkey, France, Netherlands, Italy, Ireland, Malta, KSA, Bahrain, and Egypt), also Imad contributed to a number of project management books as a lead author and coauthor.

He was nominated for the membership of various technical committees in PMI International Congresses (Malta, Bahrain, Dubai). In addition, he was selected to be a member of PMI's Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.) Advisory Group for three years. Additionally, he was assigned as PMI Education Foundation Liaison for PMI-AGC. As a volunteer, he participated in developing different PMI standards, and translating some of PMI and PMIEF content into Arabic language.

In addition to being PMI-RMP and PMP- certified from PMI, he is also a ADKAR change management certified from Prosci, EFQM Certified Internal Assessor, Managing Successful Programs (MSP), and Managing Benefits certified practitioner from APMG International.


img      ialsadeq     | img   ialsadeq       | img              ialsadeq

Alsadeq, I. (2015, May). Benefit Management; How to fill multi gaps with only one bridge. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (2011, 04 03). About MPMO. Retrieved from Canada's Major Projects Management Office:

David Silvaa, A. T. (2014). OPM3® Portugal Project: Analysis of Preliminary Results. Procedia Technology, 1027 – 1036.

Gov.UK. (2016, March 16). Major Projects Authority. Retrieved from Gov.UK:

Gov.UK. (2016, March 16). New National Infrastructure Delivery Plan gets Britain building. Retrieved from Infrastructure and Projects Authority:

Government of Singapore. (2016, March 16). Statutory Boards and Departments. Retrieved from Ministry of Finance - Singapore:

Institute for Strategy & Competitiveness. (2016, April 5). What Are Clusters? Retrieved from Institute for Strategy & Competitiveness:

Performance Management & Delivery Unit. (2014). Establishing The National Transformation Programme. Retrieved from Government Transformation Program:

PMI. (2013). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK® guide) (5th ed.). Newtown Square, PA, USA: PMI.

PMI. (2013). The standard for Program Management. Project Management Institute.

PMI. (2014). Navigating Complexity: A Practical Guide. Pensylvania, US.

PMI. (2016, 02 15). PMI's Pulse of the Profession. PA, USA.

Porter, M. E. (2008). Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance (2nd ed.). Simon and Schuster.

PwC. (2016, April 16). Consulting. Retrieved from PwC:

Qatar Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics. (2016, March 2016). Qatar National Project Management - QNPM. Retrieved from Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics:

Sinek, S. (2011). Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (1st ed.). Portfolio; Reprint edition.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2016, Imad Alsadeq
Originally published as part of the 2016 PMI® Global Congress Proceedings – Barcelona, Spain



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