Project Management Institute

The project management system in an Italian Social Security administration--the "INPS--Istituto Nazionale di Previdenza Sociale" (National Institute for Social Security) case study

the first project management experience in an Italian government institution


In order to achieve corporate initiatives, organizations need a Project Management System that defines a comprehensive and consistent process for managing projects. This presentation describes the INPS EPM System project that has involved more than 300 people of the north Italian regional office and has been realized between 2002/04. This paper presents the modalities for creating an Enterprise Project Management system within a significant organization that provides exceptional high quality services to the entire community.


The National Institute for Social Security (INPS – Istituto Nazionale di Previdenza Sociale) is the largest Italian social security agency. Nearly all of the Italian employees of the private sector and some of the public sector, are assured with INPS, like the greater part of the independent workers.

In 2000, the entire INPS agency was reorganized and defined all the products and processes that it delivers every year.

The Regional Direction of Emilia Romagna that the Institute had started, in the course of 2001, to set up a method of management of the own activities and the own processes based on the techniques of Project Management. They have decided to launch a project for the creation of a Project Management System distributed in the entire provincial agency and the regional direction.

The project scope was to create, with a methodological and technical support, the Project Management System based on the Microsoft Project EPM System platform.

The unicity of the project has emphasized the need of a first stage of the Project Management System in a closed environment: a test of the all system in a short time period – four months – with a limited group of users.

The Background

The National Institute for Social Security – INPS

The Institute is a government agency that provides assurance and much more for the private and public worker. The main activity consists in the liquidation and the payment of the pensions that are of a social and welfare nature. The INPS also supplies the payments of all the services to support the annual income which includes, as an example, unemployment, disease, maternity, and unemployment compensation.

The most significant data of INPS are:

  • 19 million assured workers;
  • 14 million 500 thousand retired workers;
  • 5 million companies enrolled.

INPS operates on the Italian territory with:

  • 20 Regional Directions;
  • 103 Provincial Direction;
  • 51 Sub-Provincial Direction;
  • 343 Offices;
  • 1000 “Punti-Cliente” – Contact Points.

The INPS' History

In the 1898 is founded the asNational Found of Social Assurance (CNAS) for invalids and old age of the workers. In the 1933 the CNAS became Istituto Nazionale della Previdenza Sociale INPS, a public authority with its own management.

In the 1952, approveds, by the law of Social Assurance, the minimum retiring pension.

In the 1969, it is held the non-contributory pension.

In the 1980, the INPS receives the sickness contribution and payment of the benefits.

Products and services

The principals' products and services exist to process a pension claim, which could be a public assistance or a social security type. The first type is determined by insurance relations and is financed by mandatory contributions: length of service pension, old age pension, invalidity allowance, and disability pension. The second is a welfare competence, but has been assigned for the delivery by the INPS: income support for the pensioner and social allowance.

The Institute not only takes care of pensions, but it also supplies payments of all benefits to support the incomes such as unemployment, the disease, maternity, the special lay-off pay fund, and severance indemnity. In addition, the benefits to assist those who they have modest incomes and numerous families: family allowance, maternity allowance, and family allowance granted by the town Councils. The agency also manages the database for the ISEE – Indicator of the Equivalent Economic Situation that permits to receive some of social benefits. All the benefits are done using contributions from the employees and the Institute has to manage all the employers' registrations. Finally, the Institute has to make the medical examination for inability and invalidity and others controls.

This is a short list of all the services and products:

  • Seniority pension
  • Length of service pension
  • Inability pension /disability pension
  • Invalid pension
  • Survivor's pension
  • Old age pension
  • Non contributory pension
  • Social allowance
  • Special social security funds
  • International Pension
  • Contributions
  • Assurance for craftsmen and merchants
  • Voluntary contributions
  • Deemed contributions
  • Retroactive payment of contribution
  • Part time contribution
  • Housewife contribution
  • Attendance allowance
  • Constant-attendance supplement
  • Unemployment benefit
  • Civil invalidity allowance
  • Maternity allowance
  • Birth allowance
  • Death grant
  • Invalidity allowance
  • Family allowance
  • Special lay-off pay fund
  • Severance indemnity/ leaving indemnity

The Project context

The assumptions

The National Institute for Social Security has started an important evolution process to emphasize and consolidate its own mission to be a modern Service Company, in which the following are peculiar aspects:

  • A widespread, strong and aware focus to customer satisfaction;
  • An ability of integration and cohesion between the various resources and the different know-how of the institute;
  • An extended ability to project management for addressing not only execution, but also motivations, change and responsibility;
  • A professional model based not only on the “expertise “of the professionalism, but also on the abilities of behaviour and organizational relation;
  • An ability for adaptation and flexibility in changing and innovating processes, experiences and modality of behaviour.

Due to this effort, the INPS has found the importance of the governance of the INPS' management and of all the Institute employees' competences in general and project management. Through a special attention also to the contribution of less tangible resources to the quality of the processes: qualities that shared interest and cross-functional competences, necessary in order to bring a value to the capitalization know-how processes and valorisation of the efficiencies based on integration.

In this perspective, the INPS has put, at the core of HR Development, a goal to attain time quality and budget control in all projects. Project management, then, must also integrate cultural, organization, and technological changes in Process, Organizations and Technology.

In order to achieve these requirements the Institute has identifed the need of a Project Management System that defines a comprehensive and consistent process for managing projects. Due to the complexity of the INPS and the wide national focus, this is meant more as an Enterprise Project Management approach.

After a wide selection they have choose the PMT - Project Management Team, a consulting and training firm specialized in Project Management methodology that, with a group of INPS' experts that form the project team, has defined the project scope:

  • Introducing the Project Management approach in the INPS' processes;
  • Introducing the process cost control concept through the project control
  • Introducing the project responsibility and its organization structure
  • Introducing a system spread over the region and project control tools.

The Emilia Romagna INPS regional district

The Emilia Romagna Regional Direction is one of the largest and most advanced INPS agency with over 2000 employees and more than 3.000.000 “clients”, which could be divided as follows:

  • 1.900.000 assured: 1.480.000 employed workers and 420.000 self-employed workers
  • 1.345.000 pensions;
  • 140.000 enterprises.

In the region area, a part of the Regional Direction, are:

  • 9 provincial agencies;
  • 1 sub-provincial agency;
  • 23 territorial agencies

On the whole (managers and employee) the personnel, at the end of 2004, was 2.293 employees. Annually the products and service delivered – on the last three years basis - are:

Emilia Romagna annual products

Exhibit 1 - Emilia Romagna annual products

Project WBS

Exhibit 2 - Project WBS

Phases of the project

The project has been managed following the above WBS (Exhibit 2) and involved the Regional Direction in Bologna and all the local sites of Bologna, Ferrara, Forlì, Imola, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Ravenna, Reggio Emilia e Rimini.

For each local office four competencies have been identified to be included in the project management process:

  • Director
  • Planner
  • Account
  • Process owner

For the Regional Direction office, the follow competencies:

  • Director
  • Project Office
  • Building specialist
  • Procurement and Estate manager
  • Training manager
Internal analysis

During this phase the agency projects has been identified and mapped in four areas as follows:

  • 1 - Procurement: the entire project for building construction, training, etc.
  • 2 - Logistic: project for office move
  • 3 - Specific issue resolutions: many of no closed files that as to be finish for a specific date
  • 4 - “Social” solutions in efficiency: due to a new law the evaluation of a new method for evade the files

In addiction, all the process activities related to project area have been verified and evaluated between all the local regional offices. In addition, the path of each process has been also analyzed and the critical flows verified. A big part of the analysis has concerned the examination of the resources requirement and the typical need tools with the way for monitoring and controlling all the items.

In this phase, the team went deep in the definition of the tools and the software functionalities for each competency and roles.

Competency and role list

Exhibit 3 - Competency and role list

Method definition

The introduction to the discipline of the Project Management has been a topic item. The Institute has chosen to use the Project Management Institute (PMI®) standards: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) and the Government extension tools and techniques were the right solution for their project management approach. Therefore, it has been applied to real case studies with a main focus on the planning and control phase of the project. After that it has been possible to develop the procedures and the tools for the Project Management System and identify the “project pilot” for the next project phase. In addition, the team has defined the Microsoft Project applications and the useful tools.

IT System phase

After the analysis of the configurations of the system, the team has identified users, roles and accesses and has started the System Configuration and implementation. Due to the needs of the Institute, some customization has made for permit an easier access to data for the Direction users. The training, for around 60 users, has been the focus for each identified roles in the projects.

Test phase

The EPM system installation has involved twelve local sites and the INPS IT regional direction: one centralized server with a SQL Database for all the operations and 40-web client for the access at server database. The key users' test activities have been directed to a small group: Following a checklist, they have verified all the functionality and the process-flow. Finally, it has done the on going evaluation that has shown the follow major items:

  • Visibility and sharing of the project information: constant updating of all the members of the organization on the programs and the plans of the institute;
  • Ability to analysis: a support for strategic goals and for estimate the impact of the single project on the enterprise performances;
  • Project control: simplification of the decisional process, answering timely to the changes;
  • The project management approach has been thought useful, effective and necessary for the duty of ones own activities.
Final System Implementation

After the test phase, the EPM System has been open to the entire population involved in project and process management. The server has been update and upgraded for over 300 users. Users received a handbook and technical training.

Pitt falls and critical factor

As many projects, this one also has had many issue and risk during its life cycle:

  • No definite sponsorship;
  • Objectives definition during the project execution;
  • Low motivation;
  • Political fight in the National Central Direction;
  • Lack of a clear and official commitment;
  • Requirement acceptance without a deep analysis;
  • Too wide project.

In a public organization, where the “work by objective” is a future dream and in which the evaluation of the employees and the responsibility are “hot” item of a difficult improvement process, these critical factors could be acceptable compare with others. For some of them you have to manage with continued monitoring of the environment and interaction with the commitment: a “stage and gate” approach with many checkpoints could be useful. For others, like motivation, you need to show that the approach works and a test phase with a small group gives you strong help.

Of course, the project failure risks still remain high, but you have to accept them. A communication plan, that provides many different ways of information distribution, like public workshop, in which present the results at the end of each phase, helped the project to survive till its end and over.

The actual scenario

What is happening now? Are the projects managed? What is their performance?

After one year from the end of the project, the Project Management System is wel known in all the regional local sites. Most of the projects are managed within the method: the whole planning tools and techniques are always used for “emergency” projects, but in the ordinary processes operations the method is not so use. The EPM system is still used: the regional Direction has complete visibility of the projects and can evaluate many different approach and solutions in project management. In addition, it is possible to compare the performance of all the projects: many of them reduce their cost by about the 50% and the deadlines are respect for the 70%.

The INPS Italian context

The National Central Direction has take care the results of the project during its life cycle: it has become the first wide project management approach experience for the Institute and for the government institutions. Many small approaches have started, but none with this many users and products/services involvement. The INPS Emilia Romagna case study has been presented in many public occasions with success and interest by the other agencies. Then the INPS, at a national level, has established a wide project management method introduction process for all the regional direction in Italy, which will involve indirectly around 5.000 users.

Future prospective and conclusions

At this point the possible evolutions of the INPS Project Management System are:

  • Centralized Project Management Office, that could became a service for each regional sites, or for every Project Office of each region;
  • Centralized EPM system;
  • Wide project management training;
  • Project Manager Certification.

The natural improvement in such organization is to motivate the project manager and all the stakeholder to adopt a standard method for planning and controlling projects: as you can see in private business, the project management certification is a key point of a career path. In the public environment, the career is the best incentive related to objective management and, in addition, many public tender require, a project management expertise certification. Probably this evolution could be help by a closer to European public administration view of the project management international standards and a formal recognition of the project management certification as the only “project management methodology experience” guarantee. And, finally, more and more project management improvement projects…..


Casanova, P. (2003, April) Setting-Up the environment for EPM in a Large Multinational IT Services Organization. PMI Global Congress 2003, Europe, Den Haag, The Netherlands.

Project Management Institute. (2000) A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK®) (2000 ed.). Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

Project Management Institute. (2002) Government Extension to “A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK®) (2000 ed.)”. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

Ruscitto, A. (2005). Glossario dei termini previdenziali. March 30th 2005 from

INPS (2005). TuttoINPS. March 30th 2005 from

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© 2005, Marcello Patrese
Originally published as a part of 2005 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Edinburgh, Scotland



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