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The importance of project managers in delivery of Australia’s defence capability

With an unprecedented period of investment in Australia’s defence capabilities, project managers entrenched in industry are playing a pivotal role in the support of these defence mega projects.

With $200 billion worth of investment projected to transform the face of the Australian Defence Force, both Australia’s defence industry and the Department of Defence play instrumental roles in supporting the delivery of these capabilities.

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However, the growing complexity of defence mega projects ranging from the $35 billion Hunter Class future frigates, the $50 billion Attack Class submarines, $5.2 billion Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles and the ongoing sustainment and operational maintenance of the nation’s $17 billion fleet of fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighters  is placing increased strain on the ability of both industry and the department to support the delivery of these programs in a cost effective and timely manner.

Eager to avoid the drama of the Collins Class and Hobart Class programs, Defence and industry have sought to expand their longstanding partnership with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), drawing on the specialised expertise available in industry to support the delivery of the next generation of Australian defence capabilities.

The relationship between AIPM and Defence more specifically, the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG)  which began in 2005 is best defined as a symbiotic one, with both organisations complementing the skills and expertise of the other.

In its role, CASG’s purpose is to partner with industry to deliver Defence capability for the capability manager. CASG manages the delivery of more than 150 complex projects and over 100 sustainment products.

Stuart Cassie, chair of the AIPM Industry Leaders Group, highlighted the importance professionally qualified project managers play in supporting Defence and CASG’s major programs, telling Defence Connect, “Defence as a partner has a high degree of structure for their program delivery, which is a mature approach to complex program management and supports the push by AIPM to see the professionalisation and accreditation of program managers.”

AIPM plays a key role in supporting the professional accreditation and continuous professional development of CASG’s project management workforce. As part of this, AIPM certifies CASG’s project managers against professional competency standards and provides its workforce with a range of continuous professional development opportunities.

This professional development and accreditation serve to ensure that CASG is able to continue delivering cutting-edge capabilities to the Australian Defence Force.

Stephen McDonald, program management function lead, Assistant Secretary PM, program performance division, CASG told Defence Connect, “Strong project leadership enables the delivery of nationally significant projects that are un-paralleled in their size, cost, timescale, risk profile and level of technological complexity.”

AIPM chair Michael King echoed the comments made by McDonald, telling Defence Connect, “The relationship between AIPM and CASG, like DMO before it, is an important one, critical, not only to the delivery of major defence projects, but to supporting the development of key project management capabilities within the broader defence supply chain.”

AIPM supports this capability development through a number of avenues, including traditional professional development, training and accreditation programs, combined with a series of industry networking events and awards used to recognise the role and expertise of project managers.

“Developing and nurturing long-term relationships enables program managers and Defence to develop trust and ensure that Defence is assured of the quality and timely delivery of major programs – supporting this, we would welcome a world where asset owners, like Defence, require a professionally accredited and recognised project management professional,” Cassie added.

“What we have discovered is that the current PM role is evolving beyond the traditional nine-10 elements to include a range of soft skills. In recognising this, AIPM in partnership with industry and the Department of Defence are focused on supporting the transformation of Australia’s PM ecosystem,” King explained.

Collaboration is a key component of this symbiotic relationship and plays a critical role in the AIPM and CASG’s agenda to ensure the continuous professional development of individual project managers in line with international standards, ensuring that both project managers and CASG continue to deliver the capabilities needed by the ADF.

King added, “AIPM is committed to being a trusted adviser to Defence, responsible for supporting the capability delivery requirements of the department and CASG.”

The Department of Defence has partnered with the AIPM to support the development of project management teams. The Department has taken on an ‘Organisational Premium Partner Package’ with the AIPM, which is an investment into a number of resources is to build project leadership capability.

This includes opportunities for mentoring through to attendance of events aimed at:

1. Strengthening performance;
2. Building intelligence;
3. Giving project leaders recognition;
4. Providing networking opportunities; and
5. Raising awareness of the importance of project management as a whole.

With over 7,000 individual members, and over 30 organisational partners, AIPM is recognised by Australian business, industry and local, state and federal government as the key promoter, developer and leader in project management professionalism.

AIPM is a member of the International Project Management Association (IPMA), as well as the secretariat of the Asia Pacific Federation of Project Management, an organisation initiated by the AIPM in 2010.

The importance of project managers in delivery of Australia’s defence capability
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