UN Office for Project Services strikes deal with Accenture arm

30 March 2016 Consultancy.uk

The United Nations Office for Project Services has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Accenture, through which the global consulting and technology firm will leverage its capabilities to improve aid and development programme outcomes across several global locations.

The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), founded in 1973, is the operations arm of the United Nations (UN). Headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, the UNOPS today has more than 7,000 employees supporting the implementation of its partners' peacebuilding, humanitarian and development projects around the world.

The organisation provides an array of services; including project management, procurement and infrastructure, for governments, donors and other UN organisations. To execute its development agenda, the UNOPS works together with dozens of partner firms, mostly corporates that offer their services pro-bono as part of their wider CSR strategies. In February the UN arm announced that it had struck a deal with Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a global management consultancy, and two months later another consulting firm has joined its social ranks.

Accenture - United Nations

The collaboration with Accenture, signed in the form of a non-exclusive Memorandum of Understanding, will see Accenture Development Partnerships* (ADP) – the firm’s international development unit – provide the UNOPS with a range of expertise and provisions in the areas of business, technology and digital experience – from strategy to execution – to support development roll-outs and solutions. The consulting firm will, in particular, deliver supply chain management, digital technology and the creation and management of cross-sector partnerships.

Nikolaj Gilbert, UNOPS Director of Partnerships, says that the organisation is “delighted” to be forging the new relationship with Accenture. The combination of the core competencies, Gilbert notes, “will enable us to provide new and impactful advisory and implementation services that can help address the complex operational challenges encountered on the ground. Together we will be able to undertake new projects for the benefit of people in need.”

Marty Rodgers, Accenture’s Global Client Account Lead for the United Nations, says that Accenture is “honoured to support the United Nations”, from the Secretariat to various programmes, funds and specialised agencies, to help solve some of its most complex and mission-critical strategy, technology and operations challenges. “We are proud to have the opportunity to extend this relationship further into the field with UNOPS and its partners through our Accenture Development Partnerships business model.”

* The stated mission of Accenture Development Partnerships is to provide solutions to development issues that contribute lasting positive changes with social, economic and environmental impact. In its 13 year history, the unit has supported more than 640 projects of more than 140 organisations.


Managing the demand for change in project management

16 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

The forward-looking nature of project management means that regardless of the type of project, thorough planning and risk assessment are essential to ensure it is delivered on time, on budget, and in line with the client’s requirements – while delivering the expected results. Consultants Eman Al-Hillawi and Peter Marsden elaborate in the article below. 

However, it is important to recognise that in this fast-moving working environment, and with projects increasing in scale and complexity, a degree of change is inevitable. Putting the right mitigation strategies in place early on can provide project managers with much-needed agility, allowing them to respond quickly to any new issues that arise.

When the goalposts move or project managers are issued with an unexpected client request, adopting a holistic approach is essential to ensure that changes are implemented successfully the first time around, reducing the risk of any problems arising in the future. Rather than considering the demand for change in one area of a project in isolation, it is important to conduct a full impact assessment, taking into account any knock-on effects on people, processes, systems and infrastructure. For example, a sudden need to digitalise a key HR process may have implications for recruitment, or the need to upskill existing staff through new training programmes, or both. 

Implementing a Portfolio Management Office (PMO) can also enhance project managers’ ability to spot interdependencies and better manage unforeseen changes. Where a number of projects or programmes are being undertaken simultaneously, this function is particularly useful, providing stakeholders with increased visibility and driving intelligent decision-making. For example, spotting an unexpected delay to a particular project could enable resources to be reallocated across the portfolio at an early stage, helping to drive efficiencies within the business and keeping budgets on track. 

Managing the demand for change in project management

As part of their efforts to make the most of available resources while keeping costs under control, project managers should consider using blended teams wherever possible. By combining the organisation’s existing employees with different skills and experienced project managers, it is easier to ensure that the correct levels of skills and resources are utilised at each stage of a project. Furthermore, this method can provide the additional flexibility needed to respond quickly to new developments without unnecessarily prolonging project timelines or increasing costs. 

It is worth bearing in mind that introducing some mitigation strategies may require an initial cost outlay and, as such, effective communication with stakeholders from the very beginning of a project is key. One example is to allocate a contingency budget to the project. This helps to facilitate the project manager’s ability to address key issues that require unplanned spend, without the need to undergo a time-consuming budget approval process. By educating all involved parties about the inevitability of change during projects, it is possible to put buffers in place, both financially and in terms of the project timeline. Over the course of a project, this should enable project managers to react quickly to change and take effective action without compromising on the timescales and delivery of client objectives. 

Likewise, where project delivery is reliant upon large and diverse teams, clearly communicating the impact of unexpected changes, and the required response, is also vital to ensure everyone is on the same page and disruption to day-to-day processes is kept to a minimum. When curveballs to project delivery occur, a failure to brief the team on how these should be addressed could also have a significant impact on levels of motivation and morale, which in turn has the potential to have a negative impact on productivity across a project. 

While meticulous forward planning will always be an essential element of project management, it’s equally important to recognise that to a certain extent, change is unavoidable. The ability to respond effectively to new developments as they occur is therefore vital. By making change a central part of discussions with stakeholders and clearly communicating with all parties on a programme, project managers can take new issues in their stride while continuing to deliver exceptional results for clients. 

Eman Al-Hillawi and Peter Marsden are principal consultants at business change consultancy Entec Si.