"Project management is at the heart of our activities," said Francisco García Morán, directorate-general for informatics at the European Commission, the keynote speaker at PMI® Global Congress 2012 -- EMEA in Marseille, France.
The commission's goal is to create a new generation of open, flexible and seamless e-government services, he explained. For example, e-health projects could help address Europe's aging population.
The vision calls for innovative digital services, simplified processes and better alignment between business and IT.
Yet the commission has faced many challenges, including insufficient infrastructure, higher workload and staff cuts -- even as it faces greater pressure to deliver value.
Mr. García Morán also said there's a new generation of workers demanding better technology. "We have to provide the Facebook generation with the tools they're most familiar with."
To help achieve its vision, the European Commission implemented an information services project management board. It also created its own approach based on good practices from around the world, including A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide).
"We believe we have raised the project management capabilities in the European Commission," he said.
The greater focus on project management has helped the group achieve a more holistic point of view and strike a better balance between business and project management.
There has been some resistance, however, which has to be managed through communicating the value of project management to the staff. "Change management is essential," he said. "It's an area where we are working harder."
In a later session, Stefan Tostmann, PhD, spoke about some of the other project management work at the commission.
With 27 sovereign states, 500 million stakeholders and 23 languages, it can be difficult to identify common project interests, said Dr. Tostmann, CAPM, resource director (acting) and head of financial services, European Commission.
The type of projects addressed can cover everything from aid delivery to IT. And one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that proposed projects can actually be implemented in the member states.
Despite progress, there remains a lingering misconception that project management is exclusive to the IT realm, where project management first took hold at the group.
"There's not a project management culture in the European Commission yet," he said.
Echoing Mr. García Morán's comments, Dr. Tostmann said the commission is facing increasing pressure to prove its own value. "Stakeholders want to know what they're getting out of it."
That means the commission must become more efficient, he says, and like Mr. García Morán, he says project management can help in that process.
Read more about change management.