Ken Scott (Australia) - Why Australian Organisations are Embracing Best Practices

For a business to operate in a fast moving market, managing projects is vital. Ken Scott, Chief Executive Officer of the ILX Group, looks at how the Australian market has taken to best practice methodologies.

ILX entered the Australian market a few years ago, just as the use of Best Practice* was becoming more prevalent.  I've found it fascinating to watch that market reach a tipping point in adoption and in particular to see the parallels between Australia and the UK. 

So what put Best Practice on the agenda of Australian CEOs?  Like the UK, it started in the public sector.  Sir Peter Gershon's 2009 report for the Australian government on improving operational effectiveness and efficiency recommended the use of Best Practice, echoing Gershon's review for the UK Government several years earlier.  As in the UK, Gershon's recommendations were adopted and the use of Best Practice became widespread in the public sector.

At the same time, Best Practice had become commonplace in many multinationals.  Typically these multinationals had moved towards global adoption of certain standard methodologies, to help them deliver more successful projects and programmes of projects across geographic borders - including their Australian operations.   

We have seen these two powerful forces for change combine to deliver a rapid, viral effect on adoption rates.  Many government departments and multinationals operating in Australia - repeating the experience of the UK half a decade earlier - not only use Best Practice themselves but also insist that their partners and suppliers do the same. 

Equally, this is not just an issue for Australian businesses working in-country; it is also an important consideration for the export markets that are vital to Australia's business interests.  For example, I have seen PRINCE2® become a de facto global standard for Best Practice.  There are high rates of adoption in countries with which Australia has historic trade relationships, such as the UK, and in increasingly important export markets across Africa, Asia and the Gulf.  Australian companies may need to adopt Best Practice to win business from customers in those markets.

However, it's fair to say that Australian businesses faced additional challenges in adopting Best Practices.  Australia is a large country and the major cities - where best practice training is available - are geographically disparate. Given that most Best Practice training is a five-day, classroom-based course, employees need to travel - sometimes considerable distances - to a training venue and stay in hotel accommodation for a whole week.  The significant cost burden this generates, compounded by the opportunity cost generated by employee absence, was undoubtedly a deterrent to adoption.

The final driver - as in so many areas of business - has been technology.  E-learning, blended learning, social learning and mobile learning are all much richer, more viable and cost effective training options than they once were, particularly for developing basic levels of understanding across wide audiences.  And employees are much more open to technology-based learning, from the Net Generation for whom getting information online is second nature, to silver surfers.

Again, Australia is following a trend that we have seen in Europe, but the impact in terms of making training more accessible and affordable is perhaps even more significant.  We can deliver a full Best Practice course in just two days of classroom interaction backed up with high-quality e-learning; this is an ideal solution for many Australian businesses given its inherent time and cost efficiencies, enabling employees to fit most of their learning around their normal business day. 

So in summary, government and multinational organisations have created an environment in which Australian businesses need to adopt Best Practice - and technology is making it possible.  I am delighted to be part of that change.


* "For the purposes of this blog, Best Practice refers to industry-standard methodologies for project and programme management, developed by the Office of Government Commerce."

Ken Scott is Chief Executive Officer of the ILX Group plc.  Ken won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year London & South region 2009 award. For more information on ILX, visit their website.