Interview by Jason Hesse, Project Magazine [Summer 2016 edition] with National Audit Office’s Geraldine Barker, whose role is to shine a light on how major projects are delivered by government. Geraldine will be speaking at Bringing Projects to Life conference #eVa21 on 16 June
Delivering large-scale infrastructure and transformation projects is a struggle for any organisation, whether public or private. A report from the National Audit Office (NAO), published earlier in 2016, took a deep dive into the government’s delivery of major projects.
Delivering Major Projects in Government was published by NAO director Geraldine Barker and her team, following a comprehensive review of the government’s Major Projects Portfolio. The report was a wake-up call for government, highlighting that project delivery must improve.
There are currently 149 projects in the Major Projects Portfolio, and these have a combined whole-life cost of £511bn, of which £25bn is expected to be spent in 2015–2016. Getting these projects wrong would be disastrous for the public purse. The role of Barker’s team is to identify what the systemic issues affecting the projects may be, and to ensure that public money allocated to major projects is well spent.
“Parliament votes large sums of money for projects. Our role is to make sure the money is spent in the way that parliament intends, and it delivers value.”
The public sector has improved at delivering projects successfully, but further enhancements are needed. While the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) – formerly the Major Projects Authority – and government departments have taken steps to develop capability and provide assurance on improving project delivery, it is vital to improve the consistency and reliability of data surrounding project success.
One third of projects that are due to be delivered in the next five years are rated as ‘in doubt’ or ‘unachievable’ if action is not taken to improve delivery.
The success of these projects is paramount if government is to become more efficient at delivering services. Indeed, nearly 80 per cent of the major projects due to be delivered by 2019–2020 have a transformation or change agenda for how services are delivered or accessed.
Barker, who has spent the past 16 years at the NAO, knows that the key to improving these projects is better data, which, in turn, can help identify weak areas that need to be addressed.
“With the start of the new parliament, we thought that it would be useful to get some context on projects, given how integral project delivery is to the activities of government, as well as highlighting the issues and weaknesses,” she explains.
While positive steps have been taken around accountability, the changes have not gone far enough.
“The IPA has done a lot to try to address issues around accountability – establishing the owners for projects – and there has been a lot more assurance than there was at the start of the last parliament,” Barker says. “But the data provided by departments isn’t transparent enough.”
One example is costs. “Quite rightly, the IPA wants major risky projects to go into the portfolio at an early stage, but the costings are uncertain,” she explains. “They might know how much money is required to prepare and plan the project, but the detailed whole-life cost will not have been entirely worked out, as the data is incomplete.”
The assessment of costs is an important mandate for the NAO, so understanding how much projects will cost – and how the money will be spent – is important.
“Parliament votes large sums of money for projects. Our role is to make sure that those delivering the projects are spending the money in the way that parliament intends it to be spent, and that it is delivering value to the taxpayer,” says Barker.
She has identified planning as a key lesson for this, and says that project managers ought to spend more time planning: “Do not start making early announcements about projects before having had the chance to plan them through properly. We need to see more emphasis on what it is that the project is trying to solve, instead of just jumping to a solution.
“Have a good, long think about why the project is necessary, and the different ways that you could meet those objectives.”
Having a good challenge function in place can help with this. Taking a little more time at the early stages of the project to challenge your thinking can pay dividends.
“We saw this with Crossrail,” Barker explains. “[Project managers] spent a long time on planning, and they got a lot of challenges back from the Major Projects Review Group. Despite it being a painful process for them at the time, the project ended up benefiting from this.”
Accurate, reliable data is at the heart of successful project delivery, and the complications of collating this data in the Major Projects Portfolio is one of the root causes for the NAO’s challenging assessment in the recent report.
“There are still many gaps in the information that the IPA holds,” Barker explains. “It is doing a lot to try to improve how benefits are articulated, but we feel that there is still a lot that needs to happen around the data more generally.”
When asked why there are such weaknesses in the data, Barker is unable to give a full answer. “I’m not really sure that we’ve got to the bottom of it,” she says. “Whenever we do deep dives into projects – HS2 or Crossrail, for example – getting good data is consistently an issue. Sometimes there are time lags, which are entirely understandable, but we need to take a much closer look at how data is collected and reported.”
“Whenever we do deep dives into projects, getting good data is consistently an issue. We need to take a much closer look at how data is collected.”
The standardisation of data is an issue. Project managers are always able to answer specific questions posed by portfolio managers and government departments, but the questions – and the data that is requested – are often posted in different ways, which makes it hard to compare data sets.
This all leads to the most important issue: cost. The challenge of improving portfolio management at departmental and governmental level has often led to difficulties in assessing, in the planning stages, what will be the project’s full cost.
The general point, says Barker, is how this affects transparency.
“How can we ensure that decision – makers know what the cost will be of what they are agreeing to? How can parliament better understand what it is voting for when allocating money to projects?”
This does not mean having to come up with one final figure for any given project, she adds. There is currently a lot of pressure on the public sector to come up with figures, and taxpayers rightfully want to know how much a project is costing them, but coming up with one specific figure is unrealistic in major projects.
Instead, says Barker, why not encourage departments to educate and explain the uncertainty that surrounds major projects, and come up with a range of costs? “That would be a much healthier discussion, as it would help everyone understand the variables and risk involved,” she says.
The NAO’s role in assessing projects – by uncovering how money is being spent and looking at how waste can be avoided – is not easy. The lack of data and the difficulty in accurately determining a project’s likelihood of being delivered successfully, on time and on budget, is a challenge. Yet, clearly, improvements are required for success rates to rise.
But, for Barker, the job of shining a light is done. “Given the scale and length of major projects, it is important to review them periodically, instead of just waiting to the end, when it is too late to fix them.”
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Martyn Loukes, B.E.M
Diversity is good for business
Martyn Loukes BEM is an award winning and HRH honoured global diversity leader in industry, most recently employed by Transport for London (TfL) as a Business Development Manager in their Customers, Communications and Technology division. Martyn’s background is in communications, finance (qualified Chartered Management Accountant) and project management (Prince2 Practitioner).
He most recently ran TfL’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Network (LGBT) for over four years stepping down in September 2016. His work in diversity continued to December 2016 where he ran the UK’s largest HIV testing event, and launched the London Gay Men’s Chorus’ 25th anniversary concerts at both Angel and Tottenham Court Road Tube stations.
Martyn was the first person in the world to devise an LGBT themed transport programme – #RidewithPride. This saw London’s first rainbow zebra crossing, a rainbow bus, taxi and Dockland’s Light Railway (DLR) train celebrating diversity, which has since been copied in many other cities. He also introduced the LGBT traffic lights in Trafalgar square which he launched with the Mayor Sadiq Khan in 2016.
Martyn’s specialism is communications, combined with diversity has seen OUTbound become one of the highest profile networks in the UK. His network includes the organisers of Pride in London, Editors of Gay Star News and Pink News, Terence Higgins Trust and a host of other network chairs and leaders. He is very well known in the LGBT community and there are many articles on his work available on the internet.
In January 2017 Martyn left TfL to concentrate on his diversity work.
Awards and Accolades
• British Empire Medal – Queen’s Birthday Honours June 2015
• Freedom of the City of London November 2015
• Top 50 Global Diversity Leader in Industry 2015 and 2016
• Winner Inclusive Network’s ‘Best Community Engagement 2015’ for #RidewithPride
• Finalist as for Network Leader of the Year 2015 for Inclusive Network
• Pink News finalist for Best Public Sector Network in 2015 and 2016
Jurgen started off his career in automation of business processes and administrative workflow. The tools developed by him and his team are currently still in use by over 10,000 users.
Since 2000, he has been in charge of providing project management consultancy and tools for internal use at CERN. These tools have been used in a variety of projects ranging from the ATLAS detector (the largest particle physics collaboration ever), the LHC accelerator, the European grid project and for planning all strategic activities at CERN.
Jurgen has over 15 years of experience leading a software development team for medium to large software development projects. He also managed a group in charge of the Supply Chain and Facility Management at CERN.
He is currently part of the management of the group providing overarching project coordination for the accelerator complex (including layout management, integration, scheduling and work & safety coordination), providing support and expertise in matter of project, risk and quality management as well as organizational process as well as developing and supporting the Organization’s PLM, maintenance management tools and mechanical CAD systems.
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Agile PM &Business Psychology
Agile project management involves the unique interplay of interactions between diverse individuals who must work together, and have a want, need, remit and/or desire to meet a specified goal or set of objectives.
This is fertile soil for Business Psychology. the study and practice of improving working life. It combines an understanding of the science of human behaviour with experience of the world of work to attain effective and sustainable performance for both individuals and organisations.
Business Psychology is key to successful project management because it helps with the understanding of the behavioural similarities and particularly the psychological characteristics that vary between people e.g. personality, motivation, intelligence and EQ. In so doing it offers insights into factors which affect an individual’s behaviour, including their sense of self and social relationships and the effect these will have on the project team as well as its ability to deliver outcomes effectively and efficiently.
Funmi Koya, Excincol – firstname.lastname@example.org
Funmi was the CEO of KoyaP3M Ltd a small consultancy company that started life in the Agile Development environment and transitioned into consulting in the Agile and strategic change management arena. He is an Associate of the Business Psychology Centre at the University of Westminster, where he is also a Visiting Lecturer.
As a Director at Excincol Consulting Funmi uses his expertise in Lean-Agile and 6-Sigma in coaching/training roles and is currently engaged on the NHS England’s General Practice Improvement Programme, delivering training, coaching and mentoring at GP practices. His knowledge of Assistive and Adaptive technologies, and competency frameworks have afforded him the opportunity to work with people with disabilities to assist with getting them into the ‘mainstream’ workforce – this included 2 years at Remploy Ltd.
Funmi is a P3M specialist (Portfolio, Programme, Project Management) with experience in IT/IS Consultancy, Defence, Government, media, oil and gas, not-for-profit and the Banking sector. His interests lie in the effective delivery of strategic programmes through the individuals who make up project teams using Agile, Lean and Business Psychology tools.
His hobbies include travel, photography and snowboarding (Swiss Alps, Alaska and Canada) and he has a love for animals in the wild (safari parks in Kenya and South Africa).
Chris Benton, Excincol email@example.com
Chris was the Head of Product Development at Lumina Learning, a leading developer of psychometric instruments. Lumina Learning is a global organisation with instruments used in over 30 countries. Chris led the creation of Lumina’s core product range including instruments on personality, leadership, sales and emotional intelligence. Chris also developed and ran facilitation and coaching courses including the qualification and onboarding of new practitioners.
While working as an independent consultant Chris focused on one-to-one and group coaching sessions targeting business strategy, change management and improving interpersonal communication.
As a Senior Partner at Excincol Consulting Chris harnesses a blend of business psychology expertise and management experience to deliver bespoke sessions. He is an Associate of the Business Psychology Centre at the University of Westminster. Chris provides practitioner expertise to postgraduate alumni and students on the translation of theoretical material into practical applications.
Chris is interested in new technologies and entrepreneurial applications of machine learning and ‘smart’ big data systems.
Head of Portfolio Insight IPA Cabinet Office
Head of Portfolio Insight IPA Cabinet Office
Responding to the challenges of reporting performance.
BMT Hi-Q Sigma
How to ensure effective project performance reporting
Synopsis: Every project needs an appropriate framework in place to manage its performance effectively. Utilising our experience of improving performance management of multi-billion pound programmes within a major government organisation, we discuss some of the key challenges and pitfalls that we have witnessed and how to overcome them.
Iain Morton firstname.lastname@example.org
Iain joined BMT Hi-Q Sigma in 2014 with 5 years’ experience working for major defence organisations Thales and AgustaWestland. He has strong project management, change management, project controls, risk management and performance management expertise gained through leading and supporting teams both within Government and industry. More recently, Iain has been implementing consistent performance management practices across a multi-billion portfolio of work within a major Government organisation.
BMT Hi-Q Sigma
BMT Hi-Q Sigma is a Management Consultancy providing services across Government, Defence, Energy and Transport sectors to improve Portfolio, Programme and Project performance.
We provide pragmatic advice from strategy to delivery, tailoring best practice to your specific needs. Working within your teams we build successful, effective relationships, transferring skills and knowledge to create sustainable change.
BMT Hi-Q Sigma is an operating company of BMT Group and an Employee Benefit Trust, which guarantees our independence and ensures we act in the long term benefit of all our staff.
Lysa Morrison, LMA Business Consultancy
Emotional intelligence and NLP for better project people
Emotional intelligence and NLP for better project people
Lysa will guide us through a fun and interactive session where she will introduce us to a simple language tool that supports Project Managers to engage, influence and inspire internal and external stakeholders with integrity to create win-win outcomes.
Learn how your own subjective perception of a person or situation can directly affect your skills, behaviours and effectiveness. Through exploring how we think and feel we can gain control of what we do and say to maximise our potential and become better project people.
Lysa is the MD of LMA Training & Consultancy which she founded in 2007. LMA provides a variety of services that supports the strategic, organisational and people development of a wide range of private, public and third sector organisations. Lysa has many years of experience sitting on boards ranging from community development trusts through to the NHS. She is an RSA Fellow, an NLP Master Practitioner and accredited trainer, an ILM accredited Executive Coach and a member of the EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council). Lysa completed her Executive MBA at Newcastle University Business School where she is also an Associate Lecturer. One of Lysa’s recent achievements is the development of a strategic benefits realisation tool that has been used at governmental level to ensure the full engagement of all stakeholders needed to realise the benefits from a project.
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Chairman, Agile Business Consortium
Synopsis / Abstract
In this presentation, we will explore how to create and run portfolios of projects, programmes and business as usual initiatives in an agile way.
Some of the themes explored will be:
– The Agile Organisation and how it can help CEOs and other senior executives reach their goals, do more for less and be competitive and responsive in an a constantly changing world.
– What is Agile Portfolio Management, how it contributes to the agile business, how it differs from traditional portfolio management .
– Key tips on how to make Agile Portfolio Management work in your organisations
Portfolio and PMO Managers, Senior executives, anyone else involved in portfolios
What will the delegate take away from this session:
An understanding of what Agile Portfolio Management is and how to make it successful in their organisations
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