All posts by Merv Wyeth

Shining a light on Major Projects

Geraldine BarkerInterview 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.”

>> Conference programme <<



Jurgen De Jonghe

Jurgen De JongheJurgen 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.


>> Conference Programme <<

Agility Engagement and Success in Managing and Delivering Change

Project & Portfolio Management is all about managing and delivering change

Chris PondChris Pond, Senior Solutions Specialist for PPM at Microsoft, who will be speaking at Bringing Projects to Life on 17 June reflects on his experience of Project and Portfolio Management.

In the 18 years that I have been in the industry, from supporting customers with change initiatives through to delivering supporting tools, the market has changed considerably.

In the 90s we had the big players in Artemis, Primavera and ABT, with Microsoft Project starting to gain traction on the desktop. My first introduction was Project 4.0, while the first central project repository toolset from Microsoft was launched in 2000.

More recently we have the advent of “born in the cloud” task / work / project management tools.  One of the benefits of these tools, has been an increase in understanding that to enable repeatable success in an organisation, we need to improve how we plan and execute our projects.

Agility Engagement and Success in Managing and Delivering Change - Chris Pond

There are three recurrent themes we use when speaking to customers
1. Agility 2. Engagement 3. Success


    Many of the customers I speak to want to discuss Agile. The first part of this conversation depends on the capability of the customers and what they really mean, as the term “agile” is regularly used interchangeably:

    1. agility (with a lower case “a”) as in the ability to move quickly and easily;
    2. and Agile (with an upper case “A”) which is a methodology and set of practices aligned to the Agile manifesto.

    The term “bi-modal IT” is also regularly being added to the conversation. This was first described by Gartner in 2014, and is outlined in their glossary.

    Bimodal IT is the practice of managing two separate, coherent modes of IT delivery, one focused on stability and the other on agility. Mode 1 is traditional and sequential, emphasizing safety and accuracy. Mode 2 is exploratory and non-linear, emphasizing agility and speed.Bi-Modal IT

    In the world of Project & Portfolio Management this might be considered by customers as:

    • Mode 1: Waterfall based planning (old and boring?)
    • Mode 2: Agile (new and exciting?)

    My experience is that life is not as binary as described above, and that this is not a new scenario, simply one that has been simplified and concentrated down to two bullet points.

    Not all aspects of a project support are delivered through an Agile approach. It’s important that we take the best and most practical parts of project management and use them to support repeatable success.

    Combining these two approaches reminds me of a customer that I worked with over ten years ago.  This customer wanted to use the tools at their disposal to support delivery of a project that included software development using Agile methods. In this scenario the customer was using Microsoft Project and Project Server.

    We deployed an approach where the Project Manager owned the overall delivery schedule, while the development team had a separate, but connected schedule, that allowed them to track the sprints and deliverables. This enabled easy visibility of progress of the project portfolio, and significantly reduced the burden of reporting via multiple Excel spreadsheets.

    MPUGIf you would like to read further, the Microsoft Project User Group [MPUG] has a great article about using Microsoft Project / Project Online to support delivery of Agile projects:

    In 2016 we have various tools specifically designed to support Agile methods of delivery, including Microsoft Visual Studio Online. Used in combination with Microsoft Project Online, this can provide a holistic view of status across your project portfolio, saving time and providing real insight to support fact based decision making.

    To find out more about Microsoft’s future vision for Project & Portfolio Management, watch this video

    Engaging the whole organisation

    Project & Portfolio Management, while impacting the whole organisation in terms of what it delivers, is typically utilised by c. 1%-15% of an organisation (depending on the industry).

    This leads us to a question – how is the remainder of the organisation managing their work?

    In a typical organisation, task/work management is handled in the following unstructured ways:

    • Email
    • SharePoint / Outlook tasks
    • Excel

    For these users, project management techniques and the use of Microsoft Project may be more than they require.

    This brings us back to the first area of discussion – “born in the cloud” task / work / project management tools. There are 100’s of these tools available on the internet. Microsoft has recently launched Office 365 Planner, which is available as part of the Office 365 Enterprise licenses E1/3/4/5 (including Educational, non-profit and Government Office 365 tenants).

    Office 365 Planner makes it easy for teams to create new plans, organise and assign tasks to individuals, share files, chat about what they’re working on, and get updates on progress. It can also be used to manage a marketing event, brainstorm new product ideas, track a school project, prepare for a customer visit, or just enable teams to organise more effectively.

    It’s often said “tidy desk / room etc., tidy mind” – what does that mean?

    Keeping your workplace tidy does more than just simplify finding important items and documents. When your desk and work environment are tidy and orderly, your mind is more likely to be focused, productive and free of mental clutter. [See full article Tidy House, Tidy Mind]

    That’s where Office 365 Planner comes in to play – by enabling teams to get started quickly, work together without chaos and always stay informed.

    If you would like to know more – click on the image below to watch the video

     Organize teamwork with Office 365 Planner


    All the successful deployments of processes and tools I have witnessed have had one thing in common; the super successful deployments keep things simple, and provide a solid foundation to be built upon to enable additional change over time.

    In a recent article in Wired magazine regarding cyber security, Ciaran Martin, GCHQ’s DG of cybersecurity said the following:

    “It’s more important to focus on making procedures simple and accessible. It is better to design systems that may be less secure in the abstract, but more likely to be implemented to a decent standard.”

    The sentiment rings true for any process deployment (shortened by me) See full article “Keep yourself safe with these cybersecurity tips from GCHQ

    What you can see is that there are ways to engage the majority of an organisation in planning in more structured ways – without individuals feeling overburdened.

    This inclusive approach can lead to greater insight and improved decision-making through shared experiences, while cutting the time spent on collaborating via Excel, task lists and email.  And of course, repeatable success.



    >> See full conference programme <<

    How do PMOs make Benefits Management Happen

    In the State of the PMO UK Survey by Wellingtone and APM PMO SIG [published January 2016], Benefits Management was reported to be the hardest part of a PMO structure to successfully embed in an organisation.

    How do PMOs Make Benefits Management Happen

    The way I see it, there are a number of options for PMOs of any scale and type to achieve success in the Benefits Management space.

    Control Everything: from project inception to closure and realisation

    Supporting the team in defining benefits and measures, tracking opportunities, and facilitating the realisation reporting. This is tantamount to PMO doing benefits management in its entirety, and does carry with it a significant overhead of time and resources to manage effectively. Maybe this approach would suit a large scale Enterprise PMO?

    Beginning and End View: focusing on the what and the when of Benefits realisation

    Helping to define up front means that initially benefits are properly identified and defined and aren’t double-counted – a real problem in benefits management. However, if the project changes, PMOs may have to ‘dip in and out’ of the project on an ad-hoc basis – rather more often than they would like!

    This ‘gap’ in the project life-cycle leads to a lack of ‘benefits visibility’ for the PMO – often mirrored in the Project Team. When things change, as inevitably they will, reviewing the benefits tends to fall through the cracks.

    Define Key Touch points: for the PMO to work with the Project Team to identify, execute and sustain throughout the life-cycle

    The formality of this approach helps the PMO to keep the Project Team focused on the end goal. However, it can also mean that as changes occur, the time to adjust can take longer due to a built-in lag in before the benefits logic is re-validated or plans re-profiled.

    One thing is certain – whichever PMO structure is selected the post-project facilitation of benefits is KEY to making things work!

    However, following the closure of a project, team members tend to go their respective ways, leaving the accountable owner[s] responsible for tracking benefits.

    Now, I don’t know about you but, the accountable owners that I know are usually senior in the organisation and therefore; busy, involved with multiple projects and wearing many hats. Do they really have time to track all the benefits and chase information relating to the benefits of their projects? I don’t think so!

    Is it any wonder, with the odds so heavily stacked against accountable owners tracking the benefits, that benefits don’t get tracked?

    Enter the PMO

    The PMO is well placed to collaborate with their peer teams [e.g. Finance and HR] to facilitate monitoring and reporting of post-project or programme benefits. This simple step adds enormous value to accountable owners and the organisation as a whole, as they come to see the PMO as a trusted business partner providing, amongst many other things, benefits realisation services.

    Arguably, a similar options-driven approach to other project disciplines [e.g. risk or project accounting] will help to successfully embed other parts of the PMO structure in organisations.

    Emma-Ruth Arnaz-PembertonEmma-Ruth Arnaz-Pemberton, Chair of APM PMO SIG will be sharing the stage with Reinhard Wagner, IPMA President as they present on ‘The Rise of the Enterprise PMO’ at Bringing Projects to Life on 17 June.

    Emma says “It’s going to be a great couple of days and I’m really looking forward to learning together with an international cast of practitioners and thought leaders.

    Why not come along and add your own thoughts to the mix – it’s all about the newest thinking; who says you don’t have the next big idea?”

    Delivering business value with DSDM

    Hugh Ivory,  Founding Partner at AgileSphere, is an Agile Coaching and Programme Management Consultant.

    He recently spoke about the DSDM approach to project management with Martin Jordan at Public Sector Focus magazine. [See transcript below]

    Hugh will be speaking at Bringing Projects to Life #eVa21 on 16 June.

    What is different about the DSDM approach to project management?

    The DSDM approach is based on the philosophy that everything we do should be focused on delivering business value.

    Agile Project Management provides a framework for delivering what the user needs. The following elements differentiate this from traditional approaches:

    • Do just Enough Design up Front; don’t waste time seeking false certainty – there are some things you just can’t know today
    • Develop iteratively and deliver incrementally. Welcome feedback and change, don’t try to limit it
    • Build a team that has everything that it needs to succeed
      • Business knowledge and empowerment
      • The right people
      • Budget
    • The Project Manager is a Servant Leader, creating the space for the team to deliver – not a command and controller
    • Fix Time and Cost [Timeboxes, Releases] vary Scope
    • Provide an adequate demonstration of Control [Time, Cost, Scope, Quality, Risk]

    Does the challenge of public sector project management differ from commercial organisations? If so how?

    • The challenges are the same – but perhaps they manifest themselves in different ways.
    • Smaller commercial organisations can be more adaptive simply by virtue of their scale – because decision makers are much closer to product and service delivery, and can react to feedback much more quickly. Larger commercial organisations are striving to be like this, through being flatter and empowering the people who really know the service with funding and responsibility.
    • The challenge for larger organisations, including government, is to create the conditions whereby product and service delivery teams can take feedback, make quick decisions and get on with delivery, without the distractions of heavy governance frameworks. This is difficult in government, where budgeting and decision making processes, and the need for public accountability can stifle innovation at pace. These are issues which need to be addressed if Agile in government is to succeed.

    In your opinion, should the customer be as important in a public sector project as they are in a commercial project?

    • As a citizen, I want public services to be just as easy to access and use as the services I get say from my bank or on-line bookstore.
    • The Government Digital Strategy, and the Digital by Default approach, is a significant initiative in putting the citizen at the heart of service delivery, and has placed the UK at the forefront of citizen service delivery across the world. This is not widely appreciated in the private sector, and organisations could benefit from having a better understanding of this.

    What are the implications for a project if the customer or service user is ignored and what implications would that have for the public sector? Can you give any examples of good or bad customer experience?

    • Put simply, ignoring the customer or user will result in the delivery of the wrong thing, that will not deliver the desired business outcome.
    • Some research that I’ve been involved in has shown a strong correlation between failure to meet user needs and high operational costs. For example, if we are not clear with citizens what documentation they need to provide to effect a transaction with government, they are likely to provide the wrong information, leading to unnecessary contact, excess documentation and multiple attempts before service outcomes are delivered.

    With the emphasis on increased public sector digital service delivery, can you foresee any issues that could come to the fore?

    • The level of spending on public sector projects, and the media and public accountability that surrounds it, means that it is important to provide assurance to the taxpayer that money is being well spent. However, our implementation of this has been through heavy governance frameworks, at significant cost in terms of money and time.
    • Digital by Default and agile delivery demands a balanced approach to governance – light but effective, making use of the information radiated by the delivery teams to ensure that we are doing the right things in the right way (i.e. are we investing in the right things, are we spending that investment in the most effective way). The Government Digital Service has developed some relevant principles and guidance.

    How can DSDM methodology assist public sector project delivery?

    • Agile approaches provide the opportunity for Senior Responsible Officers to have real transparency of, and greater influence over, how their investments are being spent. This brings with it a responsibility to appoint and empower the right people to deliver change, and to take more time to see for themselves what is being delivered by visiting the teams regularly and participating in Show and Tells.
    • The Agile Project Management framework defines the key roles and behaviours needed to underpin this, and sits very well with Digital by Default. With appropriate guidance, it can help public sector programmes which need to deliver digital services to implement effective agile governance:
      • Feasibility and Foundations deliverables put some meat on the bones of what teams should be delivering from Discovery and early Alpha’s
      • Roles and responsibilities are closely aligned to Digital by Default, and the team structures enable a simple but effective approach to scaling

     >> Conference Programme <<

    FREE ENTRY: IBR Book launch & PMC SIG AGM Packages

    PMC SIG – Bringing Projects to Life

    PMC SIGAPM Planning, Monitoring and Control Specific Interest Group will, as always, be supporting eVa again this year. This event has arguably become the most prestigious conference in the project professionals’ calendar. It is two full days of the best speakers, fine food, good company and a venue steeped in hundreds of years in history.

    It is the 21st anniversary, so to celebrate this, and in recognition of PMC SIGs continuing support and special relationship with the event, we have agreed organised two special offers. After all, eVa is the spiritual home of Earned Value!

    1. Integrated Baseline Review Book Launch [16 June]

    Stephen JonesAt the end of a packed conference programme on day 1 [5.30pm on 16 June], we plan to launch the PMC SIGs latest publication, a guide to conducting an Integrated Baseline Reviews, also known as the IBR Guide.

    To mark the occasion and make it extra special, we will hold a short food and drinks reception, hosted and sponsored by our friends at Deltek.

    There will be an opportunity to meet the authors; who will be more than willing to sign your FREE copy of the IBR guide.”

    Book now to reserve your free place and book copy. You are very welcome to spend the entire day learning and networking with us. So book your free place below and choose a package that suits you!

    Book now

    A Guide to Conducting Integrated Baseline Reviews

    IBR blue coverA Guide to Conducting Integrated Baseline Reviews (IBR) describes the process of performing a technical and schedule review to establish a balanced understanding of the planning maturity of the project. The IBR will review:

    • the project management plan;
    • the methods and metrics used to measure contract performance or progress;
    • the management control processes that operate during the project’s execution;
    • the technical merits of the schedule;
    • the risk associated with the baseline.

    Based on tried and tested techniques developed by the military, it is applicable to projects of all sizes in all industry sectors.

    Tim BanfieldTim Banfield, Director of Strategy at Infrastructure and Projects Authority, says:

    “The book guides the reader through the review process, suggesting what the review should be looking for, and how the output should be used not only to improve the project under review, but rather how outputs can be collated to prevent common issues from reoccurring.”

    2. PMC SIG Annual General Meeting Package [17 June]

    Stephen Jones says …

    “Any full APM member registering on the APM event page to attend the SIG’s Annual General Meeting, scheduled to take place immediately after eVa on day two [5pm on 17 June], will be eligible for FREE entry to the Friday afternoon conference programme.

    However, I would strongly recommend that you attend the entire conference, including the book launch and conference dinner on day 1.

    Use the button below to choose a package that best suits you.”

    Book now


    >> Conference Programme <<

    Putting the value into earned value

    Earned Value is a misnomer, that conflates “Budget” with “Value”

    Value Destruction - Matt WilliamsIn industries where the disciplines of Project Management evolved, such as defence and infrastructure, it was probably a reasonable assumption to make, as delivery of the project’s output was intrinsically linked to building business value.

    However, with the explosive growth of the use of projects as a vehicle to deliver business change and improvements, starting in IT departments and expanding to all projects that contribute to transforming a business to an improved delivery state, it is a fallacy to link Budget and Value together.

    In fact, there are many well-known instances of projects, across both the public and private sector, where projects ended up not just creating less value than the budget allocated to the project, but actually destroying business value, and in extreme cases, the businesses themselves.

    “Projects end up not just creating less value than the budget allocated to the project, but actually destroying business value, and in extreme cases, the businesses themselves”

    Therefore, to properly measure the “Value” that a project delivers, we must first identify and define the expected value (financial and/or non-financial) that an organisation expects to receive from undertaking the project.  This is usually to be found in the Business Case, as the Benefits portion of the Cost/Benefit Analysis.

    The mindset change that must now occur is to move from using Business Cases to not only ‘justify’ the project expenditure, but use the planned Benefits as the baseline against which we measure and forecast the true value created by a project.

    In the same way, we should use a project’s schedule and budget as the baseline against which we measure project delivery performance.

    Matt will be speaking at Bringing Projects to Life on 16 June [See Conference Programme] and will be running a benefits mapping workshop entitled Benefits Management: Visualising the Pathway from Projects to Benefits on 21 June.

    “Benefit mapping is a tool to visualise an investment story in enough detail to enable decision-makers to understand complex investment programmes.”

    About Matt Williams

    Matt Williams is the Managing Director of Connexion Systems, an Australian-based provider of innovative services and systems that enable project organizations to maximize business value generated from portfolios of capital investments.

    Matt has spent the past 15 years advising PMO’s on governance and controls, and is a regular speaker at PMI, AIPM (Australia) and APM (UK) events on the topic of Benefits-led Portfolio Management.


    London Mozart Players

    Building High Performance Teams

    London Mozart Players

    lmp-logo-webOur leadership and team development programme uses the orchestra as a platform to explore and develop leadership and team work within businesses. Presented as a workshop based session, team members are placed amongst the different sections of the orchestra, so they can experience how each individual musician, family of instruments, and indeed the conductor, can affect a performance.


    By drawing parallels between the basic mechanism of an orchestra and their business, colleagues and business leaders can explore the results of effective communication, team
    work and leadership, perhaps informing new ways of thinking about their own roles.


    >> Conference programme <<

    The Project Manager’s NEC3 Legal Toolkit

    It’s tough out there being a Project Manager, isn’t it?

    A day in the life

    Sarah Shutte 3Picture this: you are engaged on a project and you are told you are an essential part of its successful delivery, but not a day goes by without a communication or 10 crossing your desk, notifying you of some anticipated risk event or updating you for the umpteenth time on one you already know about, but haven’t had time to assess yet. Some of the notices appear very petty, which makes you cross, but also nervous. You know you need to be looking in 3 directions, controlling what’s happening right now, containing what has happened and anticipating what’s likely to happen: what a headache!

    On top of this, you have to assess the programme, manage risk and act as a go-between for the parties. How are you going to assess the programme, and on what do you (should you) base your assessment? What should you do about notified or suspected risks? How can you encourage the parties to collaborate when they are fighting like cats in a sack?

    You’re coming under pressure from all sides. Of course you are: the project is based on an NEC3 contract!

    You are not alone: it’s difficult!

    A lot has been written about the theory of NEC3, and its contracts are used on high-profile public projects with an eye-watering number of zeros. But research repeatedly tells us that NEC3 disputes are linked to failures to understand and read the contract properly, and to manage it well.

    The all-round entertainer

    As an NEC3 PM, you are all-singing and all-dancing. You’re expected to live and breathe the project, bring “added-value” to the client, and deliver “best value” to the public purse. Your own organization expects you to make a profit. Sometimes you feel like you’re in a circus, spinning plates! The responsibilities to shaking hands on a NEC3 contract are broad and deep, and are fiendishly difficult to discharge properly.

    Differentiate yourself: you’re worth it

    NEC3 is like no other contract currently on the market at the same level of popularity. You can’t ignore it, and only a fool would, given that c. 40% of the annual industry spend emanates from the public purse. Its use in increasing, and with it comes a demand for competent and experienced PMs. This environment makes NEC3 PM skills extremely valuable. So it is worthwhile taking the time to invest in dedicated NEC3 training for yourself, in upping your skill-set to enable you meet the challenges illustrated. You need to know how the contract works, and the legal mechanisms available in order to demonstrably go from being a “good” NEC3 PM to a “great” one.

    Build your own legal toolkit

    NEC3 Tool kit

    Against the backdrop of current market conditions, and the practical reality described above, I have created a half day workshop for APM eVa21 centred around the PM’s role in the NEC3 form of contract and this year’s theme of “Bringing Projects to Life”.

    Come along and join me on Wednesday 22 June (morning) to explore the fundamental legal principles associated with the NEC3’s core PM functions of planning and programming, collaboration and change management. We will dissect the issues, which cause you pain, exchange best practice techniques and debate real-life case studies. You will gain confidence to better manage yourselves, and your projects, clients and stakeholders through understanding your duties, and how to play an active, competent part in avoiding and resolving disputes.

    I will bring my decade of practical industry experience and in-depth legal knowledge, and will help you to create and takeaway your own NEC3 legal toolkit.

    Sarah Schutte

    Sarah SchutteSarah has over 15 years’ experience as a construction and engineering solicitor, including almost 10 years in industry. She works with a wide variety of industry clients, law firms, seminar organisers and educational establishments to support their projects, disputes, corporate and project risk management and insurance strategies and training programmes.

    Sarah advocates confident and competent contract and commercial management, and focuses on putting law in its practical and purposive context so as to equip clients and training delegates with accurate knowledge and essential skills.

    Shutte Consulting LimitedSarah is a regular conference speaker and contributor via social media, and writes a monthly “Industry Insight” column for LexisPSL. She is particularly interested in psychology, and how project outcomes are affected by behaviour and culture.

    Agile Project Management under the Microscope

    Agile Project Management under the Microscope

    The Agile Manifesto was signed 15 years ago but  the last couple of years has seen; a proliferation of interest the use of agile methods and language in project management.

    As agile has grown in popularity and become more widespread in it use – way beyond software development – this has not been accompanied by sufficient levels of knowledge, understanding, and experience within the work force. In many cases there has been an over-optimistic view of what can be achieved. Agile has been deployed on some the biggest and most complex projects and occasionally these projects have failed to deliver.

    There is no doubt that Agile Project Management is here to stay – so perhaps it is the right time to put it under the microscope!

    Delivering Major Projects: The Agile Experience

    In a recent Public Accounts Committee hearing on Delivering Major Projects in Government [See NAO report] the committee heard evidence from John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the Civil Service, and Tony Meggs, CEO of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority. Watch the short excerpt from Parliament TV below where the use of agile in major projects is discussed. [Read the full transcript here – See Q. 17 & 18 pp. 9 & 10]

    John Manzoni, speaking about three projects in the government major projects portfolio [GMPP] that had ‘fallen into difficulty’ namely; Common Agricultural Policy Delivery, e-borders & Universal Credit, stated that this had occurred ‘at the moment that we were [all] learning … about how the new and digital technologies could be applied to big, big business processes.’

    He explains “What I mean by that is that the gated process had hitherto been completely best practice in all major projects across the private sector and the public sector, but it was then said, we are Agile now; we are not Waterfall.

    Now we know that no project is either Waterfall or Agile; they are a good mixture of both. The judgement and the decisions about how you do each front-end bit might be Agile, but some of it is Waterfall.

    Those three occurred right at the moment that everybody was learning that. That is not an excuse, but it is partly an explanation. We are beginning to learn minimum viable product. For example, when we don’t know what the end state will be. Universal credit has been built in a minimum viable product way, in a digital sense, and now it is going to be expanded and built.”

    City AM Business Supplement

    Steve Wake - City AM picSteve Wake Chair, Association for Project Management, in his contribution to an expert panel discussion on the Adoption of Agile in makes the observations below.

    [See full story on APM site Download City AM’s Agile Business Report]

    What are the key milestones you predict for Agile in 2016?

    For me the greatest indicator will come when agile is treated as completely normal, accepted and understood. It needs to be communicated better. APM sees that and is helping by working with DSDM and our agile and project experts and practitioners to produce a small handbook of practical advice that works.

    The faster we all try it and use it, the faster we will know how, when and if to use it. Learning by doing. That’s agile. My hunch is that many non-agile users do it already. They just don’t call it agile.

    How does an organisation get started on the Agile journey?

    The real trick to using any method is like playing golf. You know the target and you know the terrain. There are obstacles, but you know and understand them. You choose the right club for the right moment.

    I would deploy agile at moments of greatest uncertainty in the early stages of a project. I would link it to risk assessments. The greater the risk, the more likely you are to deploy agile. Simple. And make sure it fits properly into governance so you can monitor, assess and manage up and down the line.

    How can organisations ensure that Agile delivers real business value?

    If a method delivered value, then Prince2 would rule the earth! On my planet it does not. Value is delivered from humans, by humans, to and for humans. Generally clever, lucky or rich ones.

    Great ideas can be made better by methods such as agile or earned value management [EVM]. Bad ideas just get the accident delivered faster and more visibly.

    One consolation for those with the courage to do it: fortunes can be saved by early cancellation. But, it’s better to make sure the idea was a good one in the first place.

    So what are we going to do about it?

    PMC SIGTo get the ball rolling APM Planning Monitoring and Control SIG [PMC] is intending to work with DSDM, led by Steve Messenger to produce something of value to all who come into contact with agile. It might be a work-group. It might be discussion or a workshop and it might end up as a document. We are open-minded.

    I would encourage anyone who is interested in getting involved to Get in touch with the PMC SIG if you have an interest in some way. We’ re just setting this up.

    I am certain that the next project to save the planet, or push forward the boundaries of the possible, will involve agile in some way. It is here to enhance and improve what we currently do. It took more than 40 years for the APM to produce a proper guide to planning. We guarantee that we will beat that time-scale for this work!

    Bringing Projects to Life [with Agile] #eVa21

    Bringing Projects to Life - eVa21Steve Wake is the organiser of long established the eVa Major conference for project controls knowledge, know-how and networking. The conference is now in its twenty first year – hence #eVa21- and this year is being run in conjunction with a number of hands-on workshops.

    Once again agile will be on the conference programme. Karolina Jackson-Ward, Projectplace, will provide insights on how ‘Effective leaders create value-driven teams’ and Hugh Ivory, DSDM will provide his a new perspective. Representatives from PMC SIG will be on hand to share knowledge and experience.

    Steve says “This is certainly not a story of doom and gloom. Last year, at our Putting down roots for good governance conference, [#eVa20] we heard from Robin Yeman, who is the Agile Transformation Lead at Lockheed Martin. She gave a compelling account of Enterprise-level Agile Delivery as she explained where agile fits within an organisation of 130,000 employees that ‘builds very big things; such as fighter jets, space shuttles and surface ships.’”

    Speaking on the topic of ‘Integrated Performance Measurement Baselines for Agile Programs’ Robin explained

    “One of the mistakes project teams make is the assumption is that Agile is only utilized for software development. In fact, agile supports solutions to complex problems through cadence, synchronization, and rapid feedback loops.”

    Watch presentation on PM Channel here [See Roots for Good Governance, 2015 section]

    Robin Yeman - eVa20.jpg

    At APM PMC SIG Energising your project projects conference [January 2015], Steve Messenger, DSDM, summed up agile project management rather nicely as he concluded:

    ‘The purpose of Agile Programme Management is to deliver what is required, when it’s needed, no more and no less.’

    His presentation can be found here

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