Hallelujah praise the Maude

Francis Maude, the Minister of the UK Government’s Cabinet Office and David Pitchford  (Executive Director of the Major Projects Authority) have recently published a first-of-a-kind report providing transparency on 191 of the top, most important, most expensive, hairiest, riskiest, complex projects in the UK.

Before you carry on, this article may come across as overtly patriotic, which I’m sure is due to me now living in New York, but you know what, I don’t care.  Credit where credit is due and credit really is due to the Major Projects Authority (MPA) and UK government.  I say this because of the huge steps they’ve made over the last 2 years to sort out the £353.7 billion worth of investments in major projects across government.

Here are some halleluiah moments from reading the report with a few of my meandering thoughts beneath.

4 hallelujah moments:

Departmental Project Information: The report contains a split of each government department and how many major projects each department is delivering, together with the cost of those projects and their current RAG (red amber green) rating.  Having one version of truth across government major projects is an incredibly huge step, plus its interesting to see the types of projects being delivered – for example the department for energy and climate change (DECC) is delivering a project about managing the UK’s plutonium stocks, one quick google later and you can read the consultation about the project – if that kind of stuff turns you on.

Focusing on leadership:  Everyone knows that a bad SRO (Senior Responsible Owner) / Project Director will mean the project will go bad.  So by 2014, 340 senior leaders would have been on the Major Project Leadership Academy.

Project Killer: MPA saved the tax payer £147m by killing / curtailing 3 projects.  I love this, because most organisations have projects they shouldn’t be delivering (and they know it), but most don’t have the balls to kill them.  Killing projects is a big indicator that your organization knows what it’s doing.

Portfolio Management:  I quote “The aim is to implement full portfolio management within departments, and to blend this into the broader responsibilities on project performance in the Public Sector Reform Plan”. For me this is the most exciting sentence in the whole report because finally, after 10 years of banging the drum the government will be implementing portfolio management across departments and whilst they don’t mention it, I’m sure they will be using the Management of Portfolio’s (MoP) guidance to do it, given that the Cabinet Office owns it.  Plus of course they can use my case study of “How to implement portfolio management in 100 days”, which was recently published by the UK Government.

Craig’s meandering thoughts

RAG: Having RAG status in the report for all these projects is amazing, however, unless I missed it in the small print, the report does not specify if the RAG is on current delivery status or delivery confidence.  Furthermore, whilst I am forever the optimist the report says that only 8 of the 191 projects attract a red status (that’s 4.2% of all projects), for me rings alarm bells as I’ve never seen such a low ratio of red projects.

Return on Investment (ROI):  I said recently at a conference that if you don’t know what your return on investment is for the whole portfolio, you have a shopping list of projects and not a portfolio.  Whilst I’m sure the guys are working behind the scenes on the benefits management aspects, currently the report does not mention anything about the overall return for the £353.7 billion that is invested.  I hope this will appear in later reports.

Proud.  This is my patriotic paragraph, as I’m reading this report and I actually feel proud of the UK Government.  Yeah okay I mentioned the two points above about RAG and ROI, however as far as I can tell the UK is the first government to at least start to manage it’s Major Projects using a portfolio management approach, to publish the status of those projects and to publicly commit at the highest level to continually improve the portfolio management delivery at a government level.

So here’s a big high five back to the UK from the other side of the pond ! (Yes I am turning a little bit American).

As a final point, don’t forget to sign up to my APMG International webinar on Portfolio Management – click here right now.


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