One third of major UK Government projects due to be delivered in the next five years are currently rated “in doubt or unachievable”.
This stark warning was in last week’s report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) into major government projects including infrastructure and construction jobs.
Issues that cause project delays
The supervisory body casts doubt on attempts to improve performance and said: “The public sector has had a poor track record in delivering projects successfully”. It cited the following recurring issues:
- An absence of portfolio management at both departmental and government level
- A lack of clear, consistent data with which to measure performance
- Poor early planning
- A lack of capacity and capability to undertake a growing number of projects
Improving public sector project delivery
The Government has taken steps to redress the situation with the creation of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA). Coming into existence on 1st January 2016, this body’s aim is to provide a centralised source of expert support for major economic projects.
Merging Infrastructure UK and the Major Projects Authority, the new organisation will for the first time bring financing, delivery and assurance of all major economic projects, including Crossrail, Thames Tideway and HS2 under one roof.
Successful examples of major projects
The IPA will inevitably review successful UK infrastructure projects, and take on board the effective measures which were used.
London 2012 Summer Olympics
The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) was responsible for the construction of sports venues and other infrastructure for the London 2012 Summer Olympics, as well as subsequent transformation of the Athletes Village into 2,800 new dwellings.
The approach they took was to appoint seasoned public sector delivery partners (Mace, Laing O’Rourke and CH2M Hill) to work with them, and utilise their project and construction management expertise.
With an immovable deadline and strict budget it was imperative that costs and progress could be accurately measured. In order to provide the ODA with this information the delivery partners used robust project control tools to manage their supply chains.
For instance Lend Lease, responsible for the construction and subsequent refit of the Athletes Village, utilised CONJECT CDE to control project workflows between them and the 382 subcontractors involved with the scheme.
Ensuring all parties were reporting on all aspects of time, cost and quality enabled Lend Lease to meet the ODA’s requirements and helped ensure the project proceeded to budget and plan.
The Pirbright Institute
The programme of works taking place at the Pirbright Institute (formerly known as the Institute of Animal Health) in Surrey is a good example of effective management at a departmental level.
The £200m masterplan involves the construction of world-class, hi-tech facilities to improve the health of farm animals worldwide.
One of the means deployed by the client to manage and monitor project information such as contract administration, document control, design standards and tendering is to utilise CONJECT CDE. It integrates the contractor supply chain with the client in a secure cloud application.
The client’s project management team are provided with up-to-date and accurate information about the status of the programme of works via the solution’s best-in-class reporting capabilities.
The IPA has a significant challenge in trying to improve the delivery of UK infrastructure. Changing the organisational approach to something more closely resembling the style of the ODA will help remedy organisational issues and will provide greater clarity on governance, purpose and responsibility.
Closer involvement with private sector delivery partners with an emphasis on better planning, reporting and integration of the supply chain with structured process mechanisms will help.
Supporting this, a functionality rich Common Data Environment where time, cost and quality can be measured, managed and controlled at a project or programme level will help improve the likelihood of major projects being successful.