Their challenge: A large government department with a £50bn portfolio of projects faced a number of critical issues:
- They were under increasing government pressure to change from being a project management organisation to one that managed investments prudently and obtained value for money;
- There was a history of very large projects being initiated with inadequate senior management control resulting in large cost overruns;
- The task was complicated by the need to address changing policy, strategy and planning frameworks that impacted the projects and programmes;
- Senior executives were being overwhelmed with the number of boards they were required to sit on.
The way forward: The Department developed a portfolio governance framework. This framework established an agreed process for decision making on all projects and programmes. Related projects were grouped under programme boards helping to reduce the workload on senior executives whilst also improving the coordination between projects. Mechanisms were established to ensure effective cross communication between policy, planning and the programmes.
An overarching Portfolio Committee was established. By linking investment gate approvals to funding releases the “runaway project” syndrome was curtailed and costs could be better controlled. The framework revolved around accountability of Project Owners and SROs who were now drawn from the business and this, along with the Portfolio Committee, improved business visibility and control over their projects and programmes. Role clarity and decision rights were improved so that each committee and committee member was clear as to their responsibilities and the responsibilities of others. Senior management time was focused upon investment decisions, rather than project management decisions.
- Increased visibility and control of the portfolio for senior executives;
- Senior executives spent their time focused on investment related issues – better use of their time;
- Strategy and policy better integrated with delivery which also helped prevent large programmes or projects unilaterally setting organisational policy