Select Committee on Public Accounts Twenty-Seventh Report

1  Embedding the lessons from successful programmes and projects to drive up performance

1. Analysis of successful IT-enabled business change programmes and projects by the National Audit Office identified three recurring principles that contribute to success. These are the level of engagement by senior decision makers; organisations' ability to act as an "intelligent client" by ensuring they understand what it is they are setting out to do and have the skills to manage both suppliers and the change process; and having a clear understanding from the outset of the potential benefits of the business change and putting mechanisms in place to determine whether these have been achieved and optimised (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Three core principles of successful IT-enabled business change
Ensuring senior level engagement Demonstrating board level and Ministerial commitment to the programme and project

Allocating the appropriate priority for resources

Creating mechanisms for clear and effective decision making

Acting as an intelligent client Designing and managing the business change

Managing the risks of the IT solution

Creating constructive relationships with suppliers

Building the organisation's capacity and capability to deliver the programme or project

Realising the benefits of change Determining at the outset what the benefits are

Selling the benefits to users

Winning the support of stakeholders

Continuing to optimise the benefits once the programme or project is completed

Source: National Audit Office[4]

2. In response to recommendations by this Committee and the National Audit Office, there have been a number of initiatives in recent years to strengthen the management of programmes and projects.[5] Within departments, since 2003 every mission critical and high risk programme and project is required to have a nominated Minister, and every major IT change programme or project should have a Senior Responsible Owner, usually a senior civil servant, to monitor progress and risks, ensure the programme or project meets its objectives, and deliver the benefits projected in the business case (Figure 2)[6]. Since 2003, all departments have had a Programme and Project Management Centre of Excellence responsible for support, oversight, scrutiny and challenge to Senior Responsible Owners and programme and project delivery teams. Most government departments also now have a Chief Information Officer, at or near board level, usually with experience of the IT industry, to manage and champion the department's portfolio of IT programmes and projects; although some fulfil the role in conjunction with other duties.

Figure 2: Key mechanisms within a department for improving delivery of IT-enabled programmes and projects

   Senior responsible owner:
Senior Civil Servant with overall responsibility for a programme or project, including monitoring progress and risks, ensuring it meets its objectives, and delivering the benefits projected in the business case.
Programme and Project Management Centre of Excellence:
Departmental team responsible for support, oversight, scrutiny and challenge to Senior Responsible Owners and programme and project delivery teams.
Chief Information Officer:
Responsible for managing and championing the departmentís portfolio of IT programmes and projects.

Source: National Audit Office

3. There is, however, confusion around these roles[7] with, for example, 38% of Senior Responsible Owners having no involvement with their Centre of Excellence.[8] Audit Committees also play an important role by providing to Accounting Officers assurance and information on risks to delivery of their programmes and projects; but while 77% of Centres of Excellence received copies of all Gateway Review reports, many Audit Committees (42%) were not briefed on the results of all Gateway Reviews.[9]

4. Responsibility for sharing and disseminating knowledge about success between different departments and across government as a whole is shared between HM Treasury, the Office of Government Commerce, and the Cabinet Office's Delivery and Transformation Group.[10]

5. The Treasury's announcement in its Transforming Government Procurement report (January 2007) of the setting up of a Major Projects Review Group, chaired by the Treasury and composed of commercial experts, aims to ensure that the most complex projects are subject to high levels of scrutiny of deliverability through an enhanced Gateway process.[11] Central scrutiny of IT-enabled change has been weak in recent years, in part because central departments had no power to stop failing programmes and projects.[12] As the Committee recommended in its 2005 Report,[13] the Treasury's Major Projects Review Group will in future have the power to stop a procurement project from progressing to the next stage where it feels that are issues that need urgent correction.[14]

6. The Transformational Government arm of the Delivery and Transformation Group is responsible for formulating IT strategy and policy and for promoting best practice. The Delivery and Transformation Group now publishes an Annual Report on progress in implementing the Transformational Government Strategy.[15]

7. The Chief Information Officer Council created in 2005 brings together at a senior and influential level knowledge and expertise of IT across government departments and agencies.[16] The Chief Information Officer Council acts as a focus for the IT profession across government; while the Programme and Project Management Specialism is overseen by the Office of Government Commerce.[17] The Cabinet Office, however, is responsible for actions designed to strengthen the IT profession as part of the wider Professional Skills for Government agenda and for the new graduate-entry Technology in Business Fast Stream for those with the potential to become Chief Information Officers or leaders of large scale IT-enabled business change.[18]

8. Recent years have witnessed the development and dissemination by the Office of Government Commerce of extensive guidance and advice to departments on how to manage their programmes and projects, some in response to past PAC hearings (Figure 3).[19] The level of take up of major guidance such as the Successful Delivery Toolkit [20] has increased, with 87% of Centres of Excellence and 65% of Senior Responsible Owners finding it "very helpful" or "fairly helpful", and entry into the Gateway Review process has improved since the Committee last reported on it in 2005.[21]

9. The Chief Information Officer Council has a potentially important role to play in providing leadership and authoritative advice. This role includes promoting good practice, sharing lessons learned and working with the Office of Government Commerce to encourage greater use by departments of newer tools, techniques and services, such as the IT industry body Intellect's Concept Viability Service, and addressing of skills shortages and other issues identified in Gateway Reviews.[22]

Figure 3: Key reports and guidance to assist the delivery of IT-enabled business change
January 2000 Committee of Public Accounts—Improving the Delivery of Government IT Projects
May 2000 Cabinet Office Review of Major Government IT Projects—Successful IT: Modernising Government in Action (The McCartney Report)
February 2003 The Prime Minister's Office of Public Service Reform (OPSR)—Improving Programme and Project Delivery
November 2004 National Audit Office—Improving IT Procurement: The Impact of the Office of Government Commerce's Initiatives on Departments and Suppliers in the Delivery of Major IT-enabled Projects
November 2004 Joint National Audit Office/Office of Government Commerce list of the common causes of project failure—DAO (GEN) 07/04
April 2005 Committee of Public Accounts—The Impact of the Office of Government Commerce's Initiative on the Delivery of Major IT-enabled Projects
November 2006 National Audit Office—Delivering Successful IT-enabled Business Change

10. Transport for London in delivering the London Congestion Charge acted as an "intelligent client" and used its knowledge of suppliers' strengths and weaknesses to determine its procurement strategy.[23] The Office of Government Commerce and the Chief Information Officer Council can help to share intelligence about suppliers' performance across departments and can engage with suppliers, both individually and collectively through their representative bodies, to drive up performance and to raise awareness of and devise solutions to common issues.[24] The Office of Government Commerce is also working with the Chief Information Officer Council to assess the capacity of the IT industry to deliver the Government's portfolio.[25]

11. The Office of Government Commerce has worked with the IT industry body Intellect to develop a Government Procurement Code of Practice and the IT Supplier Code of Practice.[26] In recent years, the Office of Government Commerce has also worked to remove barriers in the procurement process, particularly those affecting small and medium-sized enterprises, for example by simplifying the pre-qualification questionnaire.[27]

12. The Payment Modernisation Programme demonstrates how departments can optimise the benefits of an IT-enabled change by tracking and reviewing programmes and projects regularly after completion, setting up dedicated teams responsible for ensuring that benefits realisation is on track and developing further benefits, and making nominated managers of business units accountable for delivering the benefits.[28] The Office of Government Commerce's Gate 5 (Benefit evaluation) Reviews provide opportunities to establish whether a business change has delivered the benefits projected in the business case.[29] To June 2006, however, only a third of programmes and projects that had reached Gate 4 a year or more before had gone on to a Gate 5 Review,[30] though the proportion is rising since the Committee last drew attention to this issue.[31]

4   C&AG's Report, Delivering Successful IT-enabled Business Change, HC (2006-2007) 33-I, para 1.13 Back

5   Ibid, paras 1.3-1.5 Back

6   Ibid, Appendix 3 Back

7   Q 7 Back

8   C&AG's Report, para 3.26 Back

9   Ibid, para 2.19 Back

10   Qq 3-5, 7, 9, 14, 21-23; C&AG's Report, paras 1-1.5 Back

11   HM Treasury (2007) Transforming Government Procurement, London: The Stationery Office, para 2.11 Back

12   Q 8 Back

13   Committee of Public Accounts, Twenty-seventh Report of Session 2004-05, The Impact of the Office of Government Commerce's Initiative on the Delivery of Major IT-enabled Projects, HC 555  Back

14   Transforming Government Procurement, para 2.12 Back

15   Q 102 Back

16   C&AG's Report, paras 1.3-1.5 Back

17   Ibid, paras 1.3-1.5  Back

18   Ibid, para 1.3 Back

19   Q 78 Back

20   An on-line guide to procurement policy, tools and good practice. Back

21   C&AG's Report, para 3.29, Figure 9, Appendix 1: para 1 Back

22   Qq 3-4, 21-23; C&AG's Report, Terms used in this Report, page 7, paras 2.20, 3.24, 3.25 Back

23   Qq 58-61; C&AG's Report, para 3.6; Case Study Volume, page 33, para 6 Back

24   Qq 58-66; C&AG's Report, paras 1.4-1.5 Back

25   C&AG's Report, para 1.4 Back

26   Ibid, para 1.4 Back

27   Q 42 Back

28   Qq 81, 85; C&AG's Report, para 4.12; Case Study Volume, page 9, paras 17-19 Back

29   Qq 80-85 Back

30   C&AG's Report, paras 4.9, 4.10, Appendix 2, para 1, Figure 12 Back

31   Committee of Public Accounts, Twenty-seventh Report of Session 2004-05, The Impact of the Office of Government Commerce's Initiative on the Delivery of Major IT-enabled Projects, HC 555  Back

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