Katie Lynch 19 October 2020

Don’t let project failure add further financial woe

Visibility over your key delivery risks can help you succeed, where other projects fail.

As the funding gap for local government continues to increase and public sector debt hits a record 50-year high the pressure for council projects and programmes to succeed has never been higher.

Even during normal times, successful project delivery can present a challenge, its reported that almost 10% of project spend is wasted due to poor project performance, scarce funds which councils cannot afford to waste. As well as adding to financial pressures, project failure can impact services or residents lives and result in significant reputational damage for a council.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has made this challenge harder, simply delivering on time and budget is not enough, projects must provide the intended return on the council's investment. It is reported that two thirds of projects fail to fully achieve their objectives, add to that staff redeployment, a work from home mandate, potential illness or self-isolation and even previously high-performing projects could fail.

Council leaders can avoid this though, by ensuring they have visibility over the projects they sponsor. One way to achieve this is through project assessments or audits, which provide an independent perspective on how well the project is performing and act as an early warning system of potential problems to support informed and timely remedial action.

Based on our experience of assessing over 200 council projects and programmes, poor project performance is often due to a lack of robust project management controls and council leaders should ensure projects are managing the following delivery risk areas:

• Business Case - A robust agreed business case, aligned to the council's strategic objectives, may not be in place to underpin investment decisions or have remained valid over time.

• Clear Scope - Management may not be able to effectively budget, resource and plan for project activities without a clear, defined and agreed scope.

• Benefits Management - The intended benefits may not have been clearly defined at the outset or be supported by a process to monitor and demonstrate the realisation of benefits over time.

• Governance and Control - Governance structures may not provide appropriate oversight or challenge and ensure that decisions are taken at the right level, based on complete and up to date information.

• Project Planning - Plans may not contain all the required tasks to deliver or be regularly reviewed. Management may not have fully considered the impact of dependencies.

• Capacity and Capability - The team may not be clear on the amount of resource needed to deliver successfully or have access to resources with the required skills and experience.

• Partners and Suppliers - The project may not be covered by fit for purpose commercial arrangements or be managing suppliers effectively.

• Risk and Issue Management - An effective risk and issue management process may not be in place, or followed, resulting in delay, overspending or failure to achieve the desired outcomes.

• Financial Management - The project or programme may not be fully costed and funded or be delivering in line with agreed spending limits.

• Business Change - The project may not have fully considered the impact of change on to those involved or the investment required to embed the changes and go-live successfully.

• Quality and Testing - Without clear definition and robust testing, project outputs may not meet the required standard or quality to achieve the intended benefits.

Ideally projects need to be assessed objectively on their own merits, in a structured and consistent manner, with the support of experienced project professionals. However, council leaders can assure themselves that projects are on track to succeed by monitoring the way in which projects are managing these key project delivery risk areas.

It is crucial for council project leaders to have visibility over the projects they sponsor. There are many early warning signs that projects could be failing. Individually they might not seem significant, but often as these signs are missed, issues mount and senior leaders are not made aware of problems in time to take corrective action. Ultimately this can result in the need for significant intervention to recover a failing project, along with financial and reputational damage.

How can One Eighty Advisory help

If you are considering assessing your projects, the Local Government Project Assurance experts at One Eighty Advisory can help you consistently evaluate your project or programmes performance. We have over 20 years’ experience in public sector project and programme assurance and delivery and our assessments can:

  • Increase your visibility, clarity and an understanding of the project’s current status, including an action plan to address any issues.
  • Provide greater confidence in the projects ability to achieve its objectives & realise the intended benefits.
  • Safeguard your personal & professional reputation, whilst building trust in your organisation.

Contact me here for an information pack on how we can help ensure your council projects and programmes succeed, where others fail.

You also can learn more about One Eighty Advisory services and experience in this area here: https://180advisory.com/local-government-programme-assurance/

This article was sponsored by One Eighty Advisory

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