Plymouth City Council’s ICT department is leading the way in improving efficiency and resources in a local authority charged with making £30 million savings over three years. Within a few months of fully implementing a new enterprise project management (EPM) system built on Microsoft Project Server technology, other departments with big budgets at the council are so impressed they are looking to follow that example.
The council is committed to protecting front line services from the effects of the public spending cuts. Instead, it is re-thinking its approach to how things are done, including reducing back office spending as part of a major modernisation programme to improve service delivery.
This modernisation programme involves massive investment in IT across the council in order to realise its full potential. The ICT department is driving this programme and has to maximise return on the investment through smarter working, gaining better control of projects and having a single, clear and consistent view of all current and planned work.
Already using PRINCE2 as the method of running projects, the department knew it needed a better way of managing them, too, particularly on issues such as making the best use of resources. The Microsoft centralised EPM solution was chosen, with Program Framework selected as the provider.
“We needed a single, clear view of what was happening across every area to help us to standardise and streamline our service” explained Julie McDonagh, ICT Strategy and Programme Manager.
The department wanted a collaborative system that defined, scheduled and assigned resources throughout the lifecycle of a project, offered a consistent timesheet and tracking process and showed real time information on cost and progress, giving the ability to prioritise projects and re-plan or re-schedule activities in order to meet agreed objectives. This in turn would lead to better governance.
In addition, clear reporting was required presented in a form appropriate to those who needed to view it, from detailed information for those running the projects to project highlight reports for senior management.
As part of the package, Program Framework also ran train the trainer sessions with key team members, who then cascaded it down to the wider team.
“We had to improve our ability to deliver on our promises to our customers - other departments within the council – and ultimately to the elected members,” said Julie. “Project Server is helping us to do this. We are managing projects so much better and have already gained tremendous benefit.”
“Introducing Project Server with the visioning from Program Framework has helped us realise process and practice improvement that we had being aspiring toward. This is not the end of the journey but definitely is a great inroad into having a robust project and programme governance with much improved visibility.”
“We have totally changed our thinking. It’s been a catalyst and our confidence can only become stronger and stronger. We are now looking to expand and grow our implementation to a wider portfolio management basis.”
Julie McDonagh, ICT Strategy and Programme Manager, Plymouth City Council