In common with all local authorities, Sunderland City Council is publicly accountable for every penny it spends. It has to be seen to be delivering value to the people it serves – a task made even more imperative in a climate of spending cuts and restraints.
The council consistently has the lowest council tax in the North East and is continually focused on finding innovative and more efficient ways of providing quality services at the least cost. This ethos runs throughout the authority and includes transforming the way that both new and existing projects are delivered by improving processes. The ICT department is leading the way.
The team was already using Microsoft Project as a standalone, desktop tool. What was required was something that offered effective resource management with improved visibility and control, real-time reporting and enhanced collaboration and communication – all to a tight budget.
The answer was a high impact, end-to-end enterprise project management (EPM) solution. Following a presentation from Microsoft on its Project Server solution, it was agreed to adopt this system with help from a specialist implementation partner. Program Framework was selected after the authority’s rigorous tender process, including gathering evidence from other local government clients.
The main issues identified with the existing processes were poor access to information, lack of consistency, scope creep, limited enforcement of the processes, lack of accountability and capacity management, the use of multiple solutions and a lack of communication. Microsoft Project Server, tailored to meet the council’s specific needs, was able to address these issues by offering stronger project governance, improved prioritisation, centralised document storage, a better approval process and improved resource management, together with greater visibility of all projects and programmes for all involved, including stakeholders.
The solution is built on a Microsoft technology platform and includes Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Project Server 2007 and SharePoint 2007.
This combination of technologies provides users with the ability to collaborate effectively, and gives management the control and visibility they require to make effective decisions. Users access the solution through either Microsoft Project Professional, in the case of project managers, or Internet Explorer, in the case of all other users. Both of these technologies provide familiar, easy to use interfaces that users can readily adopt.
In delivering all its solutions, one of Program Framework’s key endeavours is to minimise the impact on users allowing for rapid uptake, providing quick return on investment.
“From our initial engagement Program Framework worked with us to help us firm up and document our requirements and processes. They offered valuable insight into the best practice usage of the system and how we might best utilise it whilst following Sunderland specific processes. Their support and assistance acting as a critical friend during the implementation process has helped us develop a robust system that has been quickly and easily embedded into our everyday work.”
Barry Larvin, Quality and Process Manager, Sunderland City Council