Foreword: David Pitchford, Executive Director, MPA
April 2013 marks two years of the Major Projects Authority. This first Annual Report sets out the key elements of the Authority’s activities in transforming the rate of successful delivery of Government-funded major projects. For the first time, the country’s biggest and most high-risk projects are scrutinised so problems are exposed before they spiral out of control. Over two-thirds of major projects are predicted to deliver their promises on time and on budget, more than double the historic success rate. However, the MPA has studied carefully what goes on in every department, and we have uncovered some weaknesses which we are continuing to address.
The MPA was established following a landmark report by the National Audit Office in 2010, which recommended a wholesale shift in the administration of major projects. It works closely with individual departments’ project teams and Permanent Secretaries to monitor and improve the management of major projects. Through this collaborative approach, the MPA’s Government Major Projects Portfolio has improved the rate of successful project delivery from under 30% to over 70%.
Our success has been achieved by focusing intensively on the three core elements of successful project management: improving leadership; improving the operating environment; and looking closely at the past lessons.
Firstly, the introduction of the Major Projects Leadership Academy (MPLA) will transform the project leadership capability within Government and places us at the cutting edge of global project leadership education. The MPLA is a formal alliance between Saïd Oxford Business School and the MPA. Its uniqueness comes from the fact that it is the only major project leadership academy in government across the world, with the coursework designed to provide direct exposure of participants to world-class project leaders and their experiences. This Academy will generate a cadre of project leaders with levels of skill far beyond those previously held. It will also form the foundation for a profession of project leadership within Whitehall that will ensure the best people are applied to the most complex projects. This is a major shift in capability and capacity and will elevate our overall performance exponentially.
Secondly, we are working hard to develop a newly structured and controlled operating environment within departments which will allow and support the newly trained leaders from the MPLA to apply their skills and capability to turn around poorly performing projects, and to set up new, successful projects. We have commenced work on this with Permanent Secretaries through a five-day workshop at the MPLA at Oxford. The aim is to implement full portfolio management within departments, and to blend this into the broader responsibilities on project performance in the Public Sector Reform Plan. These activities will be core to the MPA operational platform for 2013/14.
The third element is under development and will be accelerated once the priority work on the Operational Environment gains traction. The “Achievements and Learnings” pillar will be a collaboration built around combining the extensive data and documentation held by Saïd Oxford, with the actual lessons and understandings gained from major projects themselves. A major plank in this platform will be the significant data provided by the Olympic Delivery Authority in building the successful London 2012 Olympics.
This report showcases how far we have come – from the foundations we have laid and the significant steps forward we have made with the GMPP, our assurance and the Academy. The first two years of operation have provided some real and important successes, not least of which is the strong collaboration MPA has built with Permanent Secretaries, departments and key stakeholders, particularly HM Treasury. Today we embark on another radical departure by publishing, for the first time, the status of the Government’s Major Projects Portfolio. This shows the MPA RAG ratings and the actions that departments are taking. Publishing project information will provide the incentive needed to drive up the performance of Government’s major projects.
The future for the MPA will be demanding but hugely important. I am proud of what the organisation has achieved over the past two years and am extremely excited about what lies ahead.