‘Get to Green’ – major projects chief looks to set programmes on the right course

Nick Smallwood looks to enable access to data on best practice

The government’s major projects chief has outlined plans to improve access to best practice information and expertise in a bid to help more programmes ‘Get to Green’.

Published in July, the 2019/20 annual report from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority assessed the progress and status of the 125 programmes that currently make up the Government Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP). 

Of these, just three were rated green on the IPA’s traffic-light system, indicating that “successful delivery of the project on time, budget and quality appears highly likely and there are no major outstanding issues”. A further 18 were rated as amber/green, with 59 in the amber section, 32 at amber/red status, and two exempt from rating.

Eleven projects were given red status, which means that, in the IPA’s assessment, “successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable”.

The ICT category, which features 27 projects, is the only area where not a single project achieved a green rating; two were rated as red, 12 as amber/red, 10 as amber, and two as amber/green – with one exempt.

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Nick Smallwood, who joined the IPA as chief executive in August 2019, said that the GMPP has long been “too red and too amber”.

The projects body’s new mantra is ‘Get to Green’ and, according to the CEO, this goal will be supported by some “really, really good documentation” possessed by government on issues such as financial forecasting. This information is yet to be used to inform a “very deep and broad-reaching project-management framework” for use across departments – but work to create such a resource is underway.

“[We are going to] make sure that wherever you are in government, whatever level of project professional you are, you’ll be able to access the project-management framework and get the information and knowledge and data that you need to do your day job better than you could before,” Smallwood said, in an exclusive interview with PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World.

According to the IPA head – who also serves as head of government’s project delivery profession – the plans to improve tune up major programmes across Whitehall are supported “not only No.10, but also by the permanent secretaries across the departments, [and] by Alex Chisholm in the Cabinet Office”.

“With the ambitious agenda that this government has to use infrastructure as a vehicle to support the recovery of the economy, we see a huge opportunity now to drive our agenda to improve performance across the whole of the project landscape,” he said.

Smallwood praised the work of his project-delivery colleagues this in helping to deliver existing projects and urgent coronavirus-response initiatives such as economic-support programmes, the furlough scheme, and the establishment of Nightingale hospitals.

“That was done with a population who’d largely been working remotely at short notice, so I think the overall effort from government has just been absolutely outstanding,” he said.

Click here to read CSW’s full interview with the IPA chief, including much more on the challenges faced in 2020, and his priorities for the coming months and years. 


Sam Trendall

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