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CASE STUDY: RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL PROGRAMME MANAGEMENT OFFICE, POSTCOMM

INTRODUCTION Postcomm (the Postal Services Commission), a delivery partner of BIS, is the independent regulator for the postal market. Its purpose is to make sure licensed postal operators including Royal Mail meet the needs of their customers throughout the UK. The Programme Management Office (PMO), established in 2004, is run by Louise Smith and Emma Prince (pictured), and has been recognised as a proactive, effective, and successful unit. This case study sets out the key principles that Postcomms PMO is run by, highlighting the PPM processes that work well, and sharing lessons they have learnt along the way. Postcomm has delivered a wide range of programmes and projects including IT initiatives, business change, and policy programmes. Its PMO is relatively small compared to others, but the principles of how it has organised and managed itself, and established its key processes by adapting the help and knowledge base already out there, are transferable and relevant to all PMOs regardless of size. Postcomms PMO enables the organisation to identify, plan, assess, monitor, and resolve any resourcing, budget, change and quality risks or issues that may adversely affect the successful delivery of a project/programme. Agree the responsibilities and level of activities the PMO undertakes The PMO works closely with the CEO to determine which of the activities identified in the Forward Work Plan, together with any new work identified during the course of the year, should be taken forward as projects. The PMO actively monitors and advises on all aspects of projects and programmes - from project initiation through to delivery and project closedown - focusing on cost, timescales and quality of deliverables. This is achieved through close working with Directors and PMs to develop a better knowledge of planning, monitoring, and resourcing projects. The PMO exercises on-going supervision through monthly checkpoint meetings with PMs to review their project plans, update existing risk registers, and identify new risks. The PMO can escalate issues to the organisations Programme Board or the CEO, depending on the severity or proximity of the issue . The PMO produces an overall programme plan detailing all projects. Agree the PPM processes PMs are required to undertake and ensure there is sufficient help available e.g. induction, templates, guidance Project Management forms part of the HR induction pack for all new starters, and the PMO has set out the responsibilities of the PMO and for all

KEY PRINCIPLES FOR SUCCESS OF POSTCOMM PMO

Agree the purpose of the PMO. Ensure absolute buy in from senior management It is vital that the CEO and senior staff are: fully aware of the principles underpinning a project based working environment; are keen for the Organisation to work on this basis; and, are fully supportive of the processes involved. Without this support, it is much harder to bring other staff on board.

those involved in projects on the intranet. One-to-one induction sessions with the PMO are held with all staff, excluding PA and secretarial support staff, in their first week of joining Postcomm. The induction is supported by a briefing pack, including templates and aide memoires. The key deliverables that are required of PMs are: PID; MS Project Plan; risk register; budget and contract log; monthly status reports; project close down and post project evaluation; Programme Board sign-off via the PMO. These standards enable both the PMO and PM to undertake their responsibilities effectively. PMs must also be prepared to attend the Programme Board to provide verbal briefings if required. Ensure a risk management structure is in place that sets out guidance and responsibilities to all PPM staff Postcomm PMO has developed its own Management of Risk (MoR) framework that provides a structure for managing risk. It has been adapted from the OGCs Management of Risk: Guidance for Practitioners. It gives clear guidance to staff on their responsibilities and the risk process to be followed. It also allows for early risk identification and measures to reduce the likelihood of the risk materialising. All staff, from Commissioners and Directors, to staff in general are expected to develop a better knowledge of the risks facing Postcomm and their impact upon business objectives. Ensure assurance and review processes are in place and understood The PMO provides quality management guidance (both written and via one to one meetings) to staff on the production of business cases, PIDs, project plans, and risk registers. The PMO reviews all deliverables against defined quality criteria before they are signed off as fit for purpose.

not working in isolation from each other, and helps ensure a wider perspective is maintained. Project status reports: Each month, PMs are required to complete a one page pro- forma report. This is mainly in the form of a tick box yes or no report, but also asks PMs to identify the key deliverables achieved in the past month and highlight the key dates and deliverables in the future. It is kept brief so that it is not onerous to complete or read. It also allows PMs to put forward any issues that they consider should be escalated to the Programme Board . All the status reports feed into an overall summary Programme Board report prepared by the PMO, which shows at a glance where there are any issues to be discussed at the Programme Board. Monthly review meetings with PMs: The PMO meets with PMs individually each month for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the complexity of the project, to discuss project progress generally, and to review the risk register and progress against mitigating actions. This is a very useful forum to pick up any areas of concern, and enables the PM to flag up any issues that the PMO might be able to help with, or escalate as necessary. It also helps the PMO put individual projects into the wider context and identify potential duplications and conflicting work packages.

LESSONS LEARNT

One of the most important lessons learnt is to ensure that all new staff are introduced to the PMO function straight away through the induction process, so are familiar with the requirements from the start. There is an assumption that SROs and senior management are familiar with a project based working environment, which is not always the case. It is vital to ensure that Senior Management buys in to the PMO function, and mandatory training would ensure they have these skills. Support from Senior Management would be strengthened by the creation of Director-level Board champions to support the PMO process at Programme Board meetings.

POSTCOMM PMO PRACTICES THAT WORK WELL AND WHY

Project Boards: For each project, a Board is established, made up of a cross section of staff from a range of Directorates. This ensures that teams are

Postcomm's relatively small size means that it's PMO function has been able to offer an unusually high level of support to PMs, although in some cases this can lead to an over dependency and expectation that the PMO will take on aspects of what should be the PMs responsibilities (PID preparation, risk management etc). It is important to make clear that although support and advice is readily available, it is ultimately

the responsibility of PMs to take ownership of the work themselves. Some PMs are better than others at keeping track of expenditure. It is, therefore, very important to develop good links and work closely with the Finance department to keep on top of budgets and ensure that variances are flagged up in good time.

This case study has been jointly developed by Postcomm and the BIS & Delivery Partner PPM Community. The community is made up of people from across BIS, its agencies, NDPBs, and delivery partners. It was set up to bring together likeminded PPM people to share experience, network, and help ensure we can better deliver projects and promote the benefits of PPM.
Want to find out more about the BIS & Delivery Partner PPM Community? Then go to http://www.berr.gov.uk/aboutus/corporate/ppmcommunity/index.html