Category Archives: UCISA London

Everything starts with a Project Initiation Document…!

Graham Francis
Director of Continuous Improvement
Havering Sixth Form College

In the first part of this blog , we looked at the reasons why projects fail and the process that we have adopted to try and ensure that this did not happen with our own projects at Havering Sixth Form College. In this blog, we will look at the process that we go through to get a project from an idea to being agreed and adopted by the College Executive.

Often projects will start with a senior member of college management identifying a need such as “we must have a better Asset Management system” or “wouldn’t it be great if we could see our data visually”. Just how these projects would come to fruition was not really considered. In the past, these projects (if adopted) would remain with the originator and would often result in a project, which ultimately exceeded all forms of whatever controls may have been thought to have been put in place in terms of time, cost, resources and staffing, or any possible combination thereof.

In an effort to end this, we have adopted an approach that specifies that no project can proceed before it had been thoroughly researched and a Project Initiation Document had been produced (well that was the theory!).

But what is a Project Initiation Document (or PID for short)? Wikipedia describes its purpose is to capture and record basic information needed to correctly define and plan the project and that it provides “a reference point throughout the project for both the customer and the Project team”. But what does a PID look like? Well, if I’m honest I had no idea and attempts to create one proved frustrating so after much searching of the Internet, which housed many examples, none really suitable to a college environment, I discovered Susanne Madsen’s website and adopted the Blank PID 2016 that she had developed, customising it as necessary.

This document consisted of a number of sections:
• Executive Summary (at the beginning but completed last)
• Project Definition
• Business Case
• Project Planning
• Risks and Issues (an invaluable tool to assist in developing this is the 130 Project Risks (List) created by Anna Mar)
• Project Organisation and Communication
• Project Controls
• Project Acceptance Sign-Off.

By completing each of these sections (in detail), a tightly prescribed understanding of each project is developed. An example of a PID for a recent website redevelopment project that we have undertaken can be found here Website PID.

Whilst considering the purpose of the PID, it was at this point that we started to think quite radically about why previous projects had failed and how we could avoid this in the future. As part of the development of the PID itself, it is necessary to define who the Executive Sponsor is and who is going to manage the project team. This caused us to consider two further questions: ‘How could we get effective Senior Management (Executive) buy-in into the project?’ and ‘How could we ensure that the project meets the needs of the (internal) customer?’.

One requirement of any project managed in this way is to nominate an Executive Sponsor and an Internal Project Team Leader. This again gave us an opportunity for some radical thinking:

• What if (with their agreement) the member of Executive in whose area of responsibility the project would have the most impact, became the Executive Sponsor?
• What if (again with their agreement) we were to make the member of staff who would ultimately be most affected by the changes that the project was envisaged to have, became the Project Team Leader?

We adopted this approach considering that it would ensure Senior Management buy-in whilst also reducing any impact that change would have as the Project Team leader was fully involved with the project itself.

During the process of developing the PID, it is reviewed by a small team of reviewers to ensure clarity and completeness. Once this group have agreed that the PID is complete, then it is passed to the Executive Sponsor for confirmation and signature. Until such time as it is agreed by the executive Sponsor, no work on the project itself is undertaken.

With the PID formally agreed then it is used as the basis for the Terms of Reference (TOR). The TOR for the Website Redevelopment project can be found here Website TOR . This document acts as a synopsis of the project requirements themselves and is given to prospective suppliers along with the Invitation To Tender/Quotation (ITT/ITQ), an example of which is located ITQ Website. The Terms of Reference is written in such a way that it can be used as a basis for evaluating the project when it has been completed/reached its completion date.

In the next blog, I will focus on monitoring the live project and the evaluation process undertaken when it has been completed.

Adopting a New Style of Project Management and Initiation

Graham Francis
Director of Continuous Improvement
Havering Sixth Form College

A Continuous Improvement Approach

Introduction

If you search for “Why do projects fail?” you will find all sorts of reasons for their demise but running throughout the results is a ‘lack of communication’, a ‘lack of detailed planning’ and ‘scope creep’.  Each of these has the ability to bring any project to the point of failure in a very short space of time.  To combat this Havering Sixth Form College (HSFC) has altered its project management process in an effort to prevent this.

Like many establishments, HSFC had experienced projects which failed to achieve the intended result due to poor preparation and implementation.  Projects would be poorly defined with no one person really understanding what the final outcome of the project was (due to a lack of communication) to be.

Projects would often drift aimlessly due to a lack of planning or continue beyond their anticipated completion date due to poor management (and a lack of detailed planning).  Even worse the requirements of the project would often be changed without any due process (resulting in project creep).  In order to combat this, the College has developed a methodology with clearly defined steps, prescribed documentation and a series of systematic reviews to ensure that each project is managed with the aim of being completed on time, on budget and is as required.

Plan-Do-Check-Act

To support this process the College introduced the role of Director of Continuous Improvement and adapted an approach to Continuous Improvement based on the ‘Deming Cycle’.  Deming describes the cycle as an iterative process consisting of four-parts Plan, Do, Check and Act (PDCA).  This process has been used to support ‘Total Quality Management’ and has been used with great success within the production process of Toyota.

Early efforts to embrace these principles often appeared quite primitive.  In order to visualise the progress of each projects, a ‘Kanban’ board approach was adopted.  Initially, this contained four columns Waiting, Definition, Production and Evaluation.  Which loosely mapped to the four stages of the Deming Cycle.  With the exception of Waiting, each section was further subdivided into three further columns, To Do, In Progress and Done.  Sticky Notes were used to monitor projects but these would often get knocked off or dry out and fall off and had to be repositioned when this occurred.

 

 

 

 

 

This early image of the ‘board’ shows a number of projects at the ‘Waiting’ stage.  At this stage the project is nothing more than an idea such as Increase Storage Infrastructure capacity or Asset Management.  During this stage, an initial exploration of the idea is explored to ascertain if it is viable and what budget the project might require.  To support this process, budget remains unallocated from a central ‘pot’ until the project has passed the next stage of Definition.

In the next blog, we will explore what takes place during the Definition stage and what documentation has been developed to support this.

A presentation on this subject, originally presented at the UCISA London Group meeting in September 2017, can be found here 

The UCISA London group provides a forum for London institutions to meet, to identify and share best practice and to identify opportunities for collaboration and potential shared services.

UCISA and the London Metropolitan Network are working in partnership to create a UCISA London regional group which will take up and extend LMN’s London-based activities, including local opportunities for training, professional development and peer exchange and advice on strategies for the best use of scarce resources – including new or existing shared services – in order to provide exemplary IT services for staff and students.