UK Project Management Round Up


Looking Back with the NAO, Forward with the IPA (not the beer!); APM Research Call extended

By Miles Shepherd

Executive Advisor & International Correspondent

Salisbury, England, UK


It is always a cliché to bemoan the rapid passage of time, especially at this time of year. However, that does not make it any less of talking point and I am no different from others in this respect. Not only does 2015 seem to have evaporated even more rapidly than usual but everyone in the project world seems to have the same idea – and have said so! Hence I have little to report in this issue.

For me, the New Year is not just a time for renewal, but a time for optimism. I try to avoid ‘optimism bias’ that Bent Flyvbjerg warns us against but to look for the positive aspects of projects. Reading over my reports last year, it must have been a pretty poor time as all I seemed to encounter was delay, schedule and financial overrun and poorly performing projects. Well, this year, I am looking for positives.


The year just ended was not one of spectacular success if you take the National Audit Office (NAO) report as your only source of information. This report, covering all 149 of the Government’s Major Project Portfolio, was issued at the start of the month. You can download a copy from their website (https://www.nao.org.uk/report/delivering-major-projects-in-government-a-briefing-for-the-committee-of-public-accounts/). The report reviews the portfolio which has a combined whole-life cost of £511 billion and an expected spend of £25 billion in 2015-16. More importantly. It provides the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) with a starting point for its grilling of public servants responsible for major projects.

Government Major Projects require Treasury approval based on their size, risk and impact. The public sector as a whole delivers many more projects outside the Portfolio, for example, through arm’s length bodies and other bodies such as Network Rail. The NAO public sector has had a poor track record in delivering projects successfully. While in the last Parliament, the NAO reported on improvements in the way aspects of programmes in some departments were managed, project failures and on ongoing projects that were experiencing considerable difficulties were highlighted. Key recurring issues included an absence of portfolio management at both departmental and government level; lack of clear, consistent data with which to measure performance; poor early planning; lack of capacity and capability to undertake a growing number of projects; and a lack of clear accountability for leadership of a project.


To read entire report, click here



About the Author


Salisbury, UK

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Miles Shepherd is an executive editorial advisor and international correspondent for PM World in the United Kingdom. He is also managing director for MS Projects Ltd, a consulting company supporting various UK and overseas Government agencies, nuclear industry organisations and other businesses. Miles has over 30 years’ experience on a variety of projects in UK, Eastern Europe and Russia. His PM experience includes defence, major IT projects, decommissioning of nuclear reactors, nuclear security, rail and business projects for the UK Government and EU.   Past Chair and Fellow of the Association for Project Management (APM), Miles is also past president and chair of the International Project Management Association (IPMA). He is currently Director of PMI’s Global Accreditation Centre and the Chair of the ISO committee developing new international standards for Project Management and for Program/Portfolio Management. He was involved in setting up APM’s team developing guidelines for project management oversight and governance. Miles is based in Salisbury, England and can be contacted at [email protected].

To view other works by Miles Shepherd, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/miles-shepherd/.