The Infrastructure and Projects Authority recently published its Annual Report on Major Projects 2017-18. A sizeable proportion of the projects reviewed relate to infrastructure and construction - in total, 31 projects with a "whole life cost" of £196bn.
It is interesting to see what the government thinks (and is advised) about the successful implementation, management and delivery of major projects.
What also stands out are the key issues identified by the report as being critical to that success, which seem to me to apply equally to any sizeable construction project. I thought that it would be useful, therefore, to consider the top three messages in the report for "improving the delivery of major projects":
1. Project team and project leadership
- Effective leadership is essential for achieving project success.
- This means that project leaders need to be equipped with the right skills, training and capabilities to deliver a project - investment in people, in training and in professionalism is essential.
- Although not always recognised, consistency of leadership (including personnel, attitude and ultimate goals) is also critically important for the smooth and successful delivery of a project.
2. Project initiation
- The most common causes of difficulties or failures on a project are a lack of clear objectives, insufficient resources, over-ambitious costs targets and over-ambitious schedules.
- The key to overcoming these issues is to ensure that, as the report describes, "projects and programmes are set up for success". That means investing money and people in tackling such issues early and effectively.
3. Transforming performance
- The government wants to increase the effectiveness of its investment in infrastructure, by improving productivity and performance.
- As with any other major investor, therefore, this means prioritising investing in the right projects, improving productivity in delivery and maximising the overall benefits of infrastructure investment.
It appears, therefore, that the government's aspirations are not so different from those of any developer in the private sector.