A Step-Change in PPM Maturity for Southampton City Council with Microsoft Project Online

For Southampton City Council, delivering services to more than 250,000 citizens involves managing a complex, portfolio of IT and transformational service change projects. Over the past three years, managing that portfolio has been the task of the Projects and Change team, part of a central area of service led by Munira Holloway (Head of Intelligence, Innovation and Change), and supported by the PMO and Performance Manager, Karen Hilleard. In 2020, a Change Authority Board was established, underpinned by a new PMO function, led by Karen. The aim was to support an already engaged and proactive executive team in developing best practice governance across the portfolio.

Project Online was selected as a best-in-class PPM tool to provide an enhanced level of portfolio visibility and governance, a robust, standardised project lifecycle, and one-click reporting. Microsoft Gold Partner and G-Cloud approved supplier, Wellingtone, were selected to implement the design, configuration, rollout, and training of 100 initial users across two divisions – Intelligence, Innovation and Change, plus Property Services (Capital Projects). Karen explains the value added to this business transformation not just by Wellingtone’s support, but also by pro-active collaboration between the PMO and the Executive Management Team sponsors.

Overview

Customer

Southampton City Council

Products and Services

Microsoft Project Online

Country

United Kingdom

Industry

Public Sector

Key Highlights

  • A collaborative approach between two key areas: Intelligence, Innovation and Change, and Property Services.
  • Strong executive sponsorship from Executive Directors through the Change Authority Board to embed Project Online into the working culture.
  • A single source of visibility with standardised, real-time data.
  • A consistent project governance lifecycle with standardised EPTs and stage gates.
  • Customised Power BI reporting for increased PMO and executive visibility.

A Strong Foundation and Business Case for Maturing Visibility and Governance

Southampton City Council was already on the path to PPM maturity when Wellingtone became involved, says Karen, “We have a robust network of programme managers, project managers, business change managers and business analysts who work with the rest of the organisation to support and deliver major projects cutting across the business, and aligned to our corporate plan,” she says. “We have adopted the APM methodology (aligned to RIBA for capital projects). Last August, we formalised a new Change Authority Board to drive transformation and best practice governance. The next steps were to improve portfolio visibility for executives via a single source of truth, utilise standardised Enterprise Project Types (EPTs), implement a mature project governance lifecycle with stage gate reviews and approvals, and provide an enhanced reporting mechanism. We needed to identify the right PPM tool to support these processes.”

A business case was developed and approved, identifying Microsoft Project Online as the PPM tool of choice. “As part of our ‘The Way we Work’ programme, we have rolled out Microsoft 365 to all staff,” Karen explains. “Project Online was, therefore, a logical choice, since it has powerful capabilities that we can access within an already established IT environment. We spoke to a number of vendors and Wellingtone stood out for its expertise in the PMO and PPM spaces. Their well-aligned proposal recognised our desire to implement in phases, and their value-adding services such as their PMO assessment tool and Community of Practice reinforced the decision. We also consulted with some of Wellingtone’s other clients, including another major council, who were very positive about their own experience. It felt like the right fit.”

I would recommend Wellingtone to anyone considering a Project Online implementation. They are excellent – very professional and genuine PMO experts. There was no question they could not answer.

A Two-Phase Rollout for Continuous Improvement

Following a requirements-gathering exercise, a two-phase approach to project delivery was designed, with the first focusing on 20 major projects in the council’s corporate plan, Karen explains. “Trying to align everyone’s wish lists weren’t the simplest process, because we were working across the IIC division as well as Property Services. They operate with different methodologies and have different processes. Wellingtone’s consultancy experience really helped. They were very patient with us, pro-actively providing suggestions, and helping us to design a solution that could be standardised across all divisions whilst serving their different working parameters. When it comes to PPM and PMO expertise, they really know their stuff!”

Wellingtone created three different EPTs: Standard, Property and Programme. These were aligned to a five-stage project governance lifecycle, plus a monthly project Highlight Report template that allows project managers to easily input data for extraction into customised reports using Power BI. Wellingtone then deliver user and administrator level training to 100 users on the system across the two divisions. Although it is early days, benefits are already emerging, Karen says. “Visibility across these divisions and their portfolios are now instantaneous. The datasets feeding into our reporting are refreshed eight times a day, so we have confidence that whenever we generate data or a report it can give a clear, real-time picture. From my perspective as a PMO, Project Online equips me to do my job. At the touch of a button, I can review any aspect of the project lifecycle – from risk logs to schedules, stage-gate approvals, and so on. And, for the executive team, it gives a new level of visibility and oversight. As well as executive-level reporting and governance, we are rolling it out to the programme boards and using it to hold paper-free meetings. It saves a huge amount of time and resource by moving us from separate, siloed sources of information to a single source of truth.”

I would recommend Wellingtone to anyone considering a Project Online implementation. They are excellent – very professional and genuine PMO experts.

A Maturity Journey Supported by an Engaged and Insightful Executive

Particularly helpful throughout the Project Online rollout was strong sponsorship from key members of the Change Authority Board, Karen adds. “All members of our Executive Management Team have attended a briefing session hosted by Wellingtone. Having that executive interest in our work has helped to embed user adoption and rollout. Executives are taking the time to understand how the system works, ask pertinent questions, and contribute to how things will develop in the future. Their sponsorship is really helping us to embed Project Online not just as a tool, but as part of our working culture. We are having constant conversations with the executive, our staff, and also Wellingtone about further developments. The implementation would not have been the success it was without this support from my colleagues Sarah Candy (Business Change Manager), Munira Holloway (Head of Intelligence, Innovation and Change), Niall Tyler (Project Manager), Stuart Anderson and Nigel Midmer (Programme Managers Property Services). They have all been actively engaged from the start. The next step will be to fully roll out across all of the Property Services so that the majority of our capital programme sits within Project Online, as well as to integrate it with our financial systems to give assurance across capital projects. I would recommend Wellingtone to anyone considering a Project Online implementation. They are excellent – very professional and genuine PMO experts. There was no question they could not answer. The process was not without its challenges, but they took a genuine partnership approach to help us work through those and design the right roadmap to continuously improve governance and assurance of the projects portfolio.”