Message from Project X new Project director Tom Tolfree

Collaborations between senior policy makers, academics and industry to help generate new policy responses to complex social and economic challenges is regularly cited by Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, as an important priority for government. Project X appears to me to be one of the best examples of putting this ambition into practice. This is something I've tried to encourage in all my teams. It also lay at the heart of the Cambridge University Policy Fellowship I’ve recently completed.

Overall, I’ve been hugely impressed with the breadth of work, the spirit of collaboration and the calibre of those working on Project X. Its pipeline of work is highly impressive, as is the insight it is starting to deliver. I'll do all I can to support the further success of Project X and ensure its insights reach the most senior levels of policy making.

On a personal level, I’d like to say thank you to all the Project X community I’ve met so far and the welcome you’ve given me. I’m looking forward to working with you and to helping drive Project X to even further success in the future.

Project X - An Update for the Future

Project X was first created in early 2016 and has since made an unbelievable amount of progress. We now have 6 themes covering 18 active research projects and all working towards improving project delivery and our understanding of how we deliver projects both in Government and in the wider industry.

As you may know, Terri Harrington, the Project X Director, will be leaving the IPA on the 3rd May to take up a new role in Highways England. As the original creator of Project X and one of the major driving forces behind it, this will naturally cause changes in Project X although she will continue to be involved and to lead the Project until her replacement is appointed. The time and energy Terri has put into Project X has taken it from a concept to a recognised hub of development of practical evidence based research. Project X has the full support of IPA and key professional bodies, funding from a number of sources and a community of over 200 academics, practitioners and civil servants. To sustain this achievement, a lot of thought has been put into ensuring Project X continues to be a success despite the changes in its senior leadership.

We are extremely grateful to Professor Paul Nightingale (Sussex) and Andy Gibbs (ESRC) for arranging funding for the appointment of dedicated project management resource to support Project X.  We are also grateful to 2 of our Industry sponsors, Turner & Townsend and Arcadis for supporting our work through provision of the resources needed.

We would therefore like to introduce our two new project managers: Eliza Shaw (Arcadis) and Thomas Hertlein (Turner and Townsend). Eliza and Thomas will be supporting 3 themes each, providing assistance with the development and delivery of the research projects and acting as a general project management resource to help drive each theme forward. This help will be invaluable in the progression of Project X.

Over the next few months we will be focused on improving the organisation and structure of Project X. This will include cementing the purpose of our steering groups and management boards, refining the process in which we approve research proposals and clarifying who is in each theme to enable the most efficient use of the vast array of skills and experience we have in this community.

With the above in mind, we ask you to kindly fill out a bio sheet if you have not done so already. This will allow us to improve our engagement with you and assist those who would like to be involved to do so. Please see Terri’s example below for guidance.

We are also very pleased to announce that we will be hosting another Project X conference following the success of our event on the 25th January. We expect this to be in mid September and will be sure to send you a placeholder once this has been confirmed.

We welcome any comments or input on the above and appreciate your feedback.

An Overview of Project X

Project X will improve the efficient delivery of major projects and programmes by identifying novel and effective management techniques and disseminating actionable based knowledge and insight to project practitioners

Project X will inform, guide and inspire an innovative approach to programme and project delivery.

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Project X will achieve this through effective collaboration and joined up research based on unique data and the depth and breadth of expertise across government, academia, research councils, project practitioners, professional bodies and industry as illustrated above

Five Research Themes:

  • Value, Measurement and critical success factors
  • Front end and back end management practises
  • Data quality and use as performance drivers
  • Assurance, reporting and governance
  • Capability, leadership and knowledge management

Project X Conference, 25th January 2017

The next Project X conference is at Ditton Park Manor in Slough from 10:00 to 16:00 on the 25TH January 2017.

The conference will update everyone on the progress of Project X’s current activities, its forward looking priorities and proposed next steps.  

Those attending this conference will have an opportunity help shape the Project X agenda.

For more information about Project X or an invitation to the Project X conference please email Gabriel –  gabriel.solomon@ipa.gov.uk or Rosanna – rosanna.kirk@ipa.gov.uk

 

 “Working together we can significantly improve the outcomes from our major projects, improve services to citizens and reduce costs” Terri Harrington, Infrastructure and Projects Authority

 

 For more information about Project X or an invitation to the Project X conference please email:

Gabriel: gabriel.solomon@ipa.gov.uk or Rosanna: rosanna.kirk@ipa.gov.uk


IPA ESRC Projects Conference

On the 22nd July, Project X held it’s IPA/ESRC Conference, offering a chance for new members to join and learn about our aims and mission and providing the opportunity all present to be involved in the development of our 4 key themes of research.

Over 40 people were in attendance on the day, including representatives from the civil service, top universities, private sector partners and professional bodies.

At the start of the morning, attendees were asked to fill in a bio sheet, giving us a brief description of their key experience and interests. We also asked everyone to choose a theme of research that they would like to discuss. We have since found these profiles extremely useful for understanding the array of skills we possess in Project X and the variety of experience that will come in useful as each theme of research develops.

Terri Harrington, Head of Portfolio Insight in the IPA then introduced the event giving the new members of the group a chance to learn a little about Project X’s purpose and aims which are summarised on the ‘About Project X’ page.

Paul Nightingale from the University of Sussex then outlined our funding request with the ESRC and other academic research funding bodies. For non-academics, this may have been slightly confusing as the process is far from straight forward. However, it should have instilled a sense of confidence in the work being done to achieve as much funding as possible for this project, to help restrict limitations on the work we hope to do.

Geraldine Barker from the National Audit Office the outlined some of the key issues in the delivery of major projects in government to ensure all present understood the importance of the work on Project X and also focussed the discussions on those areas of research which would have most impact.  As Terri had mentioned, with > £400bn being spent on major projects in government, even an improvement of 1% in the outcomes of these projects in terms of value for money/cost reduction could lead to increased funding for public services such as hospitals and schools and/or other key projects.

After a short break, everyone gathered into four different themes:

  • Theme A, led by Terry Williams (University of Hull)– Defining value, measuring success and identification of critical success factors (this topic includes brief and scope development, coping with the impact of significant scope change, engagement with owner/investor/operator and identifying benefits)
  • Theme B, led by Mike Lewis (University of Bath)– Front-end management practices and their influence on project performance (this topic includes collaboration, public/private sector differences, interactions and knowledge management).
  • Theme C, led by Richard Kirkham (University of Manchester)– Better use of data and the connection to project performance improvement (this topic includes methodological issues at the interface of quantitative and qualitative methods, the use of data in decision-making (risk and uncertainty), ethnographic studies in projects, use of data in performance assessment)
  • Theme D, led by Mike Bourne (Cranfield University)– Reviews, reporting and governance and their connections to effective decision making (this topic includes, evolution of performance metrics in the life-cycle, identifying critical decision situations)

The discussions covered some of the following topics:

  • Outlining the details of the theme as it currently stands
  • Updating the group on the progress made so far
  • Raising any issues relating to theme, including issues with funding, research possibilities, access to resources etc.
  • Priority research topics
  • What role individual members of the group would like to take in the research

The discussions proved to be very useful and having new members gave the leaders a chance to hear a different perspective on the topic. All ideas have been recorded and collated into 4 individual documents, which will be shared with the group.

After feeding back to the wider group, each theme was set the task of deciding on two potential research projects. Whilst these are not set in stone, they form a solid foundation for some very strong streams of research to be carried out over the next few years.

We then ended the day with a summary of the outcomes of our discussions. The day was left on the agreement that the theme leaders will write up and finalise a first draft of their two research ideas, ready to feed back at the next steering group working meeting on the 14th September. These will also be sent around to wider Project X group.

We were lucky enough to have been joined by Andy Gibb from ESRC for the afternoon and he said a few words to confirm that from the discussions he had been involved with and the topics under consideration, he felt that the aim of Project X was in line with those of the UK research councils.

Our plan going forward is to determine and agree the two research proposals from each theme and set a plan in place to decide how we will conduct this research effectively.

Overall, we feel that the conference was highly successful and hope that all those in attendance feel the same.