Establishing a portfolio management office

Our customer, a leading utilities organisation, operates in the United Kingdom and North Eastern United States. In the UK, it owns and operates electricity and natural gas transmission networks and an electricity distribution network. In the US, as well as operating transmission networks, the company produces and supplies electricity and gas. It also owns a separate core regulated business. It operates across the UK, Europe, and US developing, operating, and investing in large-scale clean energy infrastructure. They are undergoing an ambitious Transformation of its Chief Finance Officer (CFO) function to reduce its operated cost base by £40m. 


The customer was confronted with several key challenges and risks that posed significant obstacles to the success of the programme, and the organisation’s ability to achieve overall objectives. Some of the key obstacles to overcome were: 


  • Substantial delays in progress for inflight programmes, reducing overall time available to deliver outcomes. 
  • Overall lack of programme planning, delivery, and management protocols, leading to disorganised and inefficient execution of initiatives. 
  • Absence of detailed delivery plans – incorporating tasks, timelines, and resources. 
  • Lack of structured processes and protocols to effectively track, monitor and report on progress. 
  • Inability to provide confidence to key stakeholders on project status, potential risks, and ongoing issues. 
  • Failure to clearly identify, articulate, size and link benefits to the various ongoing initiatives, hindering the customer’s ability to measure success and justify investments. 



The lack of direction or clear target state meant that the programme could further drift off-course and fail to meet its overall objectives, or worse, focus on the wrong objectives – damaging existing operations, customer experience and compliance with regulations. 


Overall, the customer faced substantial delays in delivery, which not only impacted timelines but also hindered their ability to deliver the intended and measurable benefits from the initiatives. 


Our initial step was conducting a detailed programme assessment to gain valuable insights into existing frameworks, allowing us to establish a baseline and identify key areas of focus to target for improvement and optimisation. We followed this by addressing gaps identified in key thematic areas, these were: 


Scope and benefits: clearly articulating the scope and objectives of the various initiatives, tying it back to the overall benefits case, ensuring that the limited resources are aligned to maximum (and achievable) benefit delivery. 


Governance: revising the governance structure and forums, ensuring alignment with the programme’s objectives – establishing responsibilities, involving appropriate stakeholders, and embedding regular/standardised cadence of meetings/updates. 


Delivery management: standardising documentation, protocols, and approaches to create a unified understanding across the delivery teams; streamlining processes to enable consistency and collaboration. 


Communication: developing a single version of the truth and a setting out specific targets – providing clarity, direction, and a consistent target – to team members (and stakeholders), minimising confusion and enhancing overall productivity. 



In delivering this programme, we were faced with several key challenges including: 


Competing organisational priorities: balancing the execution of business-as-usual activities with the delivery of programme outputs/outcomes – striking the right balance to maintain timely delivery. 


Ongoing resource constraints: thinking creatively and negotiating with various stakeholder groups to optimise resource deployment; reviewing and utilising internal and external (third-party) options. 


Sensitive nature of the programme: operating and navigating with various stakeholders, whilst working on sensitive areas of the programme, specifically, areas relating to cost savings, efficiencies, and redundancies. 


Significant stakeholder management: identifying, engaging, and communicating with various stakeholder groups with competing priorities, levels of interest and understanding of objectives and timelines. Sponsors of individual projects within the programme had different priorities and BAU demands from the overall programme sponsor.  


The work done by Project One has allowed the Programme Directors and sponsor to re-gain control of the programme and give the Senior Leadership Team and Steering Committee confidence in the programme going forward. By analysing the multiple inflight projects and initiatives and prioritising based on return on investment and ease of implementation we were able to focus the resources of the programme on where they could make the biggest impact. This allowed accelerated progress to be made in key areas while balancing programme requirements against the BAU demands of the business.  


To support communication and decision-making, we developed a clear governance structure and escalation framework. This ensured that senior stakeholders could easily understand the status of the programme and we could quickly get support to mitigate risks and issues when needed. It also allowed key decisions to be made to resolve competing priorities, so the programme did not become stuck again. 


The governance was supported by a standardised set of project tools and artefacts such as RAID logs, change control processes, baselined plans, and progress reports. Standardisation across the multiple projects and initiatives ensures that information could easily be assembled to produce an overall view of the programme and the key areas senior leaders should focus on. 


Project One fully integrated into the customer programme team ensuring that all the processes, tools and artefacts developed and the approach to developing these was fully understood.  



Project One value add:


  • Gained control of programme 
  • Improved quality of project management, productivity, and visibility of performance 
  • Standardised reporting to ensure senior stakeholders could quickly understand risks and take critical decisions 
  • Implemented an early warning system to allow early interventions to be made to course correct 
  • Became embedded into the customer team. 

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