Friday, 31 October 2008

What do complex projects tell us about project management? Bill Crothers, ID Cards Programme

Picking up on the “goldfish bowl” description, Bill Crothers of Identity and Passport Service said the National ID Cards Programme was under constant scrutiny from a range of stakeholders, including those most affected - the UK public.

The £4.6bn programme, due to be rolled-out in part in autumn 2009, is full of complexities. On technical side there are issues over security, data capture, transmitting data and integrating legacy systems. The resulting database, described as a “the biggest of its kind in the world”, contains fingerprint/biometric and biographic data such as names and addresses.

The programme is also highly controversial with its own pressure group. “We have one chance to get it right,” said Bill, “or it could end up as a beautifully documented disaster.”

Key to success is managing supplier relationships, which Bill says will “make or break the programme”. A big part of this is empowering suppliers. Under procurement framework five big software providers, plus 40-50 sub-contractors, will be encouraged to work together under programme of financial incentives/penalties.

A big part of this is behaviour. Bill said that behaviour of the different parties would be documented and “360 degree” feedback used to determine strength of relations. No fixed prices would apply to contracts as this creates “dysfunctional behaviour”, instead competitors encouraged to work together to achieve targets. “The less we pay, the more they earn,” he said.

Behavioural assessment is subjective not written into multi-million contracts. “We don’t expect criticism of other suppliers,” said Bill. “Behaviour is as important as price.”

Do you have experience of working in a situation where companies collaborate? 90% yes.

Did rival companies fully co-operate? 60% no.

Does the customer has to smarter than the supplier? Yes 50%.

We know how to break complex projects down into manageable chunks but do we know how to put them back together? 70% no.

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