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Viewpoint: Delivering nuclear procurement

Is the Programme Management Office an enabler in the delivery of complex programmes for the nuclear power industry?, asks EC Harris head of energy Paul Stapleton and head of programme management Stephen Paxton

Delivery of complex programmes of work in a highly regulated industry is challenging at the best of times, so what part should the Programme Management Office (PMO) play in delivery?

The term PMO is one of the greatest misused and misunderstood terms in programme management. It is used widely in the industry but with little thought to what it actually means and how it can help or potentially hinder the delivery of complex programmes.

A central repository for data collection and reporting is certainly beneficial and widely accepted, however this is where the critical proposition of using a PMO for structuring successful delivery is misunderstood. Often the PMO is set up for the benefit of management reporting and not for high performing delivery; it therefore becomes a hindrance rather than an enabler.

The benefits of effective programme management

With the likelihood of parallel build programmes for at least four new reactors in the UK with differing owner operators and technology coupled with an engineering and construction sector resource and skills deficit, now is a great chance to realise the benefits effective programme management can have on return on capital employed and business performance. Getting the strategic programme management approach right before the start of the next investment programme is key.

Enabling delivery through a well structured, high performing Programme Management Office

A well designed PMO is critical to business success and should be dedicated to improving the practice and performance of project and programme management. Its role is to make a permanent and progressive improvement in the way nuclear projects/programmes are set-up, managed and delivered, by identifying and sharing best practice and helping the development of the project management community through training and personnel development programmes.

The PMO should provide a strategic platform for a defined, consistent and repeatable approach in project and programme management for nuclear programmes lasting many years.

Delivering strategic change through a high performing Programme Management Office

Implementing a high performing PMO provides strategic capability and can help shape, define and manage important business change. Focusing on a programme management approach that enables the programme to deliver benefits in line with an organisation’s strategic objectives, optimises resource utilisation and embeds consistent processes and procedures. Performance management then becomes more effective as it is underpinned by benchmarking, knowledge sharing and competency development, which is more transparent within the programme and is also shared across it.

For those who realise the potential of a high performing PMO, there will be an increase in surety that project and programme management data is real-time accurate, allowing strategic programme decisions to be optimised. They will also benefit from clearly defined accountability, consistent delivery and control of risk, stakeholder confidence and maximum efficiency in the supply chain.

Programme management is a product that all businesses today require yet so few are set up and resourced to deliver strategic change in a consistent and sustainable way. A high performing PMO is part of an organisational design that can be a catalyst for developing high performance in the project management community and delivering consistent positive outcomes for a business.

  • Paul Stapleton is EC Harris head of energy. Stephen Paxton is EC Harris group head of programme management

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