Programme Management in Highways

Adam Rome
An insight into how to add value through the introduction of consistent, effective management approaches to deliver large programmes of works.

Programme management is the principle that a group or series of projects can deliver greater value than the sum of its individual projects. Faithful+Gould has embraced this philosophy through the development of best practice principles currently being deployed across the highways sector.

Challenges in Large-scale Highways Projects

Delivery of high-value assets within local authorities can often prove challenging for clients as they try to meet the varying requirements of the large number of internal and external stakeholders with vested interest in the works. This combined with public funding constraints often influence decisions and impact performance of the project.

These, sometimes conflicting, priorities can also drive decisions on capital works towards delivery in isolation as opposed to a wider, more strategically focused programme of works.

Dealing with projects independently can often cause issues from a delivery-level through to the strategic-level. Typical examples include impact to network, unplanned stakeholder driven change and client-supplied dependency co-ordination, inconsistency of management approach, poor communication or lack of strategic direction.

Benefits of Programme Management in the Highways Sector

Highways projects are often procured and delivered on the basis of location, cost, scale, complexity and market conditions. Due to the often interdependent nature of expansion and maintenance in highways projects, a more strategic programme management approach can provide greater benefits.

This leads to the successful delivery in comparison to that of a diverse portfolio of independent project management functions. The benefits which can be exhibited from such an approach include:

  • Layered stakeholder management: through investing time with both internal and external stakeholders to define a more strategically focused approach to engagement, a governance structure can be established to embed clear communication protocol and processes. Defining and regularly reviewing requirements of stakeholders enables positive interaction with these parties for the benefit of the projects.
  • Rationalisation of often complex and diverse process: through early engagement and involvement of interface parties in the initiation and mobilisation of the programme organisation, key processes (such as design approval and change governance) can be agreed and prescribed clearly in management plans. Lean management principles are used in workshops to drive efficiency in the methodology throughout the programme organisation for the benefit of interface parties and the programme.
  • Proactive, aligned community liaison: with large, often diverse geographic areas coupled with the intrusive nature of highways works, the programme management approach establishes common protocols to inform and engage the local community in a proactive, consistent manner. 
  • Process-driven, collaborative but contractual environment: adoption of a standardised process across the programme by both the client and their supply chain partners applies consistency and best practice principles whilst facilitating continuous improvement throughout the programme lifecycle.
  • Hands-on performance and quality management: by aligning performance and quality measures to strategic objectives, it enables the programme and project management teams to drive improvement in service delivery in a consistent and focused way to achieve the best value from public money.

By embedding strategic drivers throughout programme organisations, robust and flexible working environments can be designed specifically to meet client and stakeholder demands.

The nature of the works and methodologies employed to deliver large highways schemes as individual, isolated projects can often incur issues borne from lack of strategic focus. By approaching highways schemes from a more strategic aspect, programme management can counteract inherent and underlying issues faced by many clients. By embedding strategic drivers throughout programme organisations, robust and flexible working environments can be designed specifically to meet client and stakeholder demands.

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