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Excellence in Programme and Project Management: a Capital Ambition case study

  • By London Councils

Collaboration has transformed the way councils manage programmes

“Programme Managers are among the most important people we have in our organisation today.  However, in a straight fight between keeping a library or keeping a programme management office, the library will win every time.  That is why programme management must ensure its overhead is kept to a minimum while the outcomes sought are maximised.  The Public Sector Programme Management Approach (PSPMA) helps just that.  Its value comes from it being as practical and non-bureaucratic as possible.” – Derek Myers, Chief Executive Kensington and Chelsea."


All regional and local authorities are delivering major programmes of change which are faced with significant and increasing challenges, including financial pressures, as well as the requirement to demonstrate improved outcomes and benefits realisation.

A key enabler for these programmes was the formation of the Capital Ambition EPPM Programme and its key deliverable – the development of a common programme management guide.  The guide is aligned to OGC’s Managing Successful Programmes (MSP), but tailored to local and regional government – the Public Sector Programme Management Approach (PSPMA).

The idea behind the EPPM programme is simple enough - enable and support people working on programmes to work effectively through:

  • Having a common approach
  • Used by competent people
  • Who share their experiences.

Tim Ellis (Kensington and Chelsea) says, “Authorities told us they were using the project management method PRINCE2®, and they said we had made embedding PRINCE2 more complicated than it needed to be. What they wanted now was a programme management approach that was tailored to their needs.”

What was delivered?

The Public Sector Programme Management Approach (PSPMA): The PSPMA started life as the London PMA as it was developed by staff from ten London authorities and the GLA in partnership with the EPPM programme team. As demand and use of the Approach grew across the country, it was renamed the Public Sector PMA.

Rod Sowden, the lead author of the OGC guidance on programme management ‘Managing Successful Programmes’ (MSP) says, “The EPPM programme has done a great job in taking all the key principles and concepts from MSP and tailoring them for the local and regional authority sector.  The examples and case studies within the PSPMA are particularly useful."

Common Programmes Database: A collection of information of programmes that were being run in some local and regional authorities.

Common Programmes Working Groups: To avoid duplication and encourage sharing across the country, two significant groups (Accommodation & new ways of working and Efficiency & transformation) were formed with scheduled meeting dates.  Matthew Wallbridge (Sutton) says about the working groups: “The networking sessions were fundamental to the success of the PSPMA. They were like therapy sessions; there is an ethos of candour and sharing lessons – both good and bad."

Project and Programme Management (PPM) Communities of Practice (CoP): An on-line CoP that enables access information, networking with other individuals in the country and ask questions about their programmes.  Matthew Lumsden, Policy & Performance Officer, Haringey, says about the CoP: “I responded to a question from someone trying to set up an innovation fund and I posted up a link to an article I’d read. That’s the value of CoPs – you can put questions up and someone has an answer and points you in the right direction.”

Challenges Faced

It would of course be naive to think that working collaboratively on this scale would be problem free.  Kireen Rooney (Harrow) says, “Sometimes people were reluctant to share because the councils can be competitive. They wanted to do well and so they needed to be mature enough to want to help each other. This started to happen as more and more people came on board.”

Andy Murray, Outperform director and PRINCE2 lead author believes the EPPM team got the right approach from the outset.  He says, The EPPM programme has done more to advance the application of good programme management over the past 4 years than any initiative I’m aware of.  The team has done a brilliant job of taking the excellent guidance in Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) and tailoring it specific to both the local and regional authority context and the capability of people who will apply it.”

Benefits to date

The PSPMA has brought huge cost and efficiency savings.  It has been estimated that if 35 London Councils each developed their own approach it would cost each one between £50K and £100K, totalling somewhere in the region of £2m to £3m!

Katy Johnson from the GLA, one of the EPPM programme’s stakeholders, says: “The approach will help us enormously because we work in partnership with the authorities and the London Development Agency - so collaboration is key for us. The PSPMA makes it easier for people to work together and has saved me a huge amount of time because I don’t need to create programme management guidelines for the GLA – it’s already done.”

It’s not just about the development costs either. Sharing knowledge has brought new insights into how the authorities manage their expenditure.  Tim Ellis says, “Cost avoidance is one of the significant benefits of the EPPM programme.  For example, we realised that four authorities were working with the same supplier. They managed not only to drive down the costs associated with that supplier but also were able to share experiences and lessons learned. This means we can achieve greater efficiencies and costs savings.”

Supporting information

For further information on EPPM and to access the tools it has developed, please visit our main pages on this website.