HomeWorld RegionsEuropePutting project management best practices into practice

Putting project management best practices into practice



Ivan Lloyd, director of Strategy & Innovation at project management solutions provider Corporate Project Solutions, explains how one of the UK’s largest electricity generators, Scottish Power is working to change cultural and working attitudes and promote the importance of a unified project management approach.


Ivan Lloyd, Corporate Project Solutions, UK

Many large organizations pride themselves on their management capabilities and disciplines, but very few boast about their approach towards project management. It seems that project management planning is still regarded as an unfavourable prerequisite to business decision-making.

Although project management is never the primary purpose of a business, as organizations are run to deliver products and services, efficient and effective project management is a significant means of delivering successful products and services.

The challenge faced by larger businesses, is how to implement a method for managing projects that can include and utilize existing operational styles. Scottish Power is a perfect example of how an organization with over 30 000 employees is working to change cultural and working attitudes, and promote the importance of a unified project management approach.

Scottish Power ” a large organization

Scottish Power is the third largest electricity distributor and the largest wind power producer in the UK. It serves five million homes and businesses across the UK and there are over 33 000 Scottish Power employees worldwide. Due to the size and scale of the business, precise project management and accurate planning are paramount to its success.

Scottish Power’s Generation Asset Management and Project Services (AMPS) division is part of the Generation unit, which is responsible for 6.4 GW of power, or 9 per cent of total UK electricity generating capacity. There are 20 employees in the AMPS division, which is split into two teams that handle the investment planning process across the company’s generation assets in the UK, together with a significant proportion of the organization’s capital expenditure (CAPEX) projects on the generating stations throughout the UK. The other focuses on what projects are essential and necessary to the business and its continuity, revenue expenditure (REVEX).

Between the two teams all projects are prioritized each year with the CAPEX team focusing on project investment and those that will create the best return. The REVEX team manages projects that are implemented from a statutory point of view to meet industry regulations. This multi-focused approach enables Scottish Power to make a considered budget decision enabling the organization to decide which projects will be carried out to deliver a return-on-investment and meet regulatory demands.

Breaking down the challenge faced

The AMPS division manages four multi-functional teams (MFTs) headed by project managers made up of various disciplines such as procurement, finance, engineering, project control and investment. Each MFT is designated to implement and deliver projects at various stations across the country. The MFTs have their own portfolio and share knowledge, experience and expertise to update relevant people in the organization. All reports filter up to the director of Generation, who is responsible for managing both the CAPEX and REVEX teams.

Scottish Power uses both teams to manage its CAPEX and REVEX projects separately, and can have as many as 100 new projects each year. With such a large amount of work to be managed it is important for large organizations like Scottish Power to break projects and the teams managing them into smaller sections to ensure all projects are delivering the objectives set for each area of the business.

The teams are spread geographically from as far afield as Ben Cruachan in north-west Scotland, which gives its name to the pumped-storage hydroelectric station located in a cavern inside the mountain, to Shoreham on the south coast of England, near Brighton. The power stations also vary in size from coal powered plants producing 2400 MW to hydropower stations producing 17 MW. Scottish Power’s diversity of operations ensures the business remains flexible as the debate into renewable energy continues and the environmental impacts of power production develop.

Encouraging Consistency

Scottish Power’s project managers are experienced in delivering successful projects, but the reporting process was inconsistent and project management styles were in silos. With each team utilizing its own unique approach to project management, it was proving difficult for the director of Generation to monitor the progress and status of each project quickly and easily. Each team had its own stand-alone version of Microsoft Project, which was being used retrospectively to look at completed tasks rather than for planning projects ahead. This meant that if issues were ever spotted it was often too late in the project to be able to respond.

Projects were being delivered on time and budgets were being fully utilized, however, this was the only common denominator for the project teams. The director of Generation, who manages these teams, was receiving inconsistent and unreliable reporting, and had to establish the division’s own quality management system (QMS) to develop a common method and process for reporting and monitoring their projects.

AMPS had to ensure a CAPEX project at a hydro station would be delivered in exactly the same way as a CAPEX project at a coal station and guarantee any projects that could not be delivered would be highlighted as soon as possible in the financial year to allow budgets to be reassigned to other projects if needed.

Scottish Power was confident in its project delivery processes which had been working successfully, however its project management and QMS processes were far less reassuring. Planning and monitoring is paramount to Scottish Power being able to closely manage its budgets, resources and yearly plans. AMPS implemented a standard QMS and project management ethos across the division to provide everyone with the ability to monitor and update projects instantly and accurately at any point in the process.

How they did it

Scottish Power had been using Microsoft Project for several years and sought Microsoft’s advice on possible solutions for its plans to implement a division-wide project management QMS. Microsoft suggested a number of its partners to support the company through the implementation of a change management process for the AMPS Division. One of the recommended partners was Corporate Project Solutions (CPS).

After holding numerous internal meetings to decide on the correct project management QMS that would be rolled out across the AMPS division, Scottish Power decided it would need a software package to implement the technology. Focusing on replacing all of its outmoded project management processes and tools, such as PowerPoint, Access and Excel, Scottish Power aimed to create a clear and structured work ethos in project management offering business visibility and operational efficiency by using the Microsoft Enterprise Project Management (EPM) solution recommended by CPS.

Jamie Reid, project control manager at Scottish Power explains: “After a full review of the available technologies, we selected the Microsoft EPM solution as it was best suited to helping us align resources and workloads with the business objectives to effectively manage our portfolio of projects. Microsoft also recommended a number of its partners that specialize in both project management processes and the EPM technology. We were impressed by the feedback we received from another of CPS’ customers and decided to utilize the company’s extensive experience and knowledge in implementation and training.”

CPS worked closely with the AMPS team to install Microsoft Project, Project Server and Project Web Access (PWA), which offers a dynamic and straightforward interface for users to access live, up-to-date information. This allowed for improved management of projects, especially for the senior management who could see, at a glance, how well each team’s projects were progressing. Customized ‘red, amber, green’ (RAG) symbols were developed by project planning engineer Colin Gray and used to monitor the health of each project in terms of finance and objectives. The increased visibility for all relevant team members was especially beneficial in managing potential problems at an earlier stage in the project lifecycle, allowing for improved budget management and decision making.

CPS supported Scottish Power throughout the whole process and worked extensively with the AMPS team to ensure the smooth integration of systems and accurate data capture took place. CPS also visited frequently to talk the IT team through the process of developing the new architecture and the discussed how the new system would facilitate behavioural and cultural changes for the AMPS division.

Achieving Results

The implementation took four months from the initial requirement gathering stage to the live roll-out of the technology. Initially there were ten project control engineers using Microsoft Project and 40 PWA users. This interface proved so valuable there are now 120 PWA users.

Describing the process, Reid said: “The implementation was carried out effectively by CPS. The initial network issues, which were reducing project performance at many of the sites, were resolved through the use of remote desktops for a short period, before a more stable solution utilizing a Citrix server environment was implemented. This involved a significant interface between Scottish Power IT staff and the CPS team who were efficient, approachable and knowledgeable throughout the process.”

Cruachan is a 440 MW reversible pumped-storage power station, situated on the banks of Loch Awe in Argyll

Each individual in the AMPS team reports weekly on what work they have carried out and what they are planning to do. The reports then detail the impact of the work they have done using the RAGs system giving managers an early idea of how well the projects are delivering. Following the successful implementation, Scottish Power can now clearly see where it can develop and improve any potential inefficiency in the AMPS team. The business can forecast accuracy, resource efficiency and generally increase agility and responsiveness to ongoing market conditions.

Scottish Power had carried out a number of audits before the implementation on each of the AMPS teams in relation to the Quality Management System ISO9001 certification. Initially, scores of only between 30″40 per cent compliance were recorded in terms of required documentation being sent and stored to the correct place. More recent audits have shown that this process is now far more stringent with more than 90 per cent of projects being compliant.

The most noticeable benefit was for the AMPS manager, who previously had to phone around all the project managers to find out the status of their projects before each update meeting. This wasted a considerable amount of his time. Now he can log into the PWA and get all the information he needs instantly, meaning there is no need to involve every team member in the update meetings.

One of the most difficult change processes was encouraging people to think and behave differently towards project management. The early days were particularly difficult as staff began to realize it was no longer just a case of presenting to the management team using PowerPoint. Staff had to fully adopt the new technology in order to meet management expectations. The efficiency and budget savings from the new system allowed staff to take responsibility for any problems with projects and to tackle them before they become an issue.

What next?

Due to the implementation success and the excellent feedback from the AMPS team, other departments within Scottish Power are now considering how they can gain control of their CAPEX and REVEX delivery by utilizing CPS’ skills and technologies to improve overall project control.

At some point in the future Scottish Power will have to archive some of its projects because, at the end of 2010, the organization will have around three to four years worth of projects stored on its system. Archiving will allow the AMPS team to look back over previous projects, learn from them and continue to develop their project management techniques and trend data. Continuous improvement has been a key part of Scottish Power’s growth and development and a major aspect is its ISO9001 and PAS 55 status.

Both stipulate constant improvement and PAS 55, the British Standards Institution’s (BSI) Publicly Available Specification for optimized management of physical assets, means Scottish Power is recognized as an organization that has an established and verified whole-life management system for all types of physical assets. PAS 55 is an internationally known standard that is an essential definition of how Scottish Power demonstrates its competency and business improvement in strategic and organizational plans and day-to-day work.

The power utility is determined to maintain its status as it indicates the organization has a systematic and optimized approach to work and constantly delivers significant bottom-line cost and performance improvements. Scottish Power also holds quality management reviews every year so that team members can voice their thoughts to help maintain a high standard of project management and whole life cycle planning.

Large organizations, such as Scottish Power can very often get stuck in their ways and, like a huge oil tanker, find it difficult to change direction and work ethics throughout the organization. This in itself should be managed as a large project and by breaking it down into smaller sections, the process can be controlled far more effectively.

There are four key elements that Scottish Power has highlighted and other large organizations should consider when implementing new technology and project management techniques:

  • People: Experienced project management and project support staff trained in techniques, processes and tools.
  • Process: A standardised set of processes encompassing portfolio, programme, project and resource management should be implemented and monitored by the organization
  • Strategy: The business strategy needs to ensure organizational wide understanding of the entire project management process and culture.
  • Technology: The appropriate technology should underpin the other three elements and enable project delivery providing automated guidance, control, governance and reporting.


If all four elements are in place and are effective then businesses will be far better placed to deliver the right projects and to deliver them on time, to budget, to quality, and with the right benefits.

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