Basildon Council Upskills Project Managers with APM Accredited Training from Wellingtone

Basildon Council has 42 elected members representing 16 wards across Basildon, Billericay, and Wickford. In 2016, CIPFA (The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) published its framework: Delivering Good Governance in Local Government’. Basildon Council responded by publishing its ‘Local Code of Corporate Governance’, articulating its aim of “achieving intended outcomes, while acting in the public interest at all times”. The Code’s priorities (paraphrased) include optimising outcomes for public benefit, developing capacity and capability, effectively managing risks and controls, and ensuring public accountability through good transparency, reporting and audit practices.

In early 2021, Basildon Council’s PMO was restructured and expanded to support the delivery of the council’s corporate strategic portfolio. With new people coming on board, the PMO identified a need for specialist training to establish a baseline of project management skills. Wellingtone was initially selected to deliver a customised, APM Accredited training course to 75 staff members throughout a nine month period. Alison Sadik is now the Corporate Programme Manager for Transformation at the Council, while Louise Evans is the Programme Manager leading the PMO. At the time of the training, both worked closely with Wellingtone in their previous roles jointly managing the PMO. Together, they recall how Wellingtone handled the training and reflect on the level of service and benefits they enjoyed.

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Overview

Customer

Basildon Council

Products and Services

Customised Project Management Training

APM Accredited Training

Country

United Kingdom

Industry

Local Government

Key Benefits

  • An introductory course, fully customised to the PMO’s methodology and ways of working.
  • 75 delegates trained so far, with a waiting list for further courses.
  • APM Accreditation to reinforce course content and support professional development.
  • An emerging project management Community of Practice, initiated by delegates.
  • Five-star feedback for the course content and quality of delivery.

A Bespoke Approach, Aligning Course Content to the Council’s Ways of Working

The pair wanted a training provider who could adapt to their PMO’s circumstances, Alison explains. “We are a comparatively small council with around 900 staff, but we recognise that the world of work is changing. We wanted to prepare the organisation for an enhanced focus on project delivery, to support our Local Code commitments. We were also moving to Microsoft Dynamics and Microsoft 365.

Our research suggested that Wellingtone, as a Microsoft Gold Partner, would align well with the IT transformation agenda as well as our training needs. So, we approached them with our brief, and they quickly understood what we were trying to do. In my experience, project management demands a wide range of skills beyond simply understanding and applying frameworks. For example, elected members review and decide on all business cases in our environment, so skills like effective communication and stakeholder management are important. We wanted a bespoke approach aligned to our thinking and to our PMO’s methodology. Wellingtone were happy to work with us to adapt to those priorities.”

The council has a five-stage minimum requirement for all projects, from our Project Initiation Document (PID) through to detailed delivery plans and milestones, closure and lessons learned. We wanted to equip our people with a confident understanding of those stages and to show them how our PMO and Risk Management Team can support and guide them. We also wanted to offer APM Accreditation – both to reinforce delegates’ confidence in what they had learned and to support their professional development.

Louise Evans, Programme Manager, PMO

Wellingtone took these requirements on board and customised their ‘Running Successful Projects’ introductory course, with an APM PFQ (Association for Project Management Project Fundamentals Qualification) attached. “Wellingtone assigned a Senior Training Consultant who worked with us as a single point of contact throughout the training programme,” Alison says. “This ensured a consistent approach and messaging, plus our consultant took care of all the exam logistics for us.  We found Wellingtone’s approach to be extremely flexible. For example, at our request they shortened the course from four days to two and a half, to avoid overloading our people. They also switched the agenda so that, instead of taking the APM qualification followed by a best practice module, they delivered that module first to ensure that delegates were confident about tackling the corresponding section of the exam. Their specially adapted course content gave our delegates the skills and ways of working they needed, not just in project delivery, but in service delivery and BAU as well.”

Creating a Community of Practice to Promote Continuous Improvement

Training was delivered to cohorts of eight to ten delegates over a total of nine months. Prior to starting, the PMO collaborated with Wellingtone to create a buzz around the training, resulting in an enthusiastic uptake. “We are a small, friendly council, so our PMO was able to engage with people organically to promote the training’s value,” says Louise. “Wellingtone added some lovely touches, like sending out the training pack in advance complete with sweets and gifts that people really appreciated. Overall, we achieved excellent buy-in and feedback. I also attended to represent the PMO. It enabled me to relate the course content to real-life examples and our ways of working. I explained how, as a PMO, we can help and support staff. In a virtual environment during Covid, that reinforced the message that the PMO’s door is always open, regardless of whether we are co-located or working remotely.”

The course also triggered another initiative at Basildon: establishing a Community of Practice for project management. “That idea came from the delegates themselves. The first few sessions were very well attended, but we paused the initiative to accommodate other priorities,” says Louise. “We aim to relaunch it this year. It feels like the right time, as our PMO is moving to become more of an assurance function. So, we are devolving day-to-day project management but still stepping in where extra support is needed. The Community of Practice will allow members to share experiences and ideas, giving them a safe space to reflect on lessons learnt and continuous improvement opportunities. We were oversubscribed for the original course, we have a waiting list for further sessions, and we can see the impact of the training on our staff’s day-to-day work. We are now exploring how else Wellingtone might support us, which speaks volumes about the quality of their service and involvement.”

We had five-star feedback for the training itself and it has been a fantastic experience. Wellingtone is extremely knowledgeable, but also flexible and customer-focused. There was nothing they couldn’t do for us. I would say to anyone seeking training of this sort, there is no need to look any further!

Alison Sadik, Corporate Programme Manager, Transformation