Serco Travels Evolving Journey to PPM Maturity with Microsoft Project Online

Originally established in 1929, today Serco is a specialist provider of essential public services in the UK & Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and the Middle East. Employing 50,000+ people worldwide, the organisation delivers a portfolio across defence, transport, justice, immigration, healthcare and other citizen services. This cross-sector, global experience equips Serco to transfer emerging best practice, share new service innovations and improve the performance of public services. In the UK & Europe, Serco is driving an ongoing journey to PPM maturity by standardising methodologies, efficiencies and working practices.

In 2018, Darren Russell joined Serco as Head of Project Delivery for Project and Programmes in the UK & Europe division. Working in partnership with PPM technology specialists, Wellingtone, Darren and his team are rolling out Microsoft Project Online to Corporate Shared Services plus three other departments, each with its own maturity level. The work is constantly evolving, demanding an intelligent approach to the configuration that allows Project Online to flex to each departmental priority, whilst also providing a central repository. The journey is not without its challenges, but the foundations are now laid to generate significant benefits in the near future, as Darren explains.

Serco Logo




Products and Services

Microsoft Project Online


United Kingdom


Public Services

Key Benefits

  • Introduction of a standardised Serco-specific methodology across four key departments.
  • Project Online configuration to balance standardisation with project templates (EPTs).
  • Iterative training and rollout, with a ‘lessons learned’ approach for continuous improvement.

Project Online: Facilitating Visibility and Standardisation whilst Maintaining Flexibility

“When I joined Serco, the issues our division faced were typical to any large project portfolio,” Darren explains. “We struggled with a lack of visibility across all projects, including bids and transitions. It was hard to fully understand which were in flight, what was in the pipeline, what our available resources were and so on. Corporate Shared Services (CSS) is essentially the support function across our business services – HR, Finance, People Services and, importantly, IT Services. CSS also faced the same issues and the MD for that area had asked the teams to work on finding a solution that would address their needs. It seemed sensible to bring the two areas together and so our initial priority was to achieve a harmonised project management approach. We started by addressing methodology – we have developed our own methodology and we needed to make that consistent across the division in terms of processes, tools, templates and documentation. The next step was to identify a tool that could help us take things to the next level and manage projects more coherently. We previously engaged with Project Online some seven or eight years ago, but never fully got it off the ground. So, we approached Wellingtone to help us configure and build the technology to best serve our methodology and principles.”

Wellingtone initially conducted a requirement gathering process before producing a full configuration specification for Project Online. “Our departments vary in their maturity, level of formal project management skills, portfolio size and complexity,” says Darren. “So, a key challenge has been establishing a system that facilitates each departmental Enterprise Project Type (EPT) whilst providing a coherent whole. Wellingtone built the first wave of configuration to cater to our EPT variations, then began initial training and enhanced the functionality as the first users fed back to us. It’s an iterative process as we test, reflect and develop accordingly.”

The Wellingtone team know their stuff. They’re very responsive and adaptable, which is just what we need because they can flex their service as we evolve our approach.

Darren Russell, Head of Project Delivery 

An Intelligent Approach: Balancing Departmental Priorities and Divisional Cohesion

Whilst visibility was the primary challenge facing all departments, each also required specialist attention to fit their own priorities. Local Government Partnerships needed to revise their incumbent system, addressing manual working and planning with refreshed functionality and new reporting tools. Transition requested a workflow to better manage project controls, planning and resourcing. Meanwhile, ITS required sophisticated, governance-led functionality to drive reporting and semi-automated statuses within one methodology, with a phase 2 project designed to introduce a project controls workflow.

“Each EPT is linked into the process that we originally mapped out, but in terms of workflow there are some differences that we need to accommodate,” Darren explains. “Within the Projects & Programmes Team and Corporate Shared Services, we also have different EPTs according to project size and complexity, but effectively they all run to the same process. So, we can consistently report cross those different projects and programmes, and that’s what we want to do for everybody. It’s an evolving journey, but we’re now at the stage where we have something that’s looking far more standardised – albeit with iterations flexed to each department’s processes and priorities.”

Expanding Project Online: Ambitions for the Future

Having established Project Online across the four departments, the priority now is to roll out user training and focus on the technology’s further potential, according to Darren. “We’re currently working to get everyone trained and bedded in, and we’re exploring Power BI reporting to understand what drivers that can deliver for us. We’ll be enhancing our use of pipeline management to better prioritise projects. In the longer term, we’re keen to look at what we can do with resourcing – it’s vital for us to get total visibility across a very complex resource pool. Plus, we need to continue to harmonise processes. My aim is to establish a technical review board to represent each of the areas and EPT variants – so that when we do make improvements we’re doing so collectively and in line with the guiding principles of what we’re trying to achieve.”

As the journey continues, Welllingtone’s expertise will continue to be a value-adding facilitator both technically and strategically, Darren says. “Ultimately, our organisation has 50,000 people in it, so this was never going to be a simple process. Wellingtone were transparent with us about that from the start. The team know their stuff. They’re very responsive and adaptable, which is just what we need because they can flex their service as we evolve our approach. We’re not far enough down the road yet to realise truly tangible benefits but I can see that they’re coming. Also, as a project professional, I consider the process and lessons learned to be just as important as final delivery. I’m pleased to have Wellingtone as a partner as we travel that road.”