Having worked with many central government departments, the various guidance documentation plays an important role in their Microsoft Project Online deployments. These guidance books are a best practice guide for all 24 central government departments and executive agencies, covering projects of all types and sizes. Therefore, it is also essential that PMOs working within central government understand these publications, so that they can support major programmes and projects by delivering advice, best practice and following mandatory processes as outlined in these guidance books.

In summary, there are 4 main government guidance books:

  • The Green book – appraisal and evaluation in central government
  • The Orange book – management of risk – principles and concepts
  • The Aqua book – guidance on producing quality analysis for government
  • The Magenta book – central government guidance on evaluation

Whilst this guidance documentation is comprehensive, the supplementary publications are a useful high-level starting point for understanding each book. Most central government departments also have their own versions of this guidance, specifically tailored to their ways of working, internal governance processes and thresholds as provided by HMT [Her Majesty’s Treasury]. In this article, we paying particular attention to the Green and Orange books because they are more relevant to Microsoft Project Online deployments and PMOs.

The Green Book - Central Government Guidance on Appraisal and EvaluationThe Green book is of particular importance and aims to make the appraisal process throughout government more consistent and transparent. Paul Dakin (Owner of ‘Demystify’ – a firm delivering support and management of the business case process amongst other consultancy services to central government departments) provides a helpful summary of this guidance. From options analysis through to procurement (OJEU – see HERE), the 5-case model allows options to be rigorously compared and recommendations systematically selected.

Managing Successful Projects Prince2The majority of public sector projects are now required to justify their need via a set of business cases, featuring a cost-benefits analysis which takes into account financial, societal and environmental benefits. A helpful starting point is “Assessing Business Case ‘A Short Plain English Guidance”, which summarises the role of HMT and the 5 business case model required as the proposal develops. This approach is aligned to PRINCE2 and is a waterfall-centric approach. Agile projects are likely to follow Cabinet Office smaller-scale guidance via a ‘Spend Controls Form’ which requires approval from GDS [Government Digital Services]. Further summarised guidance for agile IT projects can be found here.

The Green Book was last published in 2018 – revised to capture further environmental benefits and policy evaluation. It is currently under review, with a new version to be released which recognises regional investment and social benefits. Essentially, the wellbeing of people in poorer areas is to be made a key investment measure as well as national growth. This could be a real opportunity to boost those areas in the UK that are struggling.

The Orange Book is also of considerable value in our context of defining a PPM solution and working with public sector PMOs. This book encourages an open and transparent culture to managing risk, promoting collaboration with all relevant stakeholders. Being aligned to the AXELOS publication ‘Management of Risk’, it enhances strategic planning and prioritisation and encompasses both a top-down and bottom-up approach to risk escalation.

Just like the Green book, communication and involvement of key stakeholders is vital in the implementation of this guidance and management of risk.  The three lines of defence approach to risk management involves internal controls, oversight/control and internal audits (For example, the NAO, the IPA etc). As stated in the guidance, effective risk management informs business decisions, enables more effective use of resources, enhances strategic and business planning, and strengthens contingency planning. From the initial identification process through to reporting and escalation, managing risks effectively is fundamental to successful project and programme. It is a service area where the PMO continues to add value, especially if aligned to the risk management model as outlined below (excerpt from the Orange book).

UK Treasury Orange BookBoth the Orange and Green guidance books are extremely relevant to the PMO within central government due to the fundamental reliance on certain core skills that are found within this function to implement – stakeholder management being one of these. Keeping key stakeholders involved in the process, from both a business case management and risk management perspective, is vital to ensure the success of each process. Having good governance processes in place is critical to ensure that business cases can follow the correct assurance procedures and also that risks are managed and escalated in a timely and appropriate way. Business cases may be approved internally, usually by a Programme Board and Investment Committee, Sub-Committee and/or appropriate Management Board. This is in-line with the delegated authority from HMT for the relevant department.

Risk management, stakeholder engagement, planning, reporting and governance assurance should be at the heart of every PMO within government. These are such vital services to be offered to the project management community within departments and are areas where the PMO can quickly add value, being perceived as a strategic business partner. Continual improvement is also a key theme within these guidance books and the PMO should always be striving to achieve this, depending on their maturity level.

In summary, the PMO function is in a unique position to enable and support both the Green and Orange guidance publications – the 5-case model and risk management. Microsoft Project Online is a PPM tool which can be used to enhance these areas as well, enabling collaboration, risk management and stakeholder management. Dynamic reporting can be achieved via power BI.  A combination of the right PPM tool and the right people will ensure success, not only in the adoption of the best practice documentation but also for projects and programmes themselves.

Should you require further information on these guidance books or would like to find out more about Microsoft Project Online or our PMO Consultancy services, please get in touch.

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Monthly Newsletter

By: Emma Arnaz-Pemberton

Emma Arnaz-Pemberton
Consulting Director FAPM, MCMI, MPMI, MIoD PMO-CC, MoR, MSP, PRINCE2
Categories: Microsoft PPM

Published: 28 April 2020

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