The Budget must match any ‘surge’ in new project investment with the capability to deliver successfully
Investing in people, as well as material resources, is essential to successfully building back better, according to Association for Project Management (APM).
With the roadmap out of lockdown already made public, the next element to secure a confident and sustained recovery, must be a detailed framework within the Budget Statement on 3 March that will facilitate the right conditions for project success, matching any ‘surge’ in new project investment with the capability to deliver them successfully.
APM calls for the Chancellor’s Budget to provide the resources to deliver the new National Infrastructure Strategy (published last November) and create the right dynamic to drive decision-making and investment across all sectors, addressing the challenges of levelling up the UK’s infrastructure and social fabric and achieving progress towards Net Zero.
This can help rebuild economic and social resilience following the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.
APM has set out a three-point plan to ’lock-in’ successful delivery of building back better measures after lockdown:
Ensure any economic recovery plan embeds the right ingredients for long term success and underpins the new National Infrastructure Strategy.
APM agrees with the National Infrastructure Commission’s four ‘conditions’ for a sustained and sustainable recovery: long term perspective; clear goals and plans to achieve them; a firm funding commitment; and a genuine commitment to change.
APM’s forthcoming research into the ‘dynamic conditions for project success’ in June will help to develop specific measures based on evidence collected across a spectrum of sectors.
Build project delivery capability and capacity at all levels and in the right places.
The National Infrastructure Strategy identified the need for more senior project professionals for major projects and, in addition, that the commitment to ‘levelling up’ is matched by the necessary capacity. We welcome, as a major piece of capacity building, the forthcoming launch of the Government Project Academy under the aegis of the Infrastructure and Project Authority later in March. In addition, recent comments by former top Whitehall mandarin Dame Sue Owen, that a key lesson from COVID-19 is that delivery professionals need to be involved at an earlier and more strategic level in government policy development, should be heeded.
Focus in a sustainable and joined-up way to get to Net Zero effectively
If the UK is to keep up the momentum and address the Net Zero challenge it needs to learn the lessons from the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit – both good and bad – about how to ensure it gets the delivery right, and not just the policy. APM’s president Sue Kershaw argued, at a recent Institute for Government (IfG) conference, the case for ensuring Net Zero planning factors in the following to achieve better outcomes:
- Comprehensive and continuous stakeholder engagement and public engagement
- A proper joined-up approach across government – and with other agents of delivery
- Ensuring the promised investment in project delivery skills and capacity at the heart of government is promoted and sustained
- Government embeds the latest project management thinking, for example systems thinking, and adopts a dynamic assurance approach (i.e. ensuring you get delivery as you progress, not at the end)
- Assess gaps in delivery capability and consider creating the Net Zero equivalents of the Olympic Delivery Authority to tackle infrastructure challenges.
David Thomson, head of external affairs at APM, said: “This Budget must build on the National Infrastructure Strategy to project the economy, through focused infrastructure investment and strengthened regional economic activity. Our regional research reveals that project management is making a significant contribution and has the potential to galvanise change – both at a national and regional level.
“Project professionals will need to develop skills that can address emerging challenges and deliver sustainable solutions. Whether projects form part of plans for tackling disease, building modern high-speed railways, tackling the effects of climate change, or planning the construction of new homes, it is important that people have the right attributes and skillsets to adapt and thrive.
“We urge the Government to identify and invest in the right skills to help promote the building back for skills development. Investing in people, as well as material resources, will create the skills necessary to deliver projects now and in the future.”