A focus on through-life management

Project Through Life Management

Increasingly, large and complex programmes are taking a ‘through-life management’ approach (TLM). This approach is usually applied to large-scale programmes with an ongoing requirement, such as maintenance, modification and support, and is designed to cover everything from identifying the initial scope to the full disposal of an asset or a smooth transition to a new programme owner. 

Done well, through-life management produces significant cost and time savings, supporting agile, budget-efficient and successful projects. This is becoming increasingly important in high-profile public sector programmes where there is scrutiny on costs and performance on behalf of the taxpayer.

Large-scale programmes usually require several specialist organisations to work together.  Historically, procurement approaches have been driven by the ‘lowest cost’ factor, rather than a broader view of what is best for the programme.

Inflexible contract clauses – particularly penalty clauses, which have been known to cause protracted legal arguments – and an unwillingness for one company to give way to another has created significant issues on programmes, putting them back by months or even years, resulting in poor value for everyone involved.

Through-life management seeks to avoid those problems by taking a collaborative approach. This is a tough ask:  collaboration on large projects is about much more than just being nice to everyone. There are clear challenges to getting multiple companies to work together towards agreed goals. But the evidence shows that this approach works – and that it can be continued throughout not just the original stages of the programme but into longer-term contracts for maintenance or upgrading.

The challenges of through-life management

There are several organisational challenges to successful through-life management:

Leadership buy-in – through-life management requires clear and unequivocal leadership from the very top. As soon as contractors or programme managers feel that the approach is not supportive, it can collapse. The senior leaders in every organisation involved – from the end-customer to the smallest contractor – must be committed to a through-life management approach and ensure that working towards that end is firmly
embedded in their organisation.

Clear communication – it’s commonly known that relationships break down when communication is poor. This applies equally to large projects, where disparate teams need to be regularly in touch. It also applies to any policies or procedures that are drawn up for the overall programme and for individual elements.

Policies should be clear, open and agreed by all parties, with supplier organisations and project owners having clearly defined roles and responsibilities to which they can be held accountable.

Reliance on transparency – this is a big challenge for teams working on complex programmes. Contractors often want to maintain a commercial edge when on a project, and that often means a decision not to share information with others, or to part-share. A through-life management approach only works if all parties are honest and transparent. Any other way of working produces more conflict and
contributes to a reduced likelihood of success.

Willingness to be different – large-scale projects can easily suffer from the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ approach. And of course, it is hard to change habits and ingrained behaviours, even if we know they don’t contribute to successful results. Adopting a through-life management approach means adopting new tools and methods of working, and may require different resources to engage, maintain, review and
measure behaviours and progress.

Rich data collection – data is critical to the performance of long-term projects. This is particularly the case for through-life management, where contractors, teams and individuals can change on a regular basis. Putting in good data collection and management techniques at the start of a project can help everyone to see where the issues are, what approaches are working and report on
progress. It also allows new people to join the programme and get up to speed more efficiently.

What does through-life management mean for procurement?

Through life management is a particular challenge for procurement, where decisions may previously have been made on cost-based metrics rather than proof of a collaborative or values-driven approach. Those preparing tenders and reviewing or assessing bids need to have a wider view and give more weight to ‘soft skills’ and collaborative leadership experience. Using through-life management means that procurement becomes more about finding the best option across a broader range of measures.

Likewise, procurement departments may need to revisit contracts. Once suppliers have been
selected, there needs to be a ‘standard’ contract process that is agreed across and between parties. There should be incentives as well as clawbacks – successful through-life management collaborative projects have shown that when suppliers are not siloed but work together, problems are solved faster and more creatively. Some projects even return project savings to suppliers as a bonus, encouraging them to work together to find creative and money-saving solutions to project issues. This is a step-change in how most large project procurement is run but has been shown to be extremely effective.

Getting the right people on board

As with all critical programmes, success comes when you hire the right people. Starting out with a collaborative attitude, a good approach to managing people, a clear head in conflict situations and a great grasp of wider communications issues means that collaboration project leaders will bring people with them.

In many cases, problems with a through-life management approach are caused by leaders – at all levels – failing to take this approach. Getting the right people on board will give a through-life management project a good head start.

Talk to us about supporting you in putting together a through-life management focused procurement model, making sure that your company demonstrates its through-life management qualities in your bid, or to find talented and experienced programme specialists that can put your through-life management project on the right track.

If you are looking for some additional assistance resourcing or managing a project, speak to Augmentas on 0208 154 4057 or email us at info@augmentasgroup.com