There were a number of contenders for the Project Management Award. The judges were appreciative of Vodafone’s work in eprocurement, which has used individual projects, in this case the rollout of 3G to successive territories, to establish their e-trading platforms and processes. It takes confident project management to risk experimenting with new techniques on critical projects that constitute the future of the business, and a high degree of trust between the supply chain managers promoting e-trading and the managers of the individual roll-outs.
Also noteworthy was British Gas’ ‘Project Brodie’. This builds on the replacement of the ten-year old National Parts Centre by a new NDC at Leicester which supports 8,300 field engineers. Project Brodie includes besides the new warehouse and offices, wholesale systems upgrades including e-commerce enhancements, and revised people and supplier management strategies, all to be deployed while maintaining safety and health-critical cover to 6.9 million contract holders. However, the project will not be completed until next year, so it is too early to judge its success. British American Tobacco was also praised for ‘managing the scale and co-ordination of such a large-scale supply chain transformation project on clear timelines. They are doing a great job’.
But the judges’ choice ultimately fell on Sainsburys. ‘Managing projects that run according to plan is one thing; rescuing projects that have gone so far adrift that your company is being criticised in the news pages, not just in the business supplements, is quite another. Sainsbury’s supply chain team have been a vital part of the ‘Make Sainsburys great again’ campaign, and they have succeeded triumphantly’.
The company says that ‘The scale of the activity that we have managed over the last 18 months would not have been possible without great project management, and this continues to be the case as we embark on our next level of change activity’. They identify a number of critical success factors. Evaluation means having a robust business case development and sign-off process both within the supply chain and at Board level, ensuring that new projects are fully aligned to corporate objectives and clearly take account of dependencies and operational activity in other parts of the company. A robust framework for project initiation and control, from concept to delivery and ultimately closure is vital. All the key steps were interspaced with go/no go checkpoints to keep the project on track, and comprehensive project governance gives all the team members clear responsibilities. A communication plan, to include stakeholder involvement as well as the usual status updates, was a very early project element, and the company took time to select the right project team members and ensure they received appropriate training and development as project skills requirements are often rather different to managers’ normal operational skills.
Also vital to success, Sainsburys believe, was the care taken to engage ‘hearts and minds’ and explain the likely impacts of the project to everyone affected, and to have appropriate strategies to deal with the inevitable resistance to change.
That makes Project Management sound quite easy, but it is nonetheless remarkable that Sainsburys has achieved significant change for the supply chain and the wider business while at the same time recording continuous improvements in all the key KPIs – dramatic improvements in service/availability, significantly reduced wastage, and reduced costs.