Environment Agency Constraint Tracker

Author: Martin Paver
Date: October 11, 2022

The Environment Agency (Public sector organisation) instinctively knew that there was a degree of turbulence on every project but weren’t able to quantify its impact. They understood that a number of factors were creating delays that didn’t feature in traditional risk and issues registers. They set out to surface these factors and begin to highlight the impact of this turbulence across the Agency by collecting the evidence within an app. This is enabling them to manage turbulence as a whole, segmenting the data based on clustering rather than through traditional silos of change management, logistics or business cases. It will help them to transform how they operate.

Key Outcome
Take Home Messages

The intention was to gain visibility of the turbulence that was impeding project progress and absorbing avoidable effort, to help prioritise and shape a series of data driven interventions.

The key pain points they faced were:

  • Lack of visibility of the source, scale or impact of turbulence on a project. The insights were getting through to the management team.
  • The impact of this turbulence on the organisation’s ability to deliver its portfolio.
  • The level of waste involved in managing this turbulence, which was consuming resource when the organisation already had a staffing shortfall.
  • The impact of this turbulence on team morale, cohesiveness and collaboration.
  • No clear, easy way of reporting constraints.
  • No method in place to understand the value and impact of constraints. If data did exist, it generally existed in silos.
  • Lack of insight to enable senior level intervention.

Projecting Success initially worked with the client to explore the solution envelope within a hackathon. We were then tasked with further developing and productionising a Constraint Tracker App for recording, tracking, visualising and analysing the turbulence.

Within a matter of weeks we were able to develop an app that allowed staff to submit constraints and delays that they faced within their projects. During a 6 week pilot by a small team of users, the app surfaced 12 months of delay that would previously have been opaque. Now that the concept has been proven, further iterations of the app are in the pipeline to provide analysis and deeper insights.

The app also feeds an overview to senior members of the project/organisational team to help give an understanding of the key constraints, the scale and impact of constraints. This would help the EA understand the impact on the wider organisation.

By working closely with the client we were able to navigate some of the short term challenges with deployment by spinning up an instance on a separate tenant. A simple, cost effective an secure solution to what was proving to be a significant IT based obstacle.

The tool helps drive a culture change by providing insight on the turbulence that is affecting project delivery, a route to resolving it and enabling rapid access to solutions to known problems.

The EA is starting to develop a rich picture of the challenges that are impeding timely project delivery and consuming scarce resources. This picture was previously unavailable and is now enabling:

  • Teams to understand that they have a voice. By surfacing the issues they can help to identify a route to resolving them that was otherwise unavailable.
  • The teams can step out of siloes, sharing constraints and collaborating to solve them. This prevents wasted time duplicating solutions
  • Improved constraint reporting with cleaner data under the surface. This enables more advanced insights to be pulled from the information.
  • Staff feeling heard and recognised, reducing blame and stress when experiencing constraints. It provides a tool for collaboration and addressing interface issues.
  • A change in approach from traditional risk and issue management, to managing all of the turbulence around project delivery, irrespective of origin. Evidence driven, that will also help to facilitate proactive interventions.
  • Stepping outside organisational siloes and facilitating cross team working.

Typically when we think of operational risks, we focus on issues that are often large in instance and impact. The EA found that turning attention to the general day to day turbulence they were able to surface key themes, increase productivity and improve collaboration. This is a critical step to shifting the approaches to risk management and managing productivity.

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