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APM Programme of the year 2015 - MoD rotary wing strategic balancing

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BAWA was the venue for this event which highlighted the winner of the 2015 APM Programme of the Year, MoD’s Rotary Wing Strategic Balancing. Before the start of the event we had a bit of concern with the IT, but we were very grateful to Nadim Hussain who stepped in to help.

Our speaker tonight, Ian Craddock, led the team who won APM’s top award for programme management.  Ian is acting Director of MoD DE&S Helicopter Operating Centre, and is responsible for all aspects of the procurement and support of the UK’s Tri-Service helicopter fleet.

Ian started with the catalyst for the change. Prior to 2009 there was much bad press about UK’s helicopter fleet, both numbers and quality in supporting action in Iraq and Afghanistan. All three Armed Services want helicopters, but they were not the priority for investment; these were ships, tanks and fast jets. This was compounded by the 2007/08 financial crisis. As a result the helicopter fleet had multiple configurations, fleet fits were often not complete and obsolescence was a real issue.

In 2009, the then Minister for Defence Equipment & Support announced a strategic review of the helicopter fleet to address the problems. The high level goals were to address capability gaps, reduce whole life costs, and deal with obsolescence and safety issues, within the existing budget.

The first step was to undertake a strategic analysis which used sophisticated operational analysis or ‘war gaming’ to model a variety of likely scenarios or missions. The trick was how to present this complex information in a compelling way that bought in senior staff and politicians. A measure of ‘lift effect’ was developed, which combined with cost could provide a comparative economic measure for the different options being assessed.  This resulted in a plan which offered 28% more lift capability for the same budget.

The strategic plan had full stakeholder buy-in from the three Services. The programme was very complex. Chinook was recognised as the main work horse, extras were bought and the rest upgraded and modernised, along with the Merlin, and Puma fleets. Lynx is being replaced by new Wildcat helicopters and the Sea King is being replaced by Merlin. The earlier than planned retirement of the Sea King, Lynx and Gazelle fleets would save money as life extension programmes were not needed.  £440M is being saved over 5 years by changing the original transactional support and repair contracts with availability focussed contracts, which incentivise suppliers to invest to increase reliability. In total some 250 helicopters are being bought or modernised. 

In addition to the technical complexity, the programme had multiple customers - the three Services -  as well as multiple suppliers, training systems, support and repair, along with balancing maintaining business as usual with operations in Afghanistan as well as counter terrorism. The programme also had to interface with three other complex transformational programmes: Transition of ownership of Merlin from RAF to Royal Navy, the relocation of Army Air Corps from Germany to UK, and crew transitions: RAF Merlin to Chinook; Sea King to Merlin.

The programme organisation and governance had to adapt over time. In the initial strategic phase, there was an Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) for each programme element and the focus was on managing the complex boundaries and interfaces. A programme support office was used to manage the interfaces and business change managers introduced into the front line commands. For the execution phase, the SRO leadership continued though the delivery focus shifted to platform focused teams, responsible for the individual projects as well as Business as Usual. A programme environment was used to share lessons across the whole programme.

There was also a big investment in the people, with teams led by senior staff with the RPP qualification, and staff encouraged to take qualifications and to develop transferable skills to facilitate staff being moved to where they were needed across the programme.

Benefits are being realised with the completion of tranche 1 in 2015. The Puma Mk 2 has double the lift and range of the Mk1. The Chinook Mk6 has increased lift capability. The Merlin Mk2 is more versatile and capable. The Wildcat has achieved initial operating capability.  The capability gaps identified in 2009 have all been closed at no extra cost.

Tranche 2 is continuing and is on target to deliver the identified benefits by 2020. 

A significant soft benefit is the much increased reputation of MOD Defence Equipment & Support to deliver to performance, time and cost.

Ian summarised by looking at lessons from the programme, including what worked well. Effective stakeholder management: understanding what the services actually needed. Having a common narrative, and generating a compelling narrative around which support from the various stakeholders could coalesce. Building genuine commitment from all parties, including suppliers, to succeed. Stability of the senior team with clear ownership of delivery. PPM development ensured common lexicon & supported career planning.  A programme approach enabled coherent decisions in face of funding challenges.

Things that could have been improved included: the need for a more effective change management process to manage scope changes. More effective prioritisation of scarce resource across DE&S and suppliers/industry, including technical advisors. The need to recognise earlier the complexity of transition from existing to upgraded equipment.

Five new capabilities have been delivered to UK Armed Forces and £440 million saved from the forecast cost of supporting the fleet for the next 5 years, without impacting military effectiveness.
The power of project management has been used to transform capabilities, transform reputation, and build confidence for the future.  

The presentation slides are available on the APM web site with a copy displayed below.

Martin Gosden
SWWE Branch Chair


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