By Tony Collins
The Cabinet Office’s Major Project Authority gave the Universal Credit programme a “red” rating which IDS and the Department for Work and Pensions campaigned successfully to turn into a neutral “reset” designation, says The Independent.
Universal Credit was “only given a reset rating after furious protests by Iain Duncan Smith and his department,” says the newspaper.
A “reset” rating is unprecedented. All major projects at red will need a reset. That is one of the reasons the Major Projects Authority gives a red rating: to signal to the senior responsible owner that the project needs resetting or cancelling. A “reset” designation is a non-assessment.
The MPA’s official definition of a red rating is:
“Red: Successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable. There are major issues on project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolvable. The project may need re-scoping and/or its overall viability reassessed.”
The suppression of Universal Credit’s red rating may indicate that the project, at the top, is driven by politics – the public and Parliamentary perception of the project being all-important – rather than pragmatics.
It is a project management aphorism that serious problems cannot be tackled until their seriousness is admitted.
Normally the Major Projects Authority will give even newly reconfigured projects traffic light ratings, to indicate its view of the risks of the revised plans.
The Independent calls for the replacement of Iain Duncan Smith as political head of the project.
The National Audit Office warned last September of the DWP’s fortress mentality and “good news” culture.
The suppression of Universal Credit’s red rating on top of the DWP’s repeated refusals to publish the Universal Credit project assessment report, risk register, issues register and milestone schedule shows that the DWP still avoids telling it like it is. That will make successful delivery of Universal Credit’s complexities impossible.
Well-run IT projects are about problem-solving not problem-denying.
The Independent is right to say that IDS is not the person to be running Universal Credit. He has too much emotional equity to be an objective leader. He sees himself as having too much to lose. The programme needs to be run by an open-minded pragmatist.
In asking the Cabinet Office to agree with a “reset” rating for Universal Credit IDS is acting like a schoolboy who has done something wrong and asks the school not to tell his parents. That’s no way to run something as important as Universal Credit.
IDS and DWP accused of hiding bad news on Universal Credit - The Independent