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Log of top management change on the £2.2bn Universal Credit Programme.

March 8, 2013

Log of top management churn on the £2.2bn Universal Credit Programme.  

Update December 10th, 2014: Neil Couling, the 7th Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) for the Universal Credit programme, makes his first appearance in front of the Public Accounts Committee.

Update November 26th, 2014: The National Audit Office (NAO) reveals that Howard Shiplee (the ‘Senior Responsible Owner’ (SRO) since the start of 2014), had been “working only one day a week due to ill health and has now left the programme”. It is also revealed that his deputy also retired at the same time.

Update September 30th, 2014: Howard Shiplee resigns as Universal Credit boss as the National Audit Office complete their latest audit of the troubled project. Due to continuing bad health, his resignation is 6 months in advance of his interim contract period, and he gets out in advance of what is expected to be an excoriating report by the NAO government watchdog. Shiplee was hailed by Iain Duncan Smith as the man who would save the project after its ‘reset’ last year. The NAO report is expected to be published in November, and the Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Margaret Hodge MP, is expected to use it as fresh ammunition in condemning the project when it meets to publically grill the DWP boss Robert Devereux on December 10th.

Update February 3rd, 2014: “The former Olympics executive drafted in to rescue the Government’s flagship welfare reform has been off sick since before Christmas. Howard Shiplee, who was hired last May to oversee the controversial universal credit programme, has effectively been working part-time since then, keeping in touch with officials via conference calls.” The Times

Update March 27th, 2013: DWP has now announced that Howard Shiplee will succeed David Pitchford (see previous update below). Two points of interest: Shiplee’s title and exact terms of reference have not been made clear. Will he continue to ‘wear the two hats’ of SRO and Programme Director (see below)? And will be undoubted experience and skill at delivering buildings stand him in good stead in leading the UK government’s largest software project?

Update March 11th, 2013: The news that Hilary was moving on was noted on this blog first. We now have confirmation that David Pitchford is now “chief executive for Universal Credit (which) effectively combines the Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) and Programme Director roles.” (The Register 11/3/13)  By doing this DWP are going off-piste into uncharted governance arrangements – the Cabinet Office best practice guidance specifically differentiates accountability of the SRO for strategic success from the day-to-day responsibility for running a programme (see page 3 here).

During her brief tenure, Reynolds had released information into the public domain (rather obliquely) via a letter to Local Authority CEOs and in meetings with Trade Union representatives that revealed that the technology for Universal Credit will not be ready in April, and that the roll-out from October will be much slower than previously expected. (See previous blog).

Reynolds replaced the previous Programme Director Malcolm Whitehouse CBE just 4 months ago in November 2012.  On her appointment DWP simply simply said:

“She is a senior civil servant with over 25 years experience in the public sector here and in New Zealand. She is currently responsible for benefits delivery in the Department for Work and Pensions.” The Reg March 9th

Raised in New Zealand, she had returned to her homeland from DWP in 2011 on secondment to work ‘down-under’ as Deputy CEO of the Ministry of Social Development in Wellington.

Update January 22, 2013: Just two months into a major replanning of the £2.2bn project news was announced that Universal Credit boss Philip Langsdale had passed away on 22nd DecemberA personal tragedy that has ramifications for the delivery of the Universal Credit timetable.

Philip Langsdale had a distinguished track record of turning around difficult IT projects. His appointment as Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) was announced in May 2012, and he took up his post in August. By November Langsdale was acting Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) for the project as SRO Terry Moran took extended sick leave, and a wholesale change of management took place.

Philip Langsdale speaking at Air Transport IT Summit in Cannes, France in 2009

Philip Langsdale, CIO at DWP and driving force behind the recent replanning of the
£2.2bn Universal Credit project, passed away on December 22, 2012, aged 56

Sources indicate that there could be support for a sensible pause to re-establish leadership continuity and revisit the Universal Credit timetable and implementation plan, especially with regard to more stress on piloting and phasing to avoid a ‘big-bang’ implementation this October. Organisations such as the FBI have successfully recovered $100m+ projects using such incremental, agile approaches.

© Brian Wernham 2013 CC BY-NC-ND

From → Agile Governance

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