THE CLIENT: Scottish Water is Scotland’s water services provider, funded through water rates levied on all householders and businesses. As you might expect, there’s a strong scientific aspect to this heavily regulated utility.
THE CHALLENGE FOR THE CLIENT: I was placed into Scottish Water by CompanyNet to help with limited internal capacity, and assist with complying with fairly high levels of internal and external scrutiny. It had two challenges – it was taking over waterworks previously run by Yorkshire Water and separately, its Scientific Services team was due for external inspection on its information-handling processes and was experiencing difficulties with its information architecture resulting in file names hitting character limits.
The Challenge for Me
Both challenges involved considerable preparation and knowledge discovery for me – the first on water industry infrastructure, both physical and software, and the second on the complexities of information architecture. There were cultural aspects to both projects – one involved the transfer into Scottish Water of a set of employees with Yorkshire Water knowledge and expectations and the second involved training staff to follow better naming convention and information handling processes.
WHAT DID I DO?: I managed both projects to successful conclusions, going live to quality expectations, within the agreed budget and to the agreed timescale. On the absorption of Yorkshire Water plant and people this involved co-ordinating technical resources from Yorkshire Water, physical infrastructure from BT, third party contractors and the new workforce. On the second project, this involved working with technical specialists from CompanyNet, progressing our plan through its milestones and working closely with the client and client staff on ways to prevent the issues recurring.
THE COSTS: This four month project was in the under £500,000 annual cost category.
THE OUTCOMES: Yorkshire Water assets in Grampian were successfully assimilated within Scottish Water’s technology stack, and staff were trained in how to use their new tools. Scientific Services were successful in their external scrutiny processes and are now using better information management processes, minimising the chance of these issues recurring in future inspection processes.
What were the lessons learned?
1>If you are working within a multi-contractor environment, there are three key documents. The linear responsibility chart or RACI chart is a must in complex projects. (RACI stands for Responsibile, Accountable, Consulted or Informed). The second is the CARDI log – Constraints, Assumptions, Risks, Dependencies, Issues log – this involves scoring the risks, and thinking in advance about how to mitigate if the risks do become issues (actually materialise). The third is the overall project plan – not just the deliverables for which you are responsible. Tracking other actions helps you know if your part can start when planned or if you have to come up with a different approach.
2>Don’t assume any knowledge on the part of your client and budget for repeated conversations and briefings to help them get up to speed, and for you to manage their expectations. Digital stuff looks relatively easy, and sometimes people on your project teams will have no knowledge of the commercial side, nor of the agreed scope. Publicise the client’s requirements internally, and ensure what people know what’s in scope for when.
3>Some contracts can be true partnerships (where there can be flexibility around scope in return for extra budget or timescale. Other contracts and engagements are less flexible, and more rigid. Be clear which category your client falls into- this can become obvious through the attitudes and behaviours of the people around the project, such as governance, or support staff, rather than necessarily the direct project sponsor and team.