Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, reporting today on the implementation of Integrated Project Teams1 (IPTs) by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) told Parliament that the teams had been introduced rapidly and successfully but needed to evolve further. He also reported that firm direction was now needed from the MoD to maintain the momentum behind the implementation of the teams and ensure that they are successful in improving acquisition performance.
The introduction of IPTs has involved a major change in culture, processes and relationships for the MoD and those doing business with it. Sir John found that the MoD adopted a pragmatic strategy to achieve early implementation of IPTs, re-allocating around 10,000 personnel into some 130 IPTs in 18 months. The report recommends that the MoD should undertake a stock-take of its existing IPT structure to ensure that it reflects the experience gained to date and provides the most effective structure to deliver the benefits anticipated from Smart Acquisition.
It is important that IPTs bring continuous improvement in acquisition performance. Sir John found that the MoD’s learning and performance management systems need to evolve further to support this and he makes a number of recommendations to advance developments. In particular, Sir John urges the MoD to drive improved performance across all IPTs by identifying and promulgating success factors and better dissemination of lessons learned, particularly from external sources such as industry and overseas. The report notes that the MoD is evolving its performance measures and Sir John recommends that in doing so it is important that targets set by IPTs are explicitly linked into corporate performance measurement systems, and that corporate measures are coherent and encompass through-life performance.
Strong, empowered leadership is key to the success of Smart Acquisition and IPTs. Sir John found that the MoD’s initial leadership of the Smart Acquisition change management process was positive and after some uncertainty is now being given fresh impetus, through the recent appointment of a Director General Smart Acquisition.
The MoD has taken steps to ensure that there is strong leadership at IPT level but the report shows that some obstacles to strong, high calibre, empowered IPT leadership remain. To date only three of the some 130 IPT Leader posts have been awarded to external, private sector candidates and the MoD has encountered obstacles to such candidates coming forward for competitions for posts. Sir John recommends that the Department needs to work with the private sector in order to overcome these obstacles and provide more joint career opportunities at all levels, including IPT Leader.
Appropriate staffing of IPTs is another key determining factor to their success. The report found that IPTs were created quickly and the MoD’s strategy for staffing them was pragmatic with staff allocated on the basis of existing complements rather than analysis of need. IPTs reported to the National Audit Office that they were under-staffed in areas such as Requirements Management, Integrated Logistics Support Management and Finance. MoD has work underway to review the resourcing of IPTs and Sir John recommends that in taking forward this work the MoD should examine opportunities to share scare staff more between IPTs and take into account the experiences of other organisations in staffing IPTs.