Manager says GCHQ IT move is on target

After four years a massive programme by Government Communications Headquarters to move 4,500 staff and IT from 50 buildings to a...

After four years a massive programme by Government Communications Headquarters to move 4,500 staff and IT from 50 buildings to a single new building is on schedule, on budget and to specification.

The new accommodation provides one million square feet of office space, development laboratories and the largest computer hall outside the US. The £350m programme, due to end in mid-2005, is being managed by BCS fellow Mel Lockie.

"The programme is managed by monitoring deviations from schedule, budget and specification," Lockie said. "Our schedule is represented by about 450 high-level critical milestones; adherence to schedule is monitored weekly by a 12-week look ahead. Slip indexes are used to measure adherence at project level. Projects delivering against critical path programme milestones report weekly, as do projects with a high-risk profile.

"Adherence to budget is measured monthly and funds are moved from under-spending projects into the programme contingency budget.

"Changes to the programme baseline require an impact assessment and agreement from the change-control board. Changed projects with increased demands get additional funding from the contingency budget.

Lockie added, "We decided to trade off budget and specification in favour of schedule. Projects that would otherwise fail to deliver against a designated programme-level milestone are required to replan by either de-scoping against their specification or using increased budget, or both, to return to schedule.

"Active risk management is a major factor and we invest resources to develop contingency plans for all high risks. Similarly, we invest heavily in requirements and benefits management."

The GCHQ project was a pioneer user of the programme management framework developed by the Office of Government Commerce.

"We adapted and combined various management frameworks and standards to produce a consistent and effective programme governance regime," Lockie said. "We also invested heavily in programme and project support services from WS Atkins."

Systems engineering work by PA Consulting produced, as a byproduct, a set of tracability matrices linking user and system requirements, the benefits list, projects, IT systems, subsystems and other components.

These have proved useful. For example, adherence to specification can be measured objectively by using the matrix of user requirements and project traceability; and the greatest benefits can be identified against programme components if a project has to be reviewed because it is in danger of missing a programme milestone.

The team also had to guarantee uninterrupted access to essential IT systems, so they were brought together at one of the old sites and made available to staff at both their old and new offices. "This meant the first phase of the technical transition consisted of designing and building new IT systems for use in the new accommodation and moving several hundred systems to the old site while maintaining business continuity," Lockie said.

The new accommodation was handed over nine weeks early in July 2003. Installation of the networking, communications, desktop and other IT was completed on schedule. The first staff moved on the contract date of 17 September. The move will be completed in August 2004.

"The success of the programme is due to a combination of teamwork and management," Lockie said. "GCHQ is fortunate to have a skilled and committed workforce, and the programme and project teams are strongly motivated to deliver. Teamwork has been a major factor."

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