The critical role of the PMO when surveying large estates for RAAC

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  • The critical role of the PMO when surveying large estates for RAAC
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Lucy Edwards


Lucy Edwards


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The initial challenge for estate managers when the potential hazards linked to RAAC panels were discovered, was to establish if any of their buildings contained RAAC and, if they did, whether they were safe to remain open.

For those managing larger, more complex estates containing 100s of properties spread across multiple locations, such as the UK’s education estate, came the next challenge – how to instigate a large-scale surveying exercise at pace while managing the all-important triangle of cost, quality, and speed.

Adopting a robust programme management approach is fundamental to achieving this. To tackle time critical programmes, such as identifying RAAC, success hinges on being able to mobilise the right resource with consistent, technical knowledge, at speed, across multiple locations.

This is exactly the expertise we deploy at RLB through our Programme Management Office (PMO) service that is directly focused on surveying activity. Over the last few years, we have managed large and complex national survey programmes in the private and public sectors for a number of clients including the Department for Education, the Department of Work and Pensions, Tesco, Royal Mail and Sodexo.

The PMO acts as a national centre of excellence and combined with a network of regional offices across the UK, means we can immediately offer local support on the ground, but with a strategic overview. Through the PMO managing our in-house teams and connected supply chain, we can ensure every colleague has the same consistent level of training required, we don’t need to onboard temporary employees and spend time getting them up to speed to understand the key objectives of a programme. Managing our own resource teams means we can deploy colleagues where we want them to go and when, knowing that they will deliver the same high quality of service to clients.

Our PMO enables us to adopt a real ‘aces in spaces’ approach, allocating specialised teams to different tasks to keep the programme moving at pace. For example, we have dedicated teams contacting building owners to grant access to facilities and coordinate visits to minimise wasted time. With live environments and sometimes restricted access to buildings, this is an essential part of programme management. It allows the technical employees, such as M&E engineers, to concentrate on undertaking technical work while the planners behind the scenes can utilise their skills in resource management. The benefits for the clients are immeasurable, through works scheduling, works review and embracing lessons learned and continuous improvement, our teams find the fastest, most efficient way to deliver.

Digital and data expertise is essential to power the programme, from optimising visit scheduling to data analytics providing programme intelligence leading into bespoke client reporting and insights. Every member of the team is digitally empowered, for example with building safety investigations, such as RAAC, immediate diagnosis is a vital factor to ensure duty of care. Our teams can update data directly into dashboards to provide live reports for the client. With business-critical programmes, where you are dealing with huge, fast moving daily drops of data, having robust digital programme that allows instant visibility for the client is a must have.

Communication is also clearly a central pillar to the success of complex programme management. Our PMO service maps all stakeholders involved to ensure lines of communication are open and transparent throughout and the right briefings and materials are in place. It is essential to have a consistent approach to communication throughout the service delivery team, so that everyone understands not only the objectives of the programme but also the culture of the organisation involved and how to liaise with clients on site. This is even more important when dealing with sensitive issues such as telling a head teacher that they must temporarily close a school building for safety reasons.

Managing these situations successfully is due to the expertise of colleagues on the ground supported by the PMO. By having a holistic overview combined with specialist delivery teams not only ensures successful execution of each project in the programme, it also provides estate managers with the surety of quality delivery at cost and at pace. If there is one upside of the recent challenge of RAAC, it could be that it has highlighted how important the role of PMO is within the maintenance of the built environment, as well as within a design and build process.