PPO injects a healthy dose of project portfolio management, reporting, accountability and delivery at national level


The National Department of Health (DoH) has adopted a single source of reporting, which eliminates variances and ensures always-available, accurate project portfolio management information across national and all nine provincial levels.

In early 2011, the department released its Medium Term Strategic Framework, also known as its 10 Point Plan. The programme was put together to assist it in improving the national healthcare system, and would serve as a roadmap for the process through to 2019.

One of these priorities is the revitalisation of infrastructure, with a specific focus on service delivery, primary level facilities and the accelerated delivery of healthcare technology and ICT infrastructure. Based on this, a grant is given to the provincial departments, who then report back to the national department, and their respective provincial treasuries, who in turn reports to the National Treasury.

It was within this scope that the DoH identified the need for a project management information system (PMIS) to manage its infrastructure programmes and projects more effectively. Consequently, State Information Technology Agency (SITA) put out an open tender in 2011 seeking a project management system.

Project Portfolio Office (PPO) responded and was awarded the tender due to the fact that its secure, cloud-based project portfolio management (PPM) application, PPO, is locally developed and supported 24/7. Moreover, it offers users an affordable tier-based pricing model with a reduced price per subscription as the business grows and it has an extensive local supplier network.

Another critical factor was that PPO had previously implemented PPM projects on the same vast scale, with the Department Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) and Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) being just two such examples. In addition, PPO is extremely user-friendly, accommodating any level of skill from a data capturer to a project manager or engineer. Furthermore, as a configurable project portfolio management solution, it facilitates the management of both infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects.

Addressing inefficiencies

The National Department of Health is dependent on provincial departments to provide feedback on grant usage, who in turn depend on local government, and found that because each province worked differently and had dissimilar systems, feedback was received in a number of different formats. This meant that a month’s reports could take up to four months to consolidate and complete. Add to this duplicated information and the national department found it near impossible to balance figures and report back to National Treasury.

“The reporting process was completely manual with no visibility of the complete master project list, and it took a significant amount of time to consolidate spreadsheets from the provinces to ultimately produce accurate reporting to the health council executives, Director General, ministers and national treasury,” says Exley Louters, Deputy Director: Projects at the NDoH.

At the same time, the national departments had begun implementing the IDMS (a strategic framework, which is the preferred method for the delivery of infrastructure projects in government) methodology, essentially a toolkit of guidelines for the facilitation of grants. The IDMS is a National Treasury initiative that sets the framework for infrastructure projects to which all government departments must comply.

“The DoH thus required an integrated PMIS that allowed for consistent tracking and reporting of the progress against funding and schedule milestones for all health infrastructure projects across all nine provinces,” explains Guy Jelley, founder and CEO of Project Portfolio Office. “In addition to inaccurate reporting, a number of delays and cost overruns were being experienced due to poor contract management and non-compliance to the IDMS.”

The adoption of the IDMS was weak resulting in large numbers of projects not meeting the compliance requirements for the release of funding.

“PPO’s ability to publish a visual view of the IDMS methodology and help our users adopt the process was significant in the decision making,” adds Louters.

A healthy approach

Today’s scenario is quite different to that of 2011. Using PPO, the national department is now able to provide an accurate view of the service delivery of infrastructure grant status, with consolidated documentation, quality control of information, centralised access to project portfolio management information and consistent reporting across the provinces.

Within the first three months of PPO’s project portfolio management tool implementation, the department was able to capture and access a master project list of 4,000 active projects directly from the tool. According to Lizette Venter, director at PPO’s implementation partner, The Project Hub and DoH implementation consultant, duplication of project data was eliminated, meaning that it could now report back more accurately to Treasury on these active projects. “The PPO system does not allow for manipulation of data and there is now only one version of the truth. Reducing data capturing time, increasing management information accuracy and decreasing time spent to produce reports also greatly saves time for all stakeholders involved,” she says.

Three months later, a record of contracts, budgets and milestones were available reducing the time spent on manual reporting and consolidation across almost 400 project and programme managers.

A first for government

Since the implementation of PPO, the DoH is the first national department to successfully integrate its own PMIS with the Infrastructure Reporting Model (IRM) system of National Treasury.

PPO’s robust API facilitated integrating with other tools easily and allows the DoH’s infrastructure project information to flow seamlessly through to the IRM system without having to duplicate any information management processes at national or provincial health level.

“Both the DoH and National Treasury have realised operational efficiencies specifically around having consistent single source reporting and increased accuracy of data due to the improved data quality processes. With PPO, information is captured once and the automation facilitates a seamless flow of information between systems significantly reducing turnaround times to produce IRM reports,” says Louters.

“The national department can today automate outputs, which no longer need to be produced manually using templates. We are now more compliant thanks to PMIS, which provides access to accurate, real-time project portfolio management information as well as early warning on challenged projects. It is a great tool for gap analysis,” he points out.

He concludes: “We have built a healthy partnership with PPO and The Project Hub. Their tremendous interest, commitment and understanding of our business are an understatement. Having the right resources and superb knowledge of our business, as well as the flexibility of the PPO tool, has allowed for adjustments and immediate solutions to be effected that suit our unique needs.”

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