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University of Sussex is a leading UK research-intensive university located on the edge of Brighton, with over 18,500 students and 3,490 staff members.
Established in 2021, the university’s project office, Sussex Projects, is the central enterprise function for the selection, prioritisation and control of all projects and programmes, in line with the university’s strategic objectives. Sussex Projects was created to establish and implement project management best practices for the benefit of the university in a way that encourages collaboration, standardisation, and overall improvement in project results across all delivery portfolios.
When the University of Sussex put together a multi-million-pound, five-year transformation roadmap, which includes upgrades to both technology and physical infrastructure, its requirement for a professional central project management competency that could provide the right level of assurance, professionalism and standardisation around this significant investment became a necessity.
The university’s levels of maturity in project management were quite low, and even though a project management approach was approved in 2020, it was never fully realised due to the pandemic. Sussex Projects had seen some initial traction and good results in certain areas, but it was clear that the adoption and application of the approach were inconsistent.
“It made sense to pause after a year of operation and perform a formal maturity assessment to ascertain where we are now, where we want to be, which areas we should address to add more value for the university, how we need to focus our energy, and how to prioritise”. Ian Duffy, Director of Strategic Projects and Change
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To gain a deeper understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of project management practice, as well as a roadmap for further improvement and future maturity, Sussex Projects partnered with Project Portfolio Office (PPO) to complete a full diagnostic maturity assessment one year after its formation.
The P3M3® assessment was commissioned to independently assess the application of project processes across the university’s portfolios. Project Portfolio Office’s previous maturity assessment experience within the education sector, with clients including the University of Johannesburg in South Africa, was a factor in the decision making.
“We spoke to several approved partners on conducting an assessment, but the conversation with Project Portfolio Office really stood out from the other assessors. It was a transparent, comprehensive discussion on how the results of the maturity assessment could add value to the university and took much less of a ‘tick box’ approach.” Ian Duffy, Director of Strategic Projects and Change
Through the PPO led project management maturity assessment, Sussex Projects has been able measure its current levels of organisational capability, record a baseline, establish where improvement is needed and forge a path journey to achieving a higher level of capability. The positive outcomes of the assessment prove that project offices don’t need to wait for years before they do an assessment. Sussex Projects understood the value and wanted to get a view of their effectiveness within the university, as well as identify what efficiencies they could introduce as part of their maturity journey.
“In working with Project Portfolio Office on this maturity assessment exercise, the team clearly laid out what was expected and provided open, honest feedback. We established a real partnership in this process, and we were challenged throughout the assessment, which gave us immense value and made for an enjoyable process.” Ian Duffy, Director of Strategic Projects and Change