Universal credit project is an important welfare project in in UK. The United Kingdom department of pensions expected to utilize the Universal Credit program existing system in order to enhance efficiency in service delivery to the consumer. The core drive of the development is to encourage the claimant to work and earn more through simplified United Kingdom benefit system. However, the implementation of the project has been extraordinary poor due to the poor project planning and governance. The project failure to develop a comprehensive plan resulted in extensive delay and wastage of public funds. The management of the project has been weak from the project outset. The department has failed to monitor and challenge the process regularly. Therefore, the lack of day to day control and regulation of the project implied a warning sign that the project was likely to fail. The paper provides a comprehensive investigation of the current issue that faced the Universal Credit project. Furthermore, it provides justifiable recommendations that need to be incorporated in order to achieve the project's objectives.
About Project Management
It is recognized that project management is an efficient tool to handle complex activities. However, organizations and government agencies are losing more than a quarter of their paybacks of their information technology developments because of a failure to coordinate the project throughout its lifecycle (Gunsteren 2012). In the recent years, IT project failures have enticed an abundant deal of consideration in both the boardroom and the media. In an attempt to avoid the problem from progressing, most companies and organization learn from previous experience through initiation of retrospective analysis that includes post implementation analysis. Although each organization's retrospective story is unique, even more insights can be expanded by investigating several expositions across a wide range of organizations. However, in terms of an in-depth analysis of the failure of IT projects, it is apparent that the failure is attributable to both poor project planning and governance (Lientz 2011). This report will explore the Universal Credit project in the UK that has failed due to the poor planning and governance issues.
Brief Background of the Project (Universal Credit)
Universal Credit (UC) is a new and means tested benefit that the United Kingdom intended to introduce in 2013 for the working population in the country. The system was aimed to replace numerous existing in and out work benefits systems with the establishment of a single payment: income based jobseekers allowance (JSA), income based employment, income support, tax credits and support allowances (Department for Work and Pensions 2010). All the above procedures were united into Universal Credit. Through integrating the in and out work support, the government strives towards a smooth transition from benefits to work for the claimant.
Universal Credit also aims to provide a higher degree of transparency in the provision of benefits, thus enabling claimants to evaluate more easily the financial advantages of the work. Up to a certain level, claimants will be able to recollect their entire Universal Credit award, and the moment allowances are exhausted, Universal Credit will be tampered away at a steady rate. As a result, much of the confusion existing in the system, where claimants witness their benefits withdrawn at different rates and varying points, will be eliminated (Department for Work and Pensions 2010). Furthermore, the Universal Credit project represents a wholesale change of the social security systems. The project has been coupled with a number of planning and governance issues that push the cost of implementation a notch higher than anticipated.
The government flagship project referred as Universal Credit has suffered a serious project management problem. The UC project was intended to merge a number of benefit processing activities that included child tax credits, housing benefits, income support and jobseekers allowance among others. One of the anticipated changes was the system's ability to operate in actual time in harmony with the human resources revenue and custom systems (Great Britain 2012). However, though such changes' implementation has sailed through, there are different obstacles with the delivery of the data. The leadership of the project has changed a number of times with the project timetable changing frequently. Furthermore, the efficiency and use of spreadsheets at the job centers is still lacking in the project. In early 2013, the government reset the universal credit because of the serious concerns raised by the Major Projects Authority (MPA) regarding the project implementation (Great Britain 2012). The MPA raised serious concerns because the project lacked a detailed blueprint and transition plans. As a result, the head of MPA was forced to conduct a 13-weeks reset.
The planning of the Universal Credit project has received massive criticism from both the public and media. The project lacks detailed plans of how it is predictable to work or replace the existing systems. According to project planning theory, there is a managerial part and the effector part in the project, with management being tasked with effective planning while effector translate the resultant plan into action. However, management team in the project have to establish a detailed plan that anticipate all the dynamics of the project thus resulting to implementation difficulties. Furthermore, poor control and decision making process continues to undermine the stakeholder's confidence in the program. This because poor control and decision making have undermined the confidence in the program and has contributed to lack of progress. The department lacks IT expertise and effective leadership, with frequent senior management change. This contributed to the lack of progress since the officials of the project are unable to explain timescales associated with it. Besides, the project lacks adequate measures and progress reporting, thus making it difficult for the key stakeholder to track the progress (Great Britain: Parliament: House of Commons: Work and Pensions Committee 2012). Furthermore, key areas of functionality have reported being missing in the system, thus making impossible to identify fraudulent claims in the system.
A poor project planning made the department delay the rolling out of the Universal Credit project nationally by the end of October 2013 as planned earlier. Instead, six more pathfinders' sites were expected to be added to the system. Besides, the project proponents considered re-setting the initial dates in order to meet the 2017 deadline. Nonetheless, it implies that the proponents will be needed to move huge data within a relatively short time irrespective of the risk associated with such processes.
In respect to the poor governance, the project approach made it difficult for the establishment of a feasible roll-out date. Governance is the organization outline within which decisions are made in the project (Roberts 2011). Governance forms a critical component of any project because although accountabilities responsibilities are connected with the project operations, the actual activities are outlined the governance structure. According to the theory of project governance, the effective project governance entails measurement of the realization rate of the assignments, investigation of cause of delays and elimination of such delays. However, managers in the project have failed to address issues of transparency and accountability that affects the implementation of the project. The ambitious project table generated pressure on the department to act quickly. As a result, the quick approach to institute processes and systems while formulating the appropriate policy was established. The perspective used both collaborative and iterative management in order to establish the required IT policy (Pareliussen 2012). Nonetheless, the department has never attempted to apply such approach in a project of such scale. As a consequence, the project faced a number of obstacles in the incorporation of the perspective into the existing assurance, governance structures and the contracts.
Furthermore, the project management was forewarned severally for the lack of detailed blueprint for the universal credit project. In mid-2012, the project management could not agree on the security it needed to protect claimant transactions, and it was vague on how Universal Credit would be integrated with other programs. Furthermore, the department has never been able to measure its progress against the time due to the lack of detailed management information. It is also outward that the absence of transparency and accountability challenge the implementation of the project. The department provides the project team with a large degree of autonomy. As a consequence, the team embraced a fortress mentality on the program and a reporting trend that restricted open appraisal of the risk and obstacles facing the Universal Credit Project (Pareliussen 2012). The Universal Credit team possessed little financial control over the supply expenditure. This limited understanding of expenditure related to the project progress, while the insufficient review of the performance contract made it complex to track the project development. Besides, poor control over the financial governance and inadequate appraisal of the contract performance before honoring the contracts played a crucial role to the failure of the project. In addition, the inefficient departmental oversight was further unable to evaluate the project's outcome against the inputs. As a result, such problems has resulted into continual suspension of the project senior management hence affecting the project (Gillies 2011).
Conclusion and Recommendations
In conclusion, it is apparent that the project has not achieved the value for money irrespective of huge financial resources. The project proponents delayed the rolling out of the project to the claimant; they have had a weak control of the project and have been incapable of assessing the worth of the system that utilized more than 300 million to institute. Such mishaps outlines a major obstacle to the project and raises questions about the ability of the department to handle weak management team, transparency and accountability issues and over-ambitious timescales (Cooke, Tate & Cooke 2011).
Nonetheless, to achieve its objectives, a number of objectives need to be followed. This include:
- The project management needs to learn from its previous mistakes. As it revises its governance and planning frameworks, the company is required to apply an actual control of the project, improve the adequate in-house competence to direct and manage the IT development, and establish realistic expectation of timescales and scope of Universal Credit.
- The project manager needs to develop a realistic plan with clear goals and objective linked to the policy design and service. As a result, this will promotes good governance that enhances transparency and accountability.
- The project proponents need to institute effective senior management and leadership in order to enhance operation efficiency of the project. This because frequent change in the senior leadership significantly impacts on the project.
- In order to ensure all programs and operations of the project are in accordance to the project plans, it is imperative to establish effective governance processes and structures. The project team and other stakeholders need to be able to challenge the department openly and escalate concerns. Furthermore, the department needs to demonstrate the ability to follow up and implement assurances recommendations.
- Cooke, H & Tate, K 2011, Project management, McGraw-Hill, New York.
- Department for Work and Pensions 2010, Universal Credit: welfare that works, TSO, Norwich
- Gillies, A 2011, Universal Credit: what you need to know, Child Poverty Action Group, London.
- Great Britain: Parliament: House of Commons: Work and Pensions Committee 2012, Universal credit implementation: Meeting the needs of vulnerable claimants, Stationery Office, London.
- Gunsteren, LA. 2012, Stakeholder-oriented project management: Tools and concepts, Ios Press, Amsterdam.
- Lientz, B 2011, Information technology project management, Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire.
- Pareliussen, J 2012, Work incentives and Universal Credit: reform of the benefit system in the United Kingdom, OECD Publishing, Paris.
- Roberts, P 2011, Effective project management, Kogan Page, London, UK.
- Schwalbe, K 2010, Information technology project management, Course Technology, Boston, MA.