Supporting Stockport Council - Launching a new strategic borough plan
Updated: Feb 15, 2022
Project Plan Services (PPS) began working with Stockport Council in May 2021 when their recently renewed 10-year strategic borough plan alongside the annual council plan was preparing to launch. We spoke with Project Manager, Louise Chadderton of Stockport Council.
What challenges necessitated change?
Stockport Council’s objective was to create a consistent approach where project plans would be visible across all functions and stakeholders, using one platform and a universal process.
Louise explains that “Launching the plan in 2021 meant we were rebranding everything as ‘One Stockport’, we have a One Stockport 10-year borough plan and an annual One Stockport council plan. We wanted to bring all transformation work under the new strategy and the priorities we are working towards. So, everything was realigned under the new borough plan, all focused on transformation and budget changes within the council.”
The council is structured into four directorates, each of which has its own priorities and strategy to deliver a service to Stockport. Projects had previously always been managed and executed independently of each other with limited collaboration. PPS’ role was to provide a custom solution that would support the aim to increase collaboration and streamline the application and approval of resources for all projects.
“Throughout the whole council there was duplication on project reporting across all the different directorates and we didn't realise it.”
With several projects running simultaneously every year, each one needs to be reviewed to understand the resources required. Stockport Council needed to centralise the control of projects across all the directorates and to have visibility of these projects at the programme level. Additionally, each project needed to have multi-stage approvals before it could be initiated.
“We wanted transparency of the overall program, to track the progress of the projects and the transformation program. Bringing everything together.”
PPS’ Head of Consulting, Andrew Gerrish, who facilitated the solution, outlined that “the solution deployed was Smartsheet Control Centre, the project and portfolio management tool that builds on the core value of Smartsheet to deliver consistency and visibility at scale by automating project creation, aggregating portfolio reporting, and managing change.”
Working side by side, PPS and the Stockport project team built a bespoke and dedicated project intake form that would allow project managers and individuals across the council to easily request the resources and funding required for a potential project. Logic was incorporated into the form so that it could accommodate both large and small projects and once submitted, a series of automated workflows ensure that relevant approvals are gained at several different stages.
“Once fully approved, Smartsheet Control Centre provisions the project and generates a series of templates to be utilised by project managers. These templates include a project dashboard, project plan and RAID log, and their automatic generation ensures total consistency across all projects. All templates were developed utilising existing best practices within the Council.” Andrew Gerrish.
Louise Chadderton shares, “Previously when we've worked on transformation programs across the council, we've had to fill in PowerPoint templates with highlight reports every couple of weeks, which was very resource-intensive. Once you take the information out of a system you then get version control issues, it becomes out of date quite quickly.”
To ensure consistent and timely reporting of all projects, the portfolio summary reporting feature within Control Centre is used to feed existing directorate dashboards via summary sheets. Weekly project meetings were instigated to develop and test the solution, and a lot of time was spent on the content and workflow processes for the intake form. Once this had been finalised and the team were happy with the content and format of the templates, Control Centre could be configured. Cross-sheet formulas were then created to pull data from the portfolio summary into existing transformation programme summary sheets.
A pilot area was selected and the project went live with the Stockport team fully supporting the users to ensure that new Smartsheet processes were fully adopted.
Key to the successful launching of Smartsheet within the Council was the development of a tailored training package delivered by PPS’ Learning and Development Manager, Robert Kennie.
Learning and Development
It was clear that using the template set created needed a form of education. Rob hosted a discovery meeting with the Stockport Council stakeholders to discuss the need for a tailored training programme to support the bespoke solution deployed by PPS. This training would further assist in boosting staff engagement and adoption of the platform across the council. This ongoing support and training would cover an overview and specific training on the solution, how to use the new templates with a consistent approach as well as covering the Smartsheet platform and basic functionalities of the system.
With this insight, Rob created a learning session dedicated to the Stockport solution and included access to the PPS Learning Portal . This would enable Stockport Council staff to continue their learning and development of Smartsheet and how else they could use this powerful platform to facilitate other aspects of their roles.
“Rob was able to put together a training course at fairly short notice, we needed him to do some training on the new project intake process. He did a series of six training courses over three days and it was really good, it helped us to train a lot of people in a short space of time.” Louise Chadderton.
“All delegates who were involved in the learning session felt very comfortable with the transition into using a different project management system. Confidence soared when shown the benefits and efficiency of the new solution.” Robert Kennie.
In addition, Rob also developed a ‘Train the Trainer’ course which would allow the Stockport Council Learning team to offer the solution training to new starters and futureproof the PPS x Stockport Council solution for years to come.
“This session was more in-depth and written material were also provided to help aid the continued success of the solution designed. The main part of the training was to share an understanding of the ease of use and why moving to a new platform was beneficial.”
"We wouldn't be where we are now without the support and work from PPS. They provided the expertise that we didn't have before, to get things done quickly."
PPS strive ourselves on making things simple and support you throughout. We work with many councils, local government and non-profit organisations to understand and support their unique business requirements. If you are interested in learning more about how PPS can assist you then get in touch to schedule a complimentary consultation and demo of our solutions.