Gladstone Regional Council – Investment Decision Framework Implementation

Executive Summary

Delivery of our capital work program is critical for our community and sustainability of our assets. Continuous underspend and project scope creep made Council prioritise improving works delivery, aligning with our Corporate Goal to have Smart Asset Management. The Investment Decision Framework Implementation project excelled in bringing the framework to life through clear technical information, extensive change management and ongoing improvement. The framework successfully went live late June 2021 for all capital investments and has realised considerable benefits within 6-8 months of implementation.

Summary of the Project

Key deliverables of the project were:

  • Scope development utilising ‘Tiger Teams’ workshops identifying key challenges, opportunities, stakeholders and work required to implement the Investment Decision Framework (IDF).
  • Project Planning including plans for stakeholder engagement, project risks, impact management and communications.
  • Documentation development including corporate standard, policy review, IDF matrix, delegations, processes, procedures, form templates, business manual, terms of reference for Investment Opportunity Committee.
  • Software (TechOne) changes to support framework including populate key fields for existing investments identified in the software and test.
  • Training and implementation including plans, training needs assessment and deliver training.
  • Lessons learnt and ongoing monitoring for improvement.

Description of Project

Council is committed to providing an affordable and sustainable asset portfolio, which requires robust planning and delivery of our capital works program. Over the preceding 3 years (2017/18 to 2019/2020) Council on average expended 50-60% of its capital work program even with significant scope creep occurring. There was dissatisfaction in the community regarding performance. Council were not fully achieving the strategic goals of our Corporate Plan or objectives of the Asset Management Policy. Our Strategic Goals under our corporate vision, Connect, Innovate, Diversify are:

Council’s 2020/21 Operational Plan included Item 7.1 – maximising delivery of our work programs. This work commenced, through the Transformation Program with a review by a consultant. It was reported (14 September 2020) that four (4) key areas required improvement to maximise delivery of our work programs, with practical implementation of the IDF being one. The project was directly linked to delivering value (Goal 2) where “we work efficiently to deliver value for your rates”.

The IDF was first developed in 2019 with Council adopting the Investment Decision Policy (November 2019), however it was not fully implemented. This project brought the framework to life by developing the details needed to allow our people to understand it and apply it with ease. It also provided clear alignment and linkages with our existing processes and systems within the business.

The concept of the framework is not unique; however, the way in which it was applied and detailed was specifically tailored for Council. Three (3) key areas were directly linked to the successful implementation:

  1. Technical Details
  2. Change Management
  3. Ongoing Use and Improvement

Technical Details

Through the Tiger Teams workshops, it was established that there was a lack of understanding about the IDF and the existing documentation was unable to be easily applied due to limited linkages to existing frameworks, system and processes. The IDF Matrix was a simple table in Microsoft Excel used to capture a lot of information in an easy to digest way. It was used to discuss, explain and agree on how to practically implement the framework. It evolved, through hard work, internal stakeholder workshops, constructive debate, negotiation and scenario testing, into a one-page table that represents the practical application of the phases and decision gates of the IDF. Of all the documents that make up the framework, this is by far the most referenced and valuable.

Another unique detail that was refined, was the end-to-end investment lifecycle graphic that was used to describe the phases and decision gates of the process. This enables the broader business to have a good understanding without going into the detail.

A guiding principle of the framework was to build discipline into the investment selection process and commitment to undertaking the right investments across the business. This has now been established with a clear Business Case Template that is progressively developed over the first three Phases as it passes through Decision Gates 0, 1 and 2. The business case assesses cost, risk and performance to ensure fit for purpose and viable decisions are made. The process is also designed such that if any assumptions or scope changes throughout the latter phases, then the business case should be reviewed to ensure continued investment viability.

A large part of stakeholder engagement was integrating the IDF to existing frameworks, systems and processes to enable easy use. The project ensures alignment to the following:

  • Project Management Framework (PMF)
  • Maintenance Management Framework
  • Capital Portfolio
  • Internal Project Planning (IPP) – TechOne software
  • Long-Term Financial Plan
  • Budget Management Corporate Standard
  • Contract Management Corporate Standard
  • Record Keeping – ECM and RedEye software
  • Risk Management Framework
  • Environment Management System

Change Management

Change Management was critical to the success of this project. Very early in the project planning it was identified that implementing the IDF had several people, process, technology and community impacts that needed to be managed. Council has developed several tools, which this project then utilised to ensure the change was truly implemented and the framework became embedded. The following plans were completed:

  • Risk Management
  • Impact Management
  • Communications
  • Stakeholder Engagement
  • Implementation
  • Training Needs

People were our key to embedding and the business having a disciplined approach to investment decision, therefore considerable effort was given to the training plan. The training needs assessment mapped out the stakeholders, accountabilities / responsibilities for IDF activities, outcomes, behaviours, knowledge required, training modules, matrix of stakeholders to modules and purpose of each module. It was acknowledged that due to the significant change there would need to be ongoing specific training based on people’s feedback and issues with using the framework.

There was also a refresh of the Investment Opportunity Committee to provide clear role and direction. The terms of reference were updated, and specific training was undertaken for the current members.

Ongoing Use and Improvement

It was critical for the project to capture the information in a user-friendly way. A dedicated SharePoint site was setup to enable all information to be in one place with a focus on different people want to view the information in different ways. For example, some officers will need to see the whole process at a high level, where others may only be involved in the Execute phase but need detailed knowledge.

When implementing it was broadly acknowledged that we needed to make progress over perfection and therefore were very conscious of having an avenue for suggestions to be entered, tracked, resolved and feedback provided to close the loop. There is a dedicated page on the SharePoint site that is our IDF Improvement Suggestions. The IDF champions actively monitor these suggestions and meet frequently to address.

The project was managed with a detailed schedule, weekly progress reports and meetings, business wide updates (progress to date, next steps), significant stakeholder engagement and reported to a Sponsor for key decisions on the implementation.

The following benefits have already been realised after implementing IDF:

  • Investments that are not viable are being stopped or paused to review business cases
  • Clear scopes being developed to setup the delivery teams for success
  • Raised community awareness and satisfaction in projects being delivered for them
  • A full data cleanse of our capital Internal Project Plan (informs the Long-Term Financial Plan and capital portfolio) utilising and embedding the IDF
  • 21/22 Capital Financial Budget forecast to reach 90% expenditure

Council continues to improve and learn from this implementation project with the following key aspects now being implemented in future projects, particularly the next round of projects in the Transformation Program:

  • Dedicated project lead for transformation projects
  • Allowance of time to complete thorough change management
  • Investing in stakeholder engagement early in projects
  • Develop processes and procedures then support with technology

Specific Contribution made by Project Lead and Team

The project was led by Celisa Faulkner, Manager Asset Planning, who was instrumental in the technical detail, change management and stakeholder engagement. For half of the project Celisa also managed her team in parallel. Whilst the successful implementation involved process and technology improvements, it was the stakeholder involvement that truly brought this framework to life.

Through the project Celisa adopted an approach of engaging broadly with all stakeholders, then dived deeper on issues with key stakeholders, before then looping back to all stakeholders of outcomes. This continual loop of communication ensured that all stakeholders were part of the entire process and had ‘skin in the game’. A ‘parking lot’ was established for any issues or ideas that could not be addressed in the meeting or workshop to ensure all stakeholder input was appropriately considered at the right time and responded to. Feedback from the project team was provided on all items raised.

Transparency provided from the Project Lead using SharePoint enabled all employees from Council to access information about the project and the framework. The final output was a SharePoint Site that clearly and concisely provides the entire framework in a single location.

The project team including Chris Irving (Manager Waste Program Delivery), Sarah Skinner (Systems Metrics Modelling Specialist), Vicky Hankinson (Governance Business Partner), Erickson Noakes (Strategic Projects Specialist), Dee-Anne Paolatto (Business Improvement Specialist), Emma Jefferis (Business Improvement Business Partner) and, Dannielle Kerr (Technical Officer) actively supported the project. This was a multi-disciplinary team that ensured all aspects of the framework and implementation were covered. The teamwork and collaboration shown was of the highest quality.

The project was part of the Transformation Program, which was led by Sue-Ellen Howie, Transformation Lead. Being part of this program meant that the team was provided direct resource support and had full Executive support for the business to prioritise this work. Additionally, alignment with the other four (4) projects ensured that the business impact was minimised. There were several opportunities to combine work or training as well as get consistency with the deliverables of each project.

General Information

Council’s Investment Decision Framework is a disciplined approach for consideration of investment opportunities, complexity and risks to ensure value for money and long-term resilience of our assets. It assists with ensuring sustainability of our asset portfolio. The following video provides a good overview from our CEO and the importance of the IDF to Council.

The framework consists of three (3) elements, policy, governance and guidelines, to manage the end to end investment lifecycle. The phases of an investment are:

  • Establish (Gate 0) – establish and centralise investment ideas
  • Identify (Gate 1) – consider the need and strategic alignment
  • Assess (Gate 2) – consider potential options
  • Define (Gate 4) – plan the investment details
  • Execute (Gate 5) – deliver the investment value
  • Close (Gate 6) – close out and reflecting on the investment

The linked video steps through the end to end investment lifecycle and application of IDF.

The Investment Decision Framework Policy was first adopted by Council on the 19 November 2019 then amended on the 18 May 2021. To operationalise the policy the Investment Decision Framework Corporate Standard was endorsed by the CEO on the 18 May 2021. The Corporate Standard provides business direction on:

  • Definitions – what is considered an investment under IDF
  • Investment categories and pathways
  • Integration with other business processes, systems and frameworks
  • Processes
  • Responsibilities and Delegations
  • IDF Matrix

Overall, the Investment Decision Framework is embedded in Council practices with continual improvement and the benefits are already evident across the business.

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