IPA head on working to ensure major-project success during a challenging year
Nick Smallwood discusses the key areas of focus needed for government to deliver transformation schemes
In a year unlike any other, senior figures from across the civil service took part in PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World’s annual perm secs round-up to discuss how the unprecedented 12 months affected them and their organisation, and look ahead to 2021.
Click here to read more from a wide selection of government leaders.
Nick Smallwood, chief executive of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority – which oversees government’s portfolio of 125 major projects, including scores of IT and digital schemes – talks about how the organisation has gone about its work this year.
What are you proudest of government achieving in 2020?
When I joined the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) last year, I set my focus on the ‘Three Ps’: people; performance; and principles. Whilst Covid-19 threw us some unexpected challenges to overcome, I am proud of the progress that we’ve made. To name a couple of examples, teams from across the IPA made significant contributions to the publication of the National Infrastructure Strategy and the Construction Playbook, we worked collaboratively with industry to ensure that the construction sector could operate efficiently and safely during the height of the crisis, and we published the principles for project success which act as a quick guide on things to get right for any project to succeed. There is also lots of great work to build on in the coming year, we will continue to transform our approach to assurance, progress our work in standardising benchmarking and cost estimating best practice across government, and drive forward the new Government Projects Academy.
What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2020?
There’s no escaping the fact that it has been a challenging year to be a leader. Concerns regarding the wellbeing of my colleagues, and of course family and friends, have been at the forefront of my mind. But whilst it has been a challenging year to be a leader, I am incredibly proud of the way in which my colleagues have reacted and adapted in the face of such adversity. And not only this, I’ve seen inspiring examples of colleagues going the extra mile to support their communities outside of work.
What are the main challenges facing the government in the coming year?
The main challenge facing the government in the coming year is clear, we must rebuild Britain and fuel economic recovery across the country following Covid-19. I am pleased to see that the government is committed “to using this crisis to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades”. The IPA will play a vital role in this and I am looking forward to supporting the delivery of an infrastructure revolution that will help level up the country, strengthen the union, and put the UK on the path to Net Zero emissions by 2050.
People will have to be more creative about celebrating this year. How will you make the festive period on Zoom special?
My birthday is actually on Christmas Day, so Christmas is usually a very celebratory time for me! And although we can’t celebrate as we normally would, I am looking forward to spending time with my family, catching up with friends (albeit virtually) and enjoying the odd mince pie or two.
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