The Challenge

Arco was in the early stages of a multi-project Digital Transformation, in addition to delivering a wider portfolio of other significant business changes. All areas of the business would be impacted, with most also contributing to shaping and delivering the programme.

Given the strategic importance of successfully delivering the changes, it was critical that each project remained in control in order to deliver their expected outcomes. Moreover, in order to fully apply its mandate, Arco’s Risk and Audit Committee needed full transparency on the portfolio, including visibility of control weaknesses, improvement measures and confidence that overall benefits would be delivered.

I conducted a comprehensive audit of all controls through interviewing project managers, reviewing project documentation and assessing each control against best practice. Not unusually, several weaknesses were identified, which were presented to Arco’s Exec and Risk & Audit Committee, in addition to a recommended programme of improvement measures.

Having developed a full suite of best practice controls, this was used as the basis of improving and standardising Arco’s project controls. For example, no project applied benefit realisation management and therefore couldn’t demonstrate the relationship between project deliverables and expected outcomes – critical in understanding the quality that project deliverables should be deployed to (be they people, system or process changes) and which contributed the most to achieving the benefits (critical in enabling projects to prioritise and focus on the most impactful deliverables and to understand the extent of any inter-dependencies).

Improvements were generally delivered through working collaboratively with the programme leads and project managers to determine which measures to address first and what aspects of the changes to deploy (being mindful of the need to not overload the teams with too many changes, and placing the overall programme at risk). Where necessary, training modules were created and delivered to increase project teams’ capabilities.

Finally, an ongoing programme of independent assurance was designed and deployed, allowing the effectiveness of the revised controls to be assessed and tracked. Core aspects included regular quarterly audits of all projects, measured against key control criteria. In addition to providing feedback and guidance to project managers and sponsors, audit reports were produced for the Risk and Audit Committee, specifying several quantifiable measures.

Through the programme of regular project assurance assessments, Arco had quantifiable evidence that the control weaknesses identified in the independent audit were addressed and their application had significantly improved across projects. Moreover, there was now transparency across the Transformation team where control weaknesses resided and therefore Arco had the ability to intervene to make improvements.

The Audit committee now had fill visibility of the portfolio’s performance, where issues resided and the corrective action that was in place to address. Discussions evolved to be based more on facts rather than being subjective, allowing an increased level of oversight to be applied across the transformation programme.

Twelve months after the first independent assessment an independent audit of governance was conducted by Arco’s external auditors demonstrating that the majority of control weaknesses had been addressed.

As a Board, we regularly received updates on the key programmes, but didn’t have a clear view on whether the changes would achieve the benefits we’d been promised. Neil significantly increased our confidence in the ability of the business to deliver the Digital Transformation by providing us with a clear view of programme strengths, and actions that should be taken to address any weaknesses.

Arco Board Member

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