Understanding Requirements – the magic wand of project success

I hear myself saying this quite a lot, “If I had a magic wand and could fix one thing in industry to improve project performance, it would be this. If customers could understand their own requirements better, encapsulate them in the contract better, if suppliers could understand them better and communicate them to the project team better, then the world would be a better place!” In our experience, misalignment between the customer and supplier on the project or contract requirements is the single biggest cause of tension in working relationships and therefore has the biggest impact on project performance.

Not many of us actually have a magic wand. So what can we do? True collaborative engagement is important. At the start of the project (ideally before) and throughout the project, the customer and the supplier must build a way of working that allows them to have open and honest discussions about the nature of the requirement, the customer’s expectations and the supplier’s vision for delivery. The joint team must get themselves aligned and stay aligned throughout. This must also include the respective contract teams. The contract must reflect the understood customer wants and needs. If not, it’s another source of misalignment and needs to be fixed. Many of our SCRIA FrameworkTM interventions result in this type of work – enabling alignment between the customer and supplier teams so that the wants, the needs, the expectations, the solution, the ways of working together and ultimately the contract all end up reflecting the same thing – meeting the requirement.

Sigma and RIA launch pilots for New VIP

The Value Improvement Programme (VIP), owned by the Railway Industry association, developed and delivered by Sigma, is now in a major phase of development and improvement.  Four pilot studies with Alstom, Carillion Rail, Alan Dick Communications and Kier will share their performance improvements with customers and suppliers to the rail sector in the autumn.

VIP is an approved rail industry process designed to support the implementation of more open behaviours and collaborative working in order to drive improved efficiencies, added value, and reduced costs.  It was first established in 2002 and supported by a code of practice.  Since then 90 VIP workshops and events have delivered positive outcomes and cost savings.

VIP is now updated and relaunched as ‘New VIP’ to reflect the latest industry drivers including:

  • Outputs from the McNulty report in meeting the challenges of collaboration, cost reduction and efficiency savings.
  • Supporting the implementation of BS11000, the national partnering standard adopted and endorsed by Network Rail.
  • Building in measureable business outcomes through improved behaviours.
  • Supporting innovation in the industry.
  • Developing integrated supply chain teams.

Our pilot studies are designed to address the following agreed industry criteria for success.  The diagram below illustrates how new VIP can now be used to improve business and project performance.




The pilots will cover different challenges and will help to inform the industry across a number of products and services, as follows:

  • Alstom – 5 year outsourcing contract for catering equipment and maintenance
  • Kier – National framework contract on Footbridge Programmes
  • Carillion-Powerlines – East Midlands Mainline Electrification Programme
  • Alan Dick Communications – Oxfordshire Re-signalling Programme

The Sigma team will be working on a number of other assignments with the new VIP service between now and the conference to formally report back on the findings in autumn.

For further information, contact russell.chesterman@dev.thinksigma.co.uk