Department for Communities Northern Ireland Adopts PM3

News 09-11-2023

The Department for Communities (DfC) Northern Ireland, embarked on a journey to modernise its project management practices by implementing PM3, our comprehensive project and portfolio management (PPM) solution.

This case study highlights Department for Communities transition from a manual, spreadsheet-based project tracking system to a digital PPM tool, PM3, and the impact it has had on their organisation.

Department for communities northern ireland logo




Before implementing PM3, DfC NI relied on a rudimentary manual portfolio system, primarily based on spreadsheets.

This manual system recorded basic project information, such as project start dates and high-level progress, but lacked the depth required for effective project management.

It was cumbersome, time-consuming, and didn’t provide real-time insights into project statuses, expenditures, or forecasts.

Furthermore, monthly reporting was a tedious, error-prone process that took several weeks to compile, making the data nearly obsolete by the time it reached approval authorities.

Motivation for PM3 Adoption

The decision to implement a PPM solution was driven by several factors:

  • External Recommendations: An external review conducted by the Northern Ireland Strategic Investment Board strongly recommended digitising the DfC’s project portfolio processes to achieve real-time data availability and better investment visibility.
  • Regulatory Compliance: The Department for Finance in Northern Ireland highlighted the need for a set of robust project portfolio processes across the entire civil service to ensure compliance and transparency.
  • Leadership Initiative: DfC decided to take the lead among the nine Northern Ireland civil service departments by testing a digital PPM tool. This initiative aimed to set an example for others to follow, despite financial constraints in Northern Ireland.

Selection Process

Department for Communities conducted an extensive evaluation of various PPM solutions, which included attending numerous presentations, reaching out to other public sector organisations in Northern Ireland, and searching through platforms like G Cloud and Capterra. After careful consideration, they decided to proceed with PM3 for several reasons:

  • User-Friendly: PM3 was chosen because it didn’t require specialised IT expertise, making it accessible to a broader range of users within the organisation.
  • Intuitive Interface: The user-friendly interface and minimal control buttons made PM3 easy to navigate, reducing the need for extensive IT support.
  • Comprehensive Features: PM3 offered a wide range of features, including project tracking, reporting, risk management, and more, aligning with Department for Communities’ diverse project portfolio.

Project Portfolio and Future Expansion

DfC manages a diverse project portfolio, including Social Security benefits, urban regeneration, public realm projects, social housing, and sports stadium construction, among others. With PM3, they aim to enhance visibility, not only for their projects but also for arms-length bodies and grant schemes. Their potential portfolio value could reach £2.2 billion.

User Onboarding and Integration

Department for Communities adopted a blended approach to user onboarding, combining PM3’s learning modules with workshops and ongoing support. The goal was to empower teams to use PM3 independently and integrate it into their project meetings and decision-making processes. This approach ensures that PM3 becomes an integral part of project management.

Overcoming Resistance and Gaining Buy-In

While Department for Communities’ internal team did not resist PM3 adoption, they encountered some resistance from other business areas due to concerns about changing their existing processes. Department for Communities emphasised the importance of adapting processes to align with PM3’s capabilities and assured others that PM3 would streamline project management and reporting.

Measurable Benefits

While it is challenging to quantify monetary savings at this early stage, Department for Communities has experienced significant benefits:

  • Real-time Visibility: PM3 provides real-time data, allowing DfC to make informed decisions promptly.
  • Time Savings: Manual reporting that took weeks can now be accomplished in minutes, significantly reducing administrative overhead.
  • Accurate Reporting: Department for Communities’ reports are now up to date, eliminating the risk of making decisions based on outdated information.
  • Increased Engagement: PM3 has generated interest among project teams, who appreciate its convenience and accuracy.
  • Enhanced Governance: PM3 offers transparency and accountability, enabling senior officials to confidently manage public funds.

Key PM3 Features Used

Department for Communities primarily uses the following PM3 features:

  • Actions Log: Utilised daily to track tasks and activities.
  • Delivery Status Updates: Completed monthly, providing essential project progress information.
  • Milestones and Gantt Charts: Used for project planning and tracking, especially by teams without Microsoft Project licenses.
  • Risk and Issue Logs: Streamlined reviews and decision-making processes.

Integration with Existing Systems

PM3 was integrated seamlessly into Department for Communities existing IT infrastructure.

The initial challenge of navigating firewalls was resolved by whitelisting PM3. The system meets Department for Communities stringent ICT security standards.

Scalability and Adaptability

Department for Communities expects PM3 to easily scale with their organisation’s changing needs. As the largest department in Northern Ireland’s civil service, they anticipate around 200-150 project entities on PM3.

The inclusion of contracts, grant schemes, procurement, and other processes is expected to be manageable without significant challenges.

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