Holyrood Project Case Study


The need to adequately implement a project successfully with the required Project Management indices has ensured that project managers are continuously seeking ways of ensuring that projects meet and satisfies customer’s cravings. A project is said to be successful if it is implemented with an efficient and effective cost, quality and time management approach thereby meeting customer’s expectation; it is a failure when it fails to met these set objectives. The Holyrood -Scotland Parliamentary Building project management approach is critically analysed in a post mortem approach in this paper with a view to discussing how each of the stages in the project lifecycle culminated in the failure of the project to meeting certain criteria of an effective project.

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The Holyrood: A project of the Scottish government which was undertaken to provide a magnificent structure for the use of the Scottish Parliament. The advent of the Devolution proposal in 1979 gave rise initially to the project, however, the project became main-stream in 1998. The project became a key issue for the stakeholders due to key project management controls. A successful project is judged to be efficient, cost effective, quality, on time, and meet customer’s satisfaction. An appraisal of the Holyrood project indicated that some of these indices were not achieved especially in terms of cost and duration, hence the need to evaluate and analyse the entire project life cycle from initiation to closure to ascertain what went wrong and what could have been done.

This paper aims to diagnose the indices of a successful project with respect to the Holyrood project, and critically evaluates how the project deviated from the expected project management indices. It identifies the problems of project management associated with each stage of the Holyrood project life cycle using project management theories of the like of P. Gardiner 2005 and J. Westland 2006 to define each stage of project life cycle – Initiation & Definition; Planning & Development; Execution & Control and Closure and analyse it to the Holyrood project.

The first section reviews the background of the Holyrood Parliament building project. Section two identifies the problems associated with each stage of the project – Initiation and definition; Planning and development; Execution and control and Closure. Section three analyses the problems that are most significant to cost increase and schedule slippage using the Auditor General report as well as other authors. Section four will evaluate the problems identified in section 3 and relate it to PM writers (Cimil J.K 1997), (Pinto 1998), (OGC, 2005) to identify why project fails; section five is a summary of findings and conclusion.

Chapter 1
1.0 Background of the Holyrood Parliament Building Project

The devolution proposals of 1979 may have given room for the incoming labour administration in 1997, to implement the proposal which included the building of the Scottish parliament. The Scottish parliament was and is still an important symbol for Scotland. It is expected that the parliament building should possess the best of quality, durability as well as represent civil importance. The Holyrood project from the initiation process faced enormous challenges starting from the quest for early completion and the high expectation in terms of quality. The major hindrance started with first, the cultural difficulties in the joint venture which did not allow them to work effectively. Secondly, the construction management approach of the project adopted, and the selection criteria for design procurement. Harnessing the ideas of different project team was a major concern for the project, as virtually all teams had different ideas indicating no clear direction, leadership, and project stage control. This ensued that there were lot of scope creep during the implementation of the project. A major creep was the cost creep: the initial capital cost was estimated at ?40million in 1997, which rose to ?90 million and from then rose to ?195 million. By April 2001 the cost had crept again to ?359 in June 2003 and the ?414.4million by 2004 resulting to a 20month delay.

Lord Fraser report and the Auditors Generals report have scrutinized what must have gone wrong with the project.

Chapter 2
2.0 Problems with the stages of the Project

For a proper evaluation of what went wrong with the Holyrood Project, it is important to understand what really makes up a project life cycle. According to Paul D.Gardner (2005) the project life cycle indicates the phases a project has to go through from beginning to completion in an orderly from ensuring that the successful completion of one stage leads to the beginning of another, till the end of the project. It is imminent to state here that a well structured project phase of a project help in proper controlling and monitoring of the project, and ensure that timely corrective actions are implemented when deviation from plans are observed.

2.1 Initiation and Definition stage

This stage kick starts the lifecycle of the project and establishes the ‘sum of the products and services to be provided by the project’ (PMI 2000). The business justification for the project is firmly established at this stage. The sponsor’s strategic plan is investigated by conducting a feasibility study which includes the project assessment in terms of its cost and benefits.

For the Holyrood project whose objective was to provide a home fit for the Scottish parliament indicated a right step as a business case was made to justify such a proposal. However, the project encountered political problems which included the selection of an appropriate site to house the parliament, the PM drawing a time table to fulfill the political objective of early completion. It is of note mention that given the proposed cost estimate of the project one would have concluded that a poor feasibility study was conducted which drew a budget that can never have been a realistic estimate for anything other than a basic building for the new parliament. It also showed that adequate risk assessment was not carried out as the time frame approach for the completion of the building indicated. Overall impression for the initiation stage indicated that the project scope was not well defined, which would have indicated where the priority should be laid on , either on cost, quality, or early completion of the building . The project did not put into consideration the evolve of the clients need which does not fit into Cimil success criteria.

2.2 Planning and Development stage

In this phase of the project three elements are important and they are; the creation of all the required plans to support the project (the scope management plan, the work plan, timeline, risk management plan and quality management plan), the mobilization and organization of all resources required for the project and infrastructure to support the resource as well as ensuring effective communication across the network of project stakeholders.

The project lacked a sense of appreciation of plan, which made the project budget under estimated. A key setback for the planning stage was the disparity in choosing the proper design procurement approach. The selection criteria for the chosen procurement approach – designer competition showed that the entire process lacked clarity; as a systematic approach was not adopted towards the handling of PQQs. This attributed to the lack of coordination from personnel undertaking visits in verifying the applicants/Competitors information’s thereby leading to unfairness in choosing the appropriate candidate. This singular act ensured that all applicants including the joint venture partners presented drawings that extended outside the required size in the brief- a major signal of a possible project scope creep.

Secondly in a project of this magnitude the choice of a project sponsor a very vital role to the success of a project should not be guided by political undertone as it appears in the choice of Mrs Doig who lacks expertise in matters of projects and construction. This to a large extent gave room for a lot of poor decisions which is evident in the choice of adopting construction management as the building option. Another problem at this stage in the project was that the project initiator, Mr. Dewar was too attached to the project. This often made him opt for unpopular choices like the choice of opting for a designer competition as against a design competition as specified by the RIAS team. Moreover, the competition process was conducted in an unprofessional manner that lacked finesse and proper coordination.

For a project of this nature with very high risk content the lack of a contingency risk plan is inexcusable. The critical path of the project was not mentioned. The project lacked proper communication and coordination at this stage, sight of the terms of the brief was lost

2.3 Execution and Control stage

(Westland Jason 2006) described this phase as the longest phase of a project. This is the stage were the deliverables are physically built and presented to the customer for acceptance. (Paul D. Gardiner 2005) described it as the phase where new information from other phases can lead to change, and a good project manger should know that some changes are inevitable, therefore there is need to maintain control over these changes to the project plan.

Change Management for this project was out of control as most changes done in execution stage of the Holyrood project was not agreed by the parties involved. This exhibited the lack of good leadership, control and good management associated with the project. The reporting system did not encourage effective communication as well as flow of information between the teams which lead to the resignation of the 1st PM (Mr Armstrong) and subsequent managers. This lack of control saw the cost of the project skyrocketing with a lot of changes done in the design plan.

2.4 Closure stage

Closure is the last phase of the project life cycle; it represents the end of a project. Money is no more paid out, all documentation and administration of the project is closed and opportunity for evaluation and performance review. The finished product is transferred to the care, custody and control of the owner (Paul D Gardnier 2005).

In the Holyrood project, there were delays in the project handover as conflict between the contracted parties remains unresolved till the end of the project. The project closure and handing over lack some merits as potential risk elements were ignored in the final documentation. Some examples are 45,000 defects were discovered after handover and issues regarding the infrastructure.

Chapter 3
3.0 Problems with the most significant cost increase and schedule slippage
3.1 Significant Cost Increases

The project from inception has suffered successive increases in its cost forecast, but the most significant is in the construction stage (Execution and Control phase). Increase in construction cost was (caused by) as a result of design development and delay in construction process as the project progressed. The construction cost increases fall into three main areas

Design development ?68m

Prolongation, disruption and delay ?73m

Inflation and Risk certainty ?19m

Most of this cost was incurred from the year 2000, though this increase was as a result of poor planning, control and management attributed at the planning and development stage.

3.2 Significant Schedule Slippage

The rush for early delivery of such huge project resulted to lot of schedule slippage. The complexities in the design variation as well as the late communication/supply of information during the construction phase were the most significant cause of the 20 months delay of the project. This delay started in 2000 and this still fall under the Execution and control phase. Apart from the complexity and late supply of information, other factors also attributed to the schedule spillage are

19-24 weeks delay in the Foyer roof, Glazing and assembling of the windows

15 Months each for the debating chamber and Canon Gate

There was no contingency plan for spillage in the initial timetable.

Chapter 4
4.0 Evaluation of the Project Management Problems Corresponding to those Identified in the Literature

This section brings us back to the question why do project fail? And the writer is going to relate some of this failure to the problem associated with the Holyrood project. Writers like (OGC, 2005), (Cicmil 1997), (Carlos 2005) theory of why project fail will be used to evaluate the Literature.

OGC, 2005 gave eight reasons why project fails and some of the reasons are lack of clear senior management and ministerial ownership and leadership. In the literature it was seen that was no clear direction, control as well as leadership among the different civil servants groups that handled the project. The project manager had no single point of authoritative command and could not use his authority and influence to control the project.

In the literature decisions were made without communicating them to the stakeholders, this shows lack of effective engagement with stakeholders. Also there was lack of skills and proven approach to project management and risk management. The project sponsor knew very little about construction and this showed when no further inquiry was done on the construction management choice which has much risk on the client was not appreciated by the sponsor because of her incompetence. Risk was never incorporated in any of her decisions. (Cicmil 1997) also researched on principal sources of project failure where he talked about poor understanding and identification of client need. The joint venture never understood the client’s need that was why from the beginning they never adhered to the client’s brief, which would have minimised the risk that exists in undertaking a project with tight time frame. (Cicmil 1997) talked about organizational behaviour factors. The organisation of Holyrood project did not provide the necessary clear direction and leadership and this led to lack of control, communication and poor management that existed in the project. The project was conceptualized as one without any provision for change. Such deficiency highlights the lack of (Cicmil 1997) bounded rationality approach to project management. The literature is rife with instances where proper procedures were not adhered to. Examples include the architects (Snr Miralles) reluctance to fit his designs into the project brief even when he was informed to.

(Carlos 2005) talked about why project fails and most of it boils down to what existed in the Holyrood project which was lack of teamwork, cultural differences, communication, politics, control and poor management. This inevitably led to cost increase, and delays seen in the project.


(Gardiner 2005) Valuation should have been applied to all the stages of the Project life cycle by PM

The important key positions should not have been handled by Civil Servants

Plan for contingency risk should have been made.

The implementation of multi perspective framework on projects. In my opinion if this had been used issues like the choice of construction management would not have been made the content context and organisational character would have been analysed and a more suitable method like PFI/PPP would have been selected

5.0 Conclusion

The Holyrood Project in the long run became a huge success, however most critics believed that the time and cost slippage would have been avoided if proper project management indices were followed. The author has been able to diagnose this key indices and is of the opinion that the success of every project is dependent on the effectiveness of the project manager , a major problem of the Holyrood Project .It is also worth mentioning that my recent visit to the Parliament Building afforded me the opportunity to have my personal take on the building and it is indeed a magnificent piece and so despite the many problems encountered it met the client’s expectations of quality, “Past Glory of Scotland flowing within the present into the future”


Lord Fraser, Holyrood Inquiry, Blackwell Bookshop, (2004)

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(6th Edition Pitman Publishing), (1996) Page 3

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Volume 9 Number 6 1997,390-396


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(Last visited on 20th July 2009)

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