Transforming Heathrow with PMO as a Platform

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Adam Bywater


Effective data management is the backbone of every major infrastructure asset owner and operator’s project management office (PMO) activities. The increasing challenge is understanding what benefits and outcomes are required, which digital tools and platforms they need to deliver these, and where investment is best placed to really drive performance forward.

Heathrow Airport is no different. Having delivered over 1,500 projects across the airport in the last five years through its vast capital delivery portfolio, the business found itself at a moment of significant change as the global COVID-19 pandemic halted the global aviation sector and unravelled its business model.

Heathrow recognised that they needed to embrace new digital approaches, systems and tools to manage their investment programmes and meet the airport’s immediate and future business needs.

Partnership for programme transformation

Our new ‘PMO as a Platform’ (PMOaaP) transformation programme, developed in partnership with industry-leading software suppliers, was a game-changing solution.

The approach used the Turner & Townsend PMO Cube to get the very best out of industry-leading software platforms by offering ‘software as a solution’ through design, configuration and operation.

This innovative partnership allowed Heathrow to outsource its software development and management risk for the first time. Having worked with Turner & Townend for more than 25 years, Heathrow was confident that this new approach would deliver a successful outcome.

Under the arrangement, software was procured, configured, and implemented as a new digital PMO toolset, working with key software providers including RiskHive, Hexagon (EcoSys), and SpotOnBI.

Rapid roll out

The PMO Cube is a framework used to describe the components of the PMO function. It provides a structured approach to draw on best practice principles and ‘ways of working’ and lessons learnt by Turner & Townsend over years of working on major programmes.

The PMO Cube was central to bringing Heathrow on board with this new solution and was adapted to fit with the airport’s specific business objectives, whilst still maintaining industry best practice in performance, scalability and security.

The approach enabled cross-functional buy-in to be established across the Heathrow team and helped establish an integrated data model, based on an understanding of the client’s challenges and a clear route to solutions.

Since the beginning of 2021, the PMOaaP team has procured, configured, and implemented a new PMO toolset that seamlessly integrates with Heathrow’s incumbent systems. But rather than simply enhancing the efficiency of existing activities, the model has enabled the PMO team to continuously find new ways of working based around industry best practice. 

Deployed in just five months, it helped create a business transformation that defines new, faster and more efficient ways of working through modernised tools and systems to drive efficiencies across people management, processes, data, and systems.

Embedding expertise to drive outcomes

One of the major improvements was the development of a company-wide data model that contained Heathrow’s asset information at its core. This enabled the integration of data from the airport’s 1,500 projects, across systems and functions, to drive efficiencies in the end-to-end process.

The new PMOaaP model succeeds by embedding the PMO consultant into the client’s business - with the ‘software as a solution’ approach providing ‘skin in the game’ and an ability and the incentive to really deliver innovative new ideas, ahead of time and below budget.

The PMOaaP team has been able to meet challenging timescales in an environment that is continuously changing and evolving.  It has done this by ensuring the solution drives efficiencies into the PMO organisation by reducing data manipulation, input, double handling, and validation, allowing finite resources to focus on analysis and value-add activities.

Understanding the benefits

Heathrow is a complex organisation working in a highly-regulated environment. The strict governance regime underpinning the business had to be clear about the benefits that PMOaaP could bring. Analysis of the outcomes highlighted multiple benefits including:

  • The systems have been robustly trialled and stress-tested against established business rules and processes so they can be seamlessly integrated into Heathrow’s organisation.
  • A single entity managing their integrated PMO toolset reducing the burden on the client organisation to manage configuration, licence agreements, testing and integration.
  • Reduced programme set-up and mobilisation periods as the tools, systems, and processes have been modelled on industry best practice and can be scaled and shaped to meet the organisation’s needs.
  • A consistent data model and common language that drives improved business insight and integrated management information from the supply chain and internal functions, allowing Heathrow to make more informed and timely management decisions.
  • Drives efficiencies into the PMO organisation by reducing data manipulation, input, double-handling and validation. Allowing finite resources to focus on analysis and value add activities.

Proof of concept

The Heathrow experience provides, in effect, a proof of concept that enables the PMOaaP model to be rolled out to a wider pool of clients, many of which have similar challenges to Heathrow in terms of their need and desire to increase efficiency. All need to do more with less and seek to break down the large number of operational and data silos that can slow down performance.

The PMO Cube methodology means that the solution is effectively 80 percent ready to be embraced by new clients, requiring just 20 percent of the PMOaaP solution to be adapted to meet the clients’ specific needs.

This ‘software as a solution’ approach is innovative since most software vendors are reluctant to take any of the delivery, integration or operational risk. However, such an agreement lays the groundwork for the development of consistent ways of working and processes that get all parties aligned, enabling rapid and successful roll out across the organisation.

The game-changing approach is also now generating interest outside infrastructure, with interest coming from our clients in high tech, manufacturing and the pharmaceutical industry – and for other major projects globally including in New Zealand and Australia.

The key to its success is to generate and demonstrate product value and tangible money-saving solutions for clients – helping them to achieve and measure the reality that they are spending less and getting more.

The reality is that people tend to invest in software but haven’t yet defined their ways of working and therefore how they want the systems to operate. This leads to lengthy and expensive implementation periods, and systems that aren’t integrated and don’t meet the needs of the business.

Our partnership with Heathrow has changed this mindset and encouraged a vital open and frank discussion around change, allowing senior management to focus attention on the outcomes they desire.

Key takeaways:

  • Effective data management is the backbone of every major infrastructure asset owner and operator’s PMO.
  • The new PMOaaP model embeds the PMO consultant into the client’s business, ensuring that solutions drive efficiencies into the PMO organisation.
  • Our innovative ‘software as a solution’ approach has enabled our client to get the very best out of its investment in industry-leading PMO software platforms.
  • The PMO Cube framework provided a structured approach to draw on best practice principles and establish an integrated data model based on the client’s needs.
  • The success of this PMOaaP approach is its ability to generate and demonstrate value and tangible money-saving solutions for clients – helping them to spend less and achieve more from their investment.


For further information contact:

Turner Townsend Portraits 7

Adam Bywater