Senior Responsible Owner

Senior Responsible Owner – what does that even mean and what does he or she do? Well, one of the key reasons that big, complex programmes can fail or at least, not achieve what they are supposed to, on time and budget is a lack of clear accountability. So in 2000, the UK adopted the SRO (sometimes also referred to as a programme executive) as the single point of accountability for public sector programmes: SROs of major UK projects are named here.

The SRO is ultimately responsible for the achievement of ‘benefits’ i.e. the thing doing what it’s supposed to in support of the bigger picture. As an RAF SRO I am expected to be publicly visible, an advocate for the programme and in a change to past military postings policy, stay in post for an extended period to see programmes through key stages.

I’m responsible for managing my stakeholders; informing and collaborating with them to make sure they deliver to me, I deliver to them and they work in support of my programmes. I ensure the programme is on track, keeping tabs on the myriad of inputs complex programmes can have. A good example for the RAF is our ‘capital programmes’ like the AIRSEEKER signals intelligence aircraft. It’s tempting to focus just on the 3 aircraft that the RAF is acquiring, but particularly for a capability like


Defence Lines of Development capture the ‘non-equipment’ factors

this, the aircraft is only a portion of what delivers the benefit. To do this, we have to have trained people, infrastructure support for operations and maintenance, a plan for how to use the capability (in military terms, this is out ‘doctrine’) and of course an information and communications backbone to gather, filter and transmit data to get it where it needs to be to inform decisions. The aircraft really is just the tip of the iceberg; recruiting, retaining and training the right people can often take longer and be harder than negotiating a contract to buy airplanes!

How do you know things are on course? Well the National Audit Office compiles an annual report of Defence’s largest programmes so it’s possible to track them. Also, the Major Projects Authority compiles an annual report. The most recent one shows that the UK has some 188 projects officially designated ‘major’ due to their cost and/or impact. These combined are worth £489Bn! AIRSEEKER is one of these Government Major Projects. In order to drive the kind of improvements identified in the MPA report a rigorous holding to account process is established; I may be summoned to give evidence to the Parliamentary select-committee-300x150.jpgAccounts Committee about any of my Major Projects and I am required to undertake a third party ‘Gateway Review’ at frequent stages throughout the lifecycle.

In order to make sure I can deliver both the programme and the information to enable the governance of it, I have a Programme Management Office here at RAF Air Command. With the help of other distributed staff, notably in the Defence Equipment & Support at Abbey des.gifWood, these people are the powerhouse of the programme. Together, we work on those things that put at risk any element of the programme, we manage the drumbeat of programme activities, co-ordinate publicity and stakeholder communications and of course, produce information for scrutiny.

I hope this has given you an overview of what an SRO does but I would be happy to answer any questions through the comments section and please watch my Twitter account for some of the day-to-day SRO work that goes on in managing some of these programmes.




About Ian Gale
RAF Air Commodore working as the Senior Responsible Owner for delivery of RAF Command & Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance programmes

4 Responses to Senior Responsible Owner

  1. Respect where it is due. May I please ask how this still happens? –

  2. Ian Gale says:

    Thanks Gary – I realised today would be a tough day for this piece! Large projects and programmes always present many and complex challenges. My role is to prevent headlines like this by risk managing as the project or programme goes through early stage concept work through to delivery and in-service. I don’t think it’s for me to comment on the specific story though as I don’t have any contact with this particular project.

    • Thanks for taking the time to respond Ian, it is very much appreciated. You are correct about the timing and knowing you’re bound to attract commentary on the various major MoD projects that continue to slip, albeit at a slower rate (bar one) than in the previous NAO reporting period.

      We at Aspire continue to view the whole procurement and through life support processes with a good level of frustration, knowing it could be done with greater efficiency and lower costs, but getting ‘the foot in the door’ over the Primes, and their ‘SME’ sub-organisations, is extremely difficult.

      From my prior service and experience with the Australian Army as an aviation engineering officer, it is to be noted that projects and programmes are subject to significant slippage overseas too, so it is not purely peculiar to the UK MoD!

      I will observe with even greater interest how it progresses under your leadership and management. I wish you all the best with the post, role, task and responsibility Ian.

      Very best regards


  3. simon020962 says:

    Ian – really interesting blogpost. Thank you. S

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