Roles and responsibilities of the Investment Decision Maker

The Investment Decision Maker's main responsibility is to commit funds for the programme or project. The role represents senior management's commitment to the programme or project and the requirements for regularity, propriety and value for money.

Purpose of the IDM role

The Investment Decision Maker (IDM) role is applied in several ways in programmes and projects. It also has specific responsibilities in construction procurement projects within the Achieving Excellence initiative. The IDM’s main responsibility is to commit funding for a programme or project.  

In a wider programme (and to a lesser extent project) environment, IDM responsibilities may be combined with the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) role where an individual is able to take on the responsibilities of both. It may be that an individual takes the role when investment is confined to a single department but the IDM may also be a collective responsibility shared by the Sponsoring Group who together provide the mandate and means to support the investment. The latter view is the one presented in the Managing Successful Programmes framework which addresses the wider programme and project context for an organisation.

In major investments the level at which investment decision making takes place will depend on the size and complexity of the programme or project and its political sensitivity. For large programmes or projects within a single department, the role may typically rest at Permanent Secretary or Accounting Officer level, that is at the top of the hierarchy that forms the departmental chain of command. This function represents senior management’s commitment to the programme or project and the requirements for regularity, propriety and value for money. For large, complex or sensitive cross-cutting investments it may be that the Minister takes a leading role in the investment decision making process. The IDM must ensure that ministers are given all relevant facts when they are invited to make a decision.

Responsibilities of the IDM

The IDM is responsible for:

  • ensuring a viable and affordable business case exists for a programme or project
  • ensuring the business case remains valid throughout the programme or project
  • ensuring the systems of control set out in the Managing Public Money NI guidance and other relevant Dear Accounting Officer letters are put into place and are followed
  • agreeing the appointment of an SRO, where the roles of IDM and SRO are separate, with sufficient authority to ensure that the necessary resources are in place to implement the programme or project and provide proper support for the programme manager
  • ensuring the NI Gateway Review Process is applied appropriately
  • establishing and monitoring a scheme of delegation, clearly defining the extent of individual responsibilities
  • maintaining the visible and sustained commitment from the top of the organisation to deliver

Skills and attributes required by an IDM

The IDM should be able to:

  • understand the financial basis of the business operation and how the programme or project will operate within it
  • understand and advise on programme or project business case matters
  • have the authority or seniority to allocate funds

Important to note

The IDM is involved in the programme or project when approving funds. In programmes, this role is often maintained collectively by the Sponsoring Group. In projects it may be merged with the role of the SRO. If merged, it is important to recognise the difference between having the authority to allocate funds and the responsibility for successful outcomes. In programmes and larger projects, business cases, and affordability issues in particular, will be considered by departmental finance branches before any approvals by the Department of Finance.

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