What’s all the fuss about programme management, isn’t it just lots of projects all thrown together? This article explores the benefits of formal programme management and the pitfalls of ignoring it… There are various formal approaches to programme management, but underpinning the most credible ones are some key principles that will make any approach worth adopting. Each model has its own definitions but a distillation of them all would produce something like the following: Corporate strategy, Leadership, Communication, Benefits, Value and Control.
Programmes of work are indeed collections of projects but they are complex structures and far from simple ones that many may assume. Any programme is greater than the sum of its parts but what nobody wants is for the cost, whether that’s resource, money or time, to be greater as well, in fact quite the opposite. A well run programme should make efficient use of a skilled resource pool, minimise the overall cost of project administration, maybe even the individual project costs too, and produce benefits that are greater than the sum of the individual projects because of the potential that is embodied in the aggregated pieces of work.
Whichever methodology you adopt, or even if you define your own, the benefits of a structured, well controlled approach that can be consistently adhered to will reap its own benefits in the process of managing change. When choosing the right model it is worth bearing in mind the basic principles and satisfying yourself that you have got them covered. Good governance, clear leadership roles, a consistent toolset and knowledge base, effective policy, procedure and process, a universal document structure, a well considered communications strategy, and most of all, planning, planning and bit more planning just to make sure. These things will serve to get you started right, deliver effectively, then what remains is the pursuit of goals, objectives and benefits.
The primary objective of a project is to deliver positive change that is in accordance with the strategic development plans of an organisation, whilst the primary objective of a programme is to effectively deliver a collection of projects and their benefits, as well as the benefits of the programme as a whole, in accordance with the over arching business strategy. For example, a selection of 5 projects that each has a benefit to deliver, with good design and strategic planning could release a 6th benefit by virtue of the additional business capability that results from the 5 projects together. Programme planning is a creative process and a strategic art that will serve any organisation well.
Failing to adhere to some common programme approach will inevitably lead to disappointing outcomes. Costs may escalate, scope may creep, delivery times will drift, benefits will be missed or reduced, the business strategy will fail to fulfil, and worst of all, customers and other stakeholders will not receive what they were expecting and were likely promised. Many projects, let alone large programmes, fail to deliver, and the common denominator is a lack of rigour in the approach. So the message is to adopt a programme approach, get some training if needs be, tailor a solution to suit yourselves, it will all be worth the investment if your organisation can turn around the classic symptoms of failure in delivering large scale change and instead deliver on expectations.
Al Vigus – Strategic Business Technology Consultant