Importance of Program Management

Have you ever wondered about a project that was completed within the quality criteria, scope, time and cost but was not realized as beneficial to the organization?  The general mindset is that projects delivered under the set constraints are successful but these are not true success factors in terms of achieving optimum organizational value. Project’s entire focus rightly is on to complete deliverable ignoring most of the time external factors. Certain times such factors are logged as risks but just to fill in the risk register without any analysis over them.

Program management takes a different standpoint, its focus is to ensure all related project deliverable are integrated and are aligned to the organization set vision /strategies/goals further reducing any duplication and exploiting maximum benefits with effective stakeholder collaborations.

In one of such projects, I realized program importance where the big picture alignment was entirely missed. We kept delivering as per the set constraints but the organization had a major shuffle in their management staff and the corporate strategy was revised. This change was external to the project and there was no link established between project progress and organizational changes. Due to this strategy revision, the project outputs were no longer aligned to the corporate objectives. Eventually, the project was completed with a lot of efforts and challenges but the value from its deliverable had no benefit to the organization.

To put things more into perspective, this project was initiated to implement documentation control software within a department of an organization. During project execution, management reviewed the IT costing and opted to switch to cloud based ERP solution with an additional document control module for their entire organization. The change in corporate strategy had no alignment to the current projects in progress. The document control project delivered on time, within scope and cost but the solution delivered was eventually cancelled, as it became a redundant application consuming additional operational cost. The new ERP solution took over saving on operational cost and being more efficient for the users with a single interface to its document control module. The successfully completed document control project was finally realized as a waste of investment to the organization.

Effective Program Management avoids such issues, if the organization had implemented appropriate Programme framework for e.g. Managing Successful Programme (MSP) framework; all projects would have been aligned to corporate strategy and would have been regularly monitored to ensure effectiveness in benefit delivery. One of key core principle of MSP framework is to ensure corporate strategy alignment with the below six others:

In today’s time, the only constant element is change. Program management framework assist in managing complex transformation change. It creates a “temporary, flexible organization to coordinate, direct and oversee the implementation of a set of related projects and activities in order to deliver outcomes and benefits related to the organization’s strategic objectives”. (AXELOS. Managing Successful Programmes 2011 Edition, page 914-915, The Stationery Office Ltd. Kindle Edition.)

Usually the project’s alignment to strategy is expected from the organization’s project management office (PMO), the project broad, or the project sponsor himself. However, when you have high number of interrelated projects running in parallel, it will be wise to structure them as a program with an appropriate governance framework to achieve maximum benefits and avoid wasted efforts in non-beneficial projects.

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