Programme Management Uncovered – Introduction

ERP Wordcloud
What I’m trying to capture in this series are some of the real life experiences of a Programme Manager working in an ever changing business world.   This will include a collection of observations, anecdotes and war stories, some tools and techniques, what works well and also common pitfalls. My purpose is to share some of the things I have learned and used in a wide, varied career and hope they are understandable and useful.   I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.   I have organised this material into six key sections – and my plan is to share the content over the next few weeks.

Part I covers the “why the need to change” behind organisations undergoing change and programmes – this will look into the drivers and key issues being faced by today’s organisations – and links these to the need for, and development of, the Business Vision and Strategy, and eventually leading to Business Benefits.

Part II looks into the “what is involved” in the programme – this covers Objectives, Scope, Requirements, Solutions, Design, Information, etc

Part III is the “who to involve” – in sponsoring, driving, leading, enabling etc – and what capability and skills are likely to be required.

Part IV tackles the “when it will happen” in terms of the high level milestones/roadmap down to the detailed plans and dependencies.

Part V is the “how to do it” and analyses the key components of the Programme Manager’s toolkit to enable them to drive the Programme to a successful conclusion.

Part VI is my final section looking at benefit realisation and lessons learned.

In conclusion, I hope to capture and share some of the wisdom, scars and lessons learned from working with many organisations and individuals over the recent years.   I have pulled together this generic material into a (hopefully) comprehensive and comprehensible format.  It is not meant to replace Prince, MSP or other proprietary methodologies, but to complement them.

Next I would like to explain a bit more about what will be in each section.

My plan is to provide three instalments covering two topics a week, and the related material as set out in the table below.   Within each section, I will start with an overview, then go into some more detail in many cases, and then include examples of tools and methodologies.  In some of the sections, I have introduced “war stories” to bring out some of the issues which occurred in actual programmes, containing some of the background and the key messages from each piece.

The proposed map of the contents looks like this:

Part I – Why?Part II – What?Part III – Who?Part IV – When?Part V – How?Part VI – Close
Drivers & ChallengesObjectivesSteering Group Roadmap and MilestonesProgramme Initiation DocumentBenchmarking
Case for Change ScopeProgramme ManagerPlanning matricesMobilisationResults/Benefits
VisionRequirementsProgramme teamDetailed planningProgramme Design and ApproachLessons Learned
Business CaseSolution DesignPeopleDependenciesChange impact analysis
Design PrinciplesStakeholdersIT/ERP selection/ evaluation
Management InformationCadence cycle and Project reporting
Project reporting/tracking
Change Management
Risks, Issues and Change Control
Quality Management
Making it Happen

Part V is larger than the others – not surprising as this is where the bulk of my material, experience and focus lies, and also where the bulk of the effort required in Programme delivery is – as you shall see.

There are many similarities between programmes and projects – but there are a number of differences also. My view on this is that Programmes tend to be more strategic and broader in scope so affecting more of the organisation and therefore needing more stakeholders to be involved; this will ultimately mean there will be more impact on the business and so greater the risk.

Programme Management Schematic









Case Study from 2010 – An eventful week in January

One does not normally expect too much excitement in the first week of January.  People return after the festive break, get back to their desks, run through the inevitable backlog of emails, pick up the list of things left incomplete in December, start on the new ideas, projects and events – and basically its back to business and back to normal.

Not so in 2010, when I was running an assignment with a Corporate Services Centre – this was a combined interim management and programme management role split between Milton Keynes (MK) and London.   The chain of events goes like this.

On the Monday, the main corporate Oracle ERP system crashed and when it was brought back up the books were “out of balance”.  So I commissioned a team of IT and Finance specialists to fix this problem. Processing a simple one sided journal entry was not the answer.

On the Tuesday, my Head of Finance, who was a key leader both in the management team and the change programme, announced his resignation, putting a real dampener on the Finance community. When it became clear we couldn’t change his mind, a recruitment process to find his replacement was immediately put in process.

On the Wednesday, there was an enormous snowstorm with several inches of snow falling in the morning.  Most of the team had managed to get into work, but as the snow fell, there were worries about getting home.  So I took the decision at lunchtime to close the office and send the entire staff home.  Even the IT and Finance team.

On the Thursday, I was in meetings in the London office; at mid-morning there was a large explosion and the fire alarm went off.  So we evacuated the office, spending an hour outside or in the local coffee shop. It turned out that when the power system failed, and the backup generator was started up, it couldn’t take the strain and blew up.

Finally on the Friday, with all of the team at their desks in MK, a bomb alarm went off and the building was evacuated – in double quick time: so quick, many left without jackets and handbags.   My team gathered in the appointed location as the wardens ensured the building was clear.  A suspect package had been processed by the mail room – this contained wires and electronics and addressed to a name which didn’t exist in the organisation. I found myself standing on a wall in the freezing cold, like some form of sergeant major, giving out information and instructions to the teams.   I arranged for the management team to set up a “mini war room” in a neighbouring office owned by another part of the organisation;  After setting up a “chain of command” and a communication process, I ordered the team leaders to take their teams into the nearby shopping mall to get warm, and ensured they had funds for coffees etc.  After 3 hours, I was able to get the teams back into the office.  And back to “normal”.

What a week!!

Key messages – Lots of typical Programme management skills required here: Plus the need for flexibility, thinking on your feet and requirement to pay strong attention to your people.

I plan to add to this in future sections, looking into what happened in some more detail, things to look out for, the tools used, the end result, etc.