This is the sixth in our series of articles that consider why so many transformation initiatives fail and, more importantly, what can you do to improve your chances of success. Last week we looked at the different methodologies and approaches you can use to manage a transformation. This week, we consider the project and programme management capability you need within your organisation to manage and co-ordinate the change. The ‘who’ to last week’s ‘how’.

What Is Programme Management?

Assuming that you are adopting a programme or portfolio approach to transformation, it’s important that the team you put in place have the necessary skills and experience. A successful programme manager will have a different skill set, outlook and approach to a successful project manager. People can absolutely make the transition from project to programme management, but this is not something you’d ideally want someone learning on the job during your transformation programme.

Choosing the Right Person for the Job

Good programme managers will focus on the bigger picture, the benefits that have been promised in the business case, the interdependencies between different projects and activities, how well different groups of people are moving through the change curve, and how effectively internal and external stakeholder relationships are being managed.

Good project managers will focus on the specifics of delivering their projects on time, to specification and on budget. You will typically find them in amongst the detail of solving problems and managing risks and issues. Change management will be on their radar, but it will be focused on adoption of the new systems, processes or ways of working delivered by their project, rather than effecting an overarching business change.

It’s not an either/or choice. Functional transformations need both effective programme and project management to be successful.

To avoid unforeseen surprises during implementation, it is highly advisable to have an experienced programme manager plan and structure the various implementation phases of your transformation before presenting your final business case for approval. Conversely, waiting to bring in programme management expertise until after the business case is approved, or using a project manager to scope a transformation, increases the risk of uncomfortable conversations about timescales, budget or scope during implementation.

Dealing with the inherent uncertainty surrounding transformation is an essential competency for your programme and functional leadership teams. Leading change at scale through times of uncertainty requires high levels of mental toughness and emotional intelligence. Beware programme managers and suppliers who are overly confident about delivering business change and who provide simplistic or binary answers to your questions. If someone is rather nonchalantly telling you that there will be a short period of dual keying between systems post ‘go live’, be especially cautious.

If the members of your functional teams seconded to the transformation are unfamiliar with project and programme concepts, language and methodologies, they can be at a distinct disadvantage. This can be stressful for the individuals involved and it brings an avoidable level of risk to your programme. Providing your people with an introduction to project and programme management can be invaluable and a great first step in forming a high-performing programme team.

Next week we look at another business critical capability that’s required to scope a successful transformation: ‘Solution Design Capability’.

Can’t wait until next week? For your full 10 point Transformation Scoping Checklist click here.

This article on Methodology and Approach covers the eighth of ten critical success factors in scoping a functional transformation programme. Other articles in this series include:

  1. The first article covering the first three points from our scoping checklist, namely Sponsorship, Problem Definition and Preparing for Change
  2. The second article focuses on Requirements Gathering and the importance of looking beyond technology
  3. Governance and Decision Making is the topic of the third article and the financial impact of governance that breaks down
  4. We cover Vision, Objectives and Design Principles in our fourth article
  5. Our fifth article looks at the Methodology and Approach used for transformation and the difference between a project, programme and portfolio
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