The Power of Program Management

Over the last few weeks I have had the good fortune of participating in Consortium member conversations highlighting the power of well-run Program Management Offices.  It occurs to me that we’ve been using the words “projects” and “programs” as catch-all descriptions for work that is mostly about implementing a change: new tools, new processes, developing new organizations, and so on.  Two recent discussions reinforced for me the power of being intentional about 1) what we’re trying to achieve and 2) investing in the right resources with the right skills to be successful.

Akamai presented a KCS In Action webinar on Guiding Principles for a Successful KCS Adoption which serves as a blueprint for anyone who wants to implement and be highly successful with KCS.  What they discussed applies to any major initiative and is not unique to KCS:

  1. Ensure you have buy-in at all levels:  In order to get the funding and long term commitment for change, it is critical that stakeholders at all levels understand and agree to the vision, goals, and expected outcomes from a program or project.  
  2. Invest in the change for long term sustained success:  This one depends on the scope of the change, but for a major change or implementation like KCS, treating it like a defined end state project without the right long term investment and ongoing support will hamper success. 
  3. Invest in the people doing the job:  Ensure that the people doing the job have continuous opportunities to grow through robust coaching and ongoing recognition of impact and achievement. 
  4. Invest in tools and processes:  Ensure that the tools and processes are designed for and by the people doing the job so execution is easy and not a burden. 
  5. Continue to focus on the improvements and wins:  Long term success comes from communicating progress and looking for new opportunities to add efficiency gains or new change initiatives. 

Shortly after Akamai’s presentation, I facilitated a discussion with Faith McDonnell, Senior Director of the Central Project Management Office and Business Process Management at PTC, on thinking through the structure and working practices to manage large scale change programs and the dozens of projects and process changes required to ensure success.  A few key points from the conversation really stuck with me:

  1. Treat Programs and Projects differently:  While it is common to use these terms interchangeably, they are not the same thing.  Running projects and programs requires different types of skills. 
    1. Projects have defined start and end times and a clear outcome: the creation of a new product, service, or unique thing. 
    2. Programs are a group of projects or sub-programs and related projects that are looking to have broad-reaching and lasting impacts.
  2. Organizations need to own the process:  A centralized Business Process Management team has the professional skills and methodologies to help organizations across a company implement processes that are appropriate for them, and connect across organizations.  However, the team using the process itself needs to feel ownership for the ongoing maintenance of the process with a defined Process Owner. 
  3. You don’t need to invent any of this!  Perhaps my favorite of Faith’s recommendations was to make sure you leverage existing methodologies and don’t try to invent your own.  PTC’s definition for Projects and Programs and how they manage them are based on PMBOK.  PTC invests in its people to gain skills through training, certifications, and professional development for business process management and program management. 

Both the presentation by Akamai and the discussion with Faith reminded me of the need to invest in formal program management, ongoing business process management, and the right resources to ensure long term success.  

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