Programme Management

Experienced and successful programme and project manager providing the following services:

  • project / programme start-up
    • requirements definition
    • success criteria
    • work breakdown and estimating
    • project design
    • reporting and governance structures
  • project / programme management
  • project / programme audit and rescue ( see below )

There is no substitute for hard work, no magic pill that will guarantee success. Whether I’m starting up a project or coming in along the way to troubleshoot and fix, I have a methodology and checklist of success criteria that I look for:

  1. Clear vision and objectives – does everyone involved with the project know why they are doing it?
  2. Executive buy-in and support – in other words, sponsorship by the business. IT projects are usually always business projects. Without funding, direction, issue resolution, prioritization and ongoing participation from the business, most IT projects will flounder.
  3. Strong business rationale – is there a business case? Half way through a project, especially if the scope has changed or the project has dragged on, does the business case still exist?
  4. User involvement – most IT projects are to implement or change something for users who may be internal or external. They need to be involved at all stages, from requirements validation to testing. And involving users is also a good way to ensure their buy-in and acceptance of the outcomes.
  5. Clear requirements – it should go without saying that requirements need to be clear. As Yogi Bera once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?” Too often have I stumbled upon in-flight initiatives where the people building something were working against vague or non-existent specifications.
  6. Realistic expectations – whatever the deliverables and the timing, are they realistic? Are miracles expected? Is there contingency?
  7. Smaller project milestones – projects that aim for a big bang release with no interim milestones generally tend to experience more problems than those with regular releases. It’s a good idea to flex all aspects of a project ecosystem, including those associated with testing, documentation, handover to production and so on. Even the Apollo missions had hundreds of interim milestones along the way to the big day.
  8. Competent project staff – it’s always about the people. Strong leadership is probably the most important indicator of success. But it’s not always just about the project or programme manager. Staff should be experienced with and have a common understanding of methodology and best practices. I once walked into a difficult situation in India, but because we all followed common applications development and project management methodologies, we were productive from day one.
  9. Good technical architecture – yes, it’s important to have a sound architecture with good hardware, but this isn’t a guarantor of success. Good people and management on mediocre technology are more likely to succeed than vice versa.
  10. Effective reporting and feedback mechanisms – if you aren’t measuring it you can’t fix it! How simple a concept and yet the quality of project status reporting is too often sub-optimal. In order to properly govern a change programme, the steering level needs clear and objective feedback on progress against deliverables, spend against budget, change requests and impact, issues, risks, changes in personnel, upcoming releases, and so on. A red flag to watch out for here is what I call ‘marking your own homework’. This is why an independent audit might be a good idea once in a while.
  11. Fast and fair decision making – not only at the steering level, but also in design meetings, one-on-one’s, and day to day management. It’s been said that in time critical situations, sometimes the wrong decision is better than no decision.
  12. Open communications and good working relationships – you can always tell when a project team is having fun. While it’s not always an indicator of success to see a team enjoying their work, you can almost always predict failure where you find tension, in-fighting and poor morale.