How can you maximise the chances that a large-scale IT project will succeed?
While best practices exist for project mananagement, it is hard to find comprehensive advice on how to deal with complex change management programmes. As IT projects become increasingly more sophisticated, businesses need to improve the way they manage large-scale change programmes.
Cranfield School of Management has started a research project designed to help businesses and government understand such complex change management programmes. The school's director, Michael Osbaldeston said, "There's a lot of new knowledge being created out there and very few people have the theory and the framework basis to be able to pull that together and build on it. Our vision is that through rigorous research and practical application, we will be influencing the future direction of the programme management discipline."
As such, Cranfield has joined forces with outsourcing supplier EDS to form the International Centre for Programme Management at Cranfield School of Management. While many people have skills in project management, few understand change programmes, which involve co-ordinating several projects.
Harvey Maylor, Director of the ICPM (International Centre for Programme Management) at Cranfield said, "Project management skills are very well developed. Over the last 10 to 15 years organisations have added layers of control to improve project management. But programme management is different."
So what is an IT programme? A research paper published by Cranfield and EDS earlier this year stated, "Programmes differ from projects in many dimensions, including larger and less well defined scope, greater complexity and extended duration of impact on stakeholders." The research found that the competencies of programme managers were fundamentally different from those of project managers.
The paper reported that in performance measurement terms, project managers typically focus on whether the project produced its deliverables to the required quality, on time and within the pre-determined budget. These are all 'outcome measures'. "In programme management, such a view of performance is incomplete. Moreover, many of the challenges faced by project managers are the result of issues caused at more senior levels in the organisation,"
New tools, techniques and approaches are needed to reduce the risk associated with these programmes and introduce best practice.
Such tools will most certainly help to support increasingly complex IT systems.Tom Kilkenny, EDS's head of quality transformation, said, "EDS has been seeing that programmes have been getting larger and we need to understand how to manage them."
EDS and Cranfield have also identified a set of 78 indicators to benchmark how a programme performs against "world class" programme management. The initial research work from EDS and Cranfield has come up with three key recommendations. To deliver successful change programmes, the business needs to understand:
• "The level of engagement by senior decision makers of the organisations concerned
• Organisations' understanding of what they needed to do to be an "intelligent client" and
• Their understanding of the importance of determining at the outset what benefits they were aiming to achieve and, importantly, how programmes and projects could be actively managed to ensure these benefits were optimised."
The initial benchmarking study will form the first part of research into what capabilities are required to achieve 'world class' programme management performance. EDS and Cranfield will be looking at expanding this initiatial research to look at deploying existing world class practices, the development of new practices, and the testing of current and innovated practices using an evidence-based approach.
Do you have what it takes to manage IT programmes
• Do you have one integrated set of reports that satisfies all stakeholders?
• Is your process documentation an enabler of work?
• Does risk information get pulled up through the organisation?
• Have we sufficient appropriately skilled and motivated people on the programme?
• Is there a highly engaged and intelligent client?
• Are the teams collocated and do they share common management information?
• Do we always deliver as promised?
• Does active learning feed innovation in the way we operate?
• Is this programme a fun place to work?
• Do the major stakeholders have an active shared benefits map?
• Does the governance structure support rapid response?
• Are the programme and technical management roles separated?
Source: ICPM developing a baseline for world class programme management
This was first published in May 2008