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 Making Programme Management Work for You | PM Tools - PM Tools

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Making Programme Management Work for You

The need for organisations to deliver their change programmes successfully has never been greater, as the current economic climate is acting as a catalyst for many vital restructuring and cost cutting programmes.  However, particularly in this challenging and cost-constrained environment, delivering such programmes on-time and on-budget has become even more critical – and even more difficult to achieve.

Independent surveys repeatedly highlight the major challenges involved in managing such programmes successfully:

Of all projects started…

q           44% are delivered late, over budget, and/or with less than the required features

q            24% are simply cancelled before completion or never used

q            Just 32% are delivered on time, on budget, and with required features

q            … and it’s getting worse: “This year’s results represent the highest failure rate in over a decade”

The need to deliver programmes faster, at lower cost, and often with a greater off-shore component and a more complex supplier mix is only serving to increase the pressure on today’s Programme Managers.  Given that, it is clear that choosing the right approach to managing the programme is crucial.

However, there are many models to choose from.  Should you pick a delivery supplier but manage the programme internally?  Should you pick a big-brand consulting firm to manage and deliver the whole programme with their own people?  Should you go to the market for a contract programme manager?  Or should you pick a specialist consulting firm with strong programme management credentials?  The answer, unfortunately for buyers of consulting services, can only be: “It depends…”

In this vein, to help buyers of Programme Management consulting services understand the model that will work best for them, the table below provides more information on the range of possible models, showing for each the circumstances under which they might be a good fit, as well as the potential pitfalls to avoid.

There are many success stories of great Programme Management available, and when it is done well there is no doubt that delivering a successful business and/or IT change programme can genuinely transform and revitalise a business.  But one thing is for sure – these programmes are not easy to get right, and the pressure exerted by the current economic climate is only making them harder.  Given that, choosing the right programme management arrangements at the start is probably the single most important pre-requisite for success.

Choosing the Right Programme Management Model

The first thing to note is that all of these models can be made to work.  But the effort involved in making them work; the degree to which they are successful; and the time / cost range within which they will deliver will all vary significantly, depending on the particular circumstances and suppliers involved.  The following table aims to give buyers some brief guidance to help them choose, by illustrating the circumstances under which each model might be a good fit, and the potential pitfalls to avoid in each case:

Model: Internal Source

When might it be a good fit?

There are sufficient internal resources, with suitable Programme Management skills, who are available to be seconded onto the programme full time

Potential pitfalls – what to be careful of!

Model: Independent contractor

When might it be a good fit?

Potential pitfalls – what to be careful of!

Model: Big-brand consulting firm

When might it be a good fit?

Potential pitfalls – what to be careful of!

Model: “Client Side Consulting” approach*

When might it be a good fit?

Potential pitfalls – what to be careful of!

Programme management needs to exercise careful control over the scope and responsibilities for each supplier involved to avoid any gaps or overlap

Of the four models shown in the table, the first three are generally well established and understood.  However the fourth model, “Client Side Consulting”, is an alternative that is becoming increasingly popular.  It is perhaps the model that is least familiar to buyers of consulting services; hence it is described below in some more detail.

Client Side Consulting

In essence, the “Client Side Consulting” approach to Programme Management involves the programme team being made up of a mixture of client staff, independent contractors, and various “best of breed” third parties (which may include the big-brand system integrator / consulting firms) – see the example below.  A consulting firm specialising in programme management provides a small number of people (typically around 1 to 3) to be seconded in to the programme “on the client side”, taking on the key programme management and leadership roles, and the responsibility for managing all suppliers on the client’s behalf.

The aim of this approach is simply to achieve a balance that is most effective and fit for purpose in terms of both delivery capability and cost.  The best suppliers can be selected who are most expert, capable and cost effective for each specific area of the programme, without requiring the client to have the programme management expertise to make all the parts fit and work together.  The client-side programme management consultants run the programme on behalf of (and acting in the best interests of) the client.  Because they are independent of the suppliers involved, they can make sure that the whole team is acting in the best interests of delivering the programme at all times, independent of any one supplier’s own agenda or vested interests.  In simple terms, they take overall responsibility and accountability for: knitting the “best of breed” team together; managing all suppliers involved (making them work together seamlessly); defining, managing & delivering the overall programme plan; and driving the programme to a successful conclusion.

For example, in a business change programme with a large IT delivery component, the team might be made up as follows:

By selecting a “best of breed” combination of the above, the programme team can be optimised to provide the best delivery capability at the lowest cost.  In addition, using internal staff as a component in many of the teams both keeps the costs down, and also significantly improves buy-in from the business (injecting business knowledge and understanding which means the programme is much more likely to deliver what the business really needs).

However, this approach is very dependent on the quality of the Programme Management, to make the team really gel and deliver together (despite the number of different parties involved) and to bring rich and deep experience of having delivered such programmes before.  They need to know and apply what makes these change programmes really work; quickly resolve people and supplier issues; get the best performance from the team; and know the pitfalls to avoid without learning them during the programme by painful experience.

Click here to read more about The Berkeley Partnership’s experience with client side consulting on their web site, including case studies and client testimonials.

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