Moments of truth in IT programme management (3/3)

By Jim Patience

Date 19 February 2010 Tags

IT programmes have a reputation for write-offs, cost overruns, missed deadlines and wide gaps between the promise and the payoff. There can be many reasons such programmes don’t live up to their expectations, and they’re not always obvious.

Every programme faces moments of truth – make or break points. Recognising the moments of truth and avoiding them can avert disaster. We’ve a long list, but this time we are going to look at conditioning the Programme for success.

Appearances can deceive

So many programme teams just seem to stumble into delivery mode. They may appear to be doing the right things; they’ve got a series of work streams going, they’re busy designing business processes, they’re looking at technology options and they’re producing lots and lots of documents and deliverables.

But step back. Are the people producing the documents and deliverables really clear on what they’re doing and why they’re doing it? What’s the purpose of the things they are producing? How will they be used to deliver the programme goals and outcomes? Do these things fit into the overall plan? Is there a plan?

Mobilisation – conditioning for success

Has the programme manager established the overall shape of the programme; its scope, objectives, approach, deliverables, timings, budget, organisation and governance? Are roles and responsibilities clearly defined and the right people allocated?

Without the overall shape of the programme defined, without an integrated and engaged team (including suppliers), without access to the right skills, and without a prompt decision making process, there’s a real danger that chaos will reign. The budget will be burned and there’s a good chance that work being done won’t actually advance the programme. It might get cancelled or need massive rework, resulting in excessive delays and huge budget overruns.

It’s down to the quality of the programme manager. Good programme managers are worth their weight in gold but are hard to find. A good programme manager knows very well that getting off to a good start can make the difference between success and failure in any initiative; he/she has learned a lot from many years of experience. When that experience is lacking, using a structured framework approach to mobilisation can help to overcome some of the shortfalls and condition your initiative for success.

Do it well and mobilisation will result in a powerful springboard for your programme, setting you up for high efficiency; good discipline and excellent execution. If you want to ensure your initiative falls into the 28% you’ll need to get it right.

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