Category Archives: Program Management

Governance and program management overhaul for the Broadband Services Division of a US Telecom company


This large US telecom company had initiated an ambitious program to establish their position in the rapidly emerging interactive television market, requiring simultaneous development streams carried out by diverse subcontractors. 
Previous problems were re-emerging so PA was chosen to investigate the program management practices.

A review of the processes impeding delivery based on our diagnostic results (see the diagram below) showed performance to be in the 3rd/4th quartile and required improvement in the areas of governance, project and portfolio management.

 

In an earlier article:” The “G” word – demystifying delivery governance”, we described how governance is really about creating the conditions for effective delivery through improved decision-making, oversight and accountabilities.  This was our point of departure at this client.

What we found?

  • Despite a major review, there was growing concern that some previous problems were re-emerging, and might worsen as the scale of the program grew
  • The program was visible at the highest level in the company and within the prime sub-contractors.
  • PA was already involved with some of the detailed technical aspects of the program, established and respected by the program team.  Therefore, PA was the natural choice to investigate the program management difficulties.

What we did

PA helped this telecom company develop a fully functional and comprehensive program management capability, including:

  • Improved governance by introducing a project office operating at both the project and program level (including the provision of bespoke project office procedures)
  • The identification of major risks & issues, including recommendation of mitigation actions required to resolve difficulties
  • Role definitions for all Program Management staff
  • Client coaching skills and techniques
  • A detailed audit of sub-contractor/supplier performance
  • A new contractor interface function

What was achieved?

  • Comprehensive improvements in program management capability, which provided team members with the skills to manage the overall program effectively
  • Revised governance processes providing vastly improved oversight at all levels of the program
  • Revised plans (including timescales and financial projections) for the current program
  • Tools that could be applied to future programs

As is our usual approach, addressing those areas contributing to unreliable delivery enabled changes to be made which quickly improved performance visibly and sustainably at all levels.

John Hall

PA Consulting Group

Capture knowledge to enable continuous learning


Projects are difficult to start.  Experience shows that they are often no less difficult to end.

 Closedown is often grossly underestimated, which is why many project managers continue to carry out thankless tasks long after the project has delivered the products and is officially over.

 A robust closure process is required to bring a project to a successful end and ensure that the deliverables are fully owned by the business organization and that benefits will be realized. 

 Perhaps more importantly, closing is an opportunity to reflect on lessons learned and how things could have been done differently to ensure better performance on future projects.  To maximize learning, disseminate these lessons to a wider audience in the organization.

 The process for conducting a post implementation review is shown in the diagram below.  Note that the word ‘client’ refers to the person who commissioned the report, as a post implementation review can be internal or external.

The organization / key stakeholder will want to discover:

  • What was learnt from the project?
  • Where can improvement opportunities be identified?
  • Can the organization improve on the results so far?

 This review normally incorporates a more thorough retrospective review of the project together with a summary of the realized business improvements, which at this later date should now be apparent.

Alexander Lowry

PA Consulting Group

Holding ourselves accountable


In a project management context, accountability relates to the assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies, and encompasses the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences.

Accountability example

The allocation of accountabilities for key deliverables and outcomes must be clear, balanced across delivery dimensions, and aligned with appropriate authority to act.  Too often, project managers are little more than project “coordinators”, with limited authority over the resources assigned to them.

 Project accountabilities need to be clearly defined across the delivery chain, and three roles deserve particular mention:

  • Sponsors, for effective business adoption and realizing expected benefits
  • Resource Managers, for meeting their project staffing commitments
  • Project Managers, for delivery of project objectives (normally relating to scope, time, cost and quality).

 The establishment of accountability requires a clear request from one person and the resulting commitment of another person.  It assumes the requester may deliver consequences (positive or negative) based on the efforts to deliver the commitment.  Accountability enhances delivery reliability by providing:

  • Clarity – What is required and the condition under which it is to be delivered (e.g. when, how)
  • Commitment – An explicit agreement to deliver, by one individual to another, that removes ambiguity
  • Measurability – What one is accountable for is a tangible deliverable (rather than a task) – hence, what “delivery” constitutes will not be subject of debate.

 A clear understanding of accountability also creates significant benefits at the individual level:

  • Knowing what one is accountable for enhances the ability to prioritize work
  • Knowing to whom each person is accountable streamlines the route for negotiating unfeasible deliverables (the “escape” route).

 Practical implementation normally requires:

  • Integrated design of an accountability model to ensure that accountabilities across the delivery chain are rational, reflect the desired operating model and do not conflict – typically presented in a RACI table
  • Role profiles and job descriptions to reflect this integrated design
  • Accountabilities to be linked to performance measurement and management to reinforce desired behaviors.

 As exemplar project managers we need to hold ourselves accountable — by establishing accountability.

Alexander Lowry – PA Consulting Group

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