Project Management Institute

Achieving Strategic Objectives through Programme and Project Methodologies

Abstract

The basic principals of project management have changed little over the decades yet there is an inconsistent application of these practices. This paper will discuss the need for best practice methodologies to provide visibility and accountability to the project management process. In addition the duration of many projects, and particularly leads to situations where key personnel will change throughout the project and programme.

The key aspect of all methodologies is to drive consistency and regimen into the process. This repeatability of the management process drives quality into the management of programmes and projects. The implementation of methodology has the added advantage of placing reliance on the system and not specifically on the abilities of the personnel involved.

The paper will discuss the sectors and specific organizations which have taken on these best practice methodologies and demonstrate the flexibility of the methodologies and the need for adjusting the management approaches to deal with multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary nature of programmes.

The paper will discuss historical and contemporary examples of the need to apply the basic principals of project management and programme management and the need to develop a workable methodology to guide the decision-makers to ensure that the success of programmes and projects to achieve strategic objectives.

Introduction

What is a Methodology?

A methodology is defined as “..a system and processes..” designed to achieve a technical goal..” (Heinemann, 1995, p675). In effect it provides guidance through a series of processes and elements to ensure that the people involved can deliver an outcome efficiently and consistently. An effective methodology ensures that the “system” is repeatable and independent of individuals; with respect to Project and Programme Management this means that the same processes will be undertaken by all project and programme managers.

How does it differ from the PMBOK® GUIDE

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) is “…the sum of knowledge of the Project Management Profession” (PMI, 2004, p18). “The Primary purpose of the PMBOK® Guide is to identify that subset of the Project Management Body of Knowledge that is generally recognised as good practice” (PMI, 2004, p18), however, it is left to the project management team to determine what is “…appropriate for any given project” (PMI, 2004, p18).

The reliance on the project management team to make the choices regarding the appropriate elements of the PMBOK® Guide to apply allows inconsistencies in the application of good practice. Based on the previous experiences of the project management of the team, there is scope for very different approaches to project management.

A robust methodology aims to ensure that every project is managed in the same manner giving due recognition to those elements of good practice which are relevant and of importance to the performing organisation. This change in emphasis does not preclude the tailoring of the methodology to suit a particular environment but also ensures that all projects are managed in the same manner.

The need for Methodologies

Historical Data

Historically, the success rates for projects are worryingly low.

Additionally, the major reasons for project failure have been consistent over the last 25-30 years. The reasons cited for project failure and the factors considered critical for project success are generally management issues. The following list of factors critical for project success is typical of other research:

  • Clear Goals/Objectives
  • Realistic Schedule
  • Support from Senior Management
  • Adequate Funds/Resources
  • End User Commitment
  • Clear Communication Channels
  • Effective Leadership
  • Effective Monitoring & Feedback
  • Flexible Approach to Change
  • Learning Lessons

With this information it is clear that consistency is a significant issue and that more guidance is required from the performing organisation, and senior management in particular, to ensure that the project management team are able to apply good practice in an environment that is focused on the delivery of projects.

Consistency

The key to ongoing success in the delivery of projects is the application of discipline to good practice within the organisation and the project. In order to do this it is necessary to detail what constitutes good practice within a particular environment, i.e. develop a methodology so that all projects may be controlled in the same way. This will drive discipline and rigour into the project teams and management of the projects ensuring consistency of approach regardless of the team members.

This is particularly important in environments where there is likely to be a significant number of changes made to the project team, especially in the roles of the project manager and key stakeholders. In situations where there will be a number of changes it is essential for the successful outcome of the project, or indeed the programme, that there is consistency in the methods adopted and the information collected and distributed. A clear understanding of the current position and intent is an extremely valuable basis for communication and the evaluation of potential changes.

Culture

As a result of history, politics, and culture different business and management practices evolve. Within a global economy and a multi-national organisation diversity is not always an advantage. There is a need for a single method of managing projects within an organisation so that there is consistency in the method and information analysed prior to decision-making. It is this consistent application of good practice which will improve the performance of the organisation.

Multi-Disciplinary Projects

With the multi-disciplinary nature of projects, and programmes, it is becoming more important that the management approach is standardised as much as is possible. This will aid communication between the disciplines and allow the development and implementation of the most appropriate management methodology separate from the technical approaches or methodologies which may be adopted to deliver the technical aspects of the work. When dealing with a number of technical or functional areas it is essential to the success of the project to have a consistent approach to the management of the projects and a well understood communication model.

As programmes and projects, through necessity become more complex and affect larger numbers of stakeholders and users, it will be an advantage for all parties within the project to understand a single, simple and robust management approach which encompasses good practice in project management.

Guidance

Inexperienced project managers are often placed in their position on the basis of their technical competence and success. In many instances there is limited support for these newly appointed members of the project. The establishment of a methodology will greatly assist the project manager and the team deliver the project in alignment with the corporate objectives and priorities.

Flexibility

The application of a consistent and robust methodology removes the dependency of the project outcome on the selection of the project manager. From the perspective of the performing organisation, the project outcome is determined by the methodology, or system, and in environments where experienced project managers are in short supply this is a welcome relief. The organisation and the project are dependant upon the implementation of the most appropriate methodology, not the performance of one individual.

This is not to say that the outcome of projects is not influenced by an effective and experienced project manager. Quite the opposite is true. Despite the use of a methodology there will always be a need to have a team with experience and expertise relevant and relative to the complexity of the project.

Jack Welch's 4E's

During his reign as the CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch developed his 4 E's of Leadership which were applied throughout the organisation. They are the qualities required by leaders if they are to be successful:

  • Energy
  • Energises
  • Edge
  • Executes

(Krames, 2004, p 45)

It is the “Executes” which concerns the project management profession because it is this quality which delivers the projects defined by the leader. In essence the successful leader must set the direction and be responsible for its execution or delivery. This is the purpose of projects and the skill of the project manager. This single quality is how senior managers may become great leaders and how they can ensure that the performing organisation is successful.

  • Execution is a discipline and an integral part of strategy.
  • Execution is the major job of the business leader.
  • Execution must be a core element of an organisation's culture. (Bossidy, Charan & Burck, 2002).

Employing a methodology for delivering projects makes it a discipline at the core of the organisation's capability and ensures that there is a standard approach to the delivery of projects rather than leaving the implementation process to the complete discretion of the project teams. The systematic regimen of the core skills and techniques of project management throughout a performing organisation will enhance performance of the individuals and the organisation.

Programme Management

The use of programmes and the implementation of programme management are required to deliver strategic objectives. The role of leaders and senior management is to set the direction for the organisation, by identifying the strategic goals to be achieved, and enable the delivery if those objectives. Programmes should then be designed to achieve these objectives through the successful management of a portfolio of projects and the planned and resourced realisation of benefits.

Managing Successful Programmes (MSP)

Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) is a methodology developed by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), part of the UK government. Its primary purpose is to provide guidance and structure to the management of programmes which are primarily aimed at implementing changes within the organisation or in the way it functions.

MSP is a process-based methodology which provides a mechanism for organisations to establish and manage programmes with the appropriate personnel being involved in the decision-making processes.

The MSP Processes

Exhibit 1 – The MSP Processes

Although the strategic objectives will be significantly different from one programme to another the processes of identifying and defining the programme are identical. Additionally, the processes involved in managing a portfolio of projects and planning for and realising the benefits are constant regardless of the environment in which the work is undertaken.

The fundamental purpose of the MSP methodology is to establish and maintain a focus on the outcomes desired and to allow the decision-making to be undertaken from a viewpoint of delivering the projects which will culminate in the achievement of that outcome. The methodology focuses on decision-making and not on paperwork. The need for paperwork and the extent to which it is generated is decided by the performing organisation with respect to the complexity and risk associated with the programme. MSP focuses on the information required to manage the programme, any documentation is merely the vehicle for conveying that information which is required for making decisions.

Why is it used?

MSP was developed and has been introduced into a variety of organisations where change is required or where a series of projects have been identified which will deliver an objective which has been determined to be of strategic importance.

Programmes are prone to similar problems as projects but they are exacerbated by the fact that there will be more stakeholders involved with potentially different perspectives and agendas and due to their longer durations (generally, programmes are of longer duration than projects), may be affected by external events

Who uses it?

MSP was released in 1999 (OGC, 1999, p3). Its initial use was by civil service organisations that were required to comply with this good practice. However, in the intervening years, its application has spread to many more organisations, many with a commercial focus. Current users include the following industries, or market sectors:

  • Government agencies in Europe and Australia
  • Fast Moving Consumer Goods sector
  • Electronic Consumer Goods
  • Defence Industry
  • Financial Sector

Because the processes are detailed in relation to the management information required or generated the methodology may be applied to any situation - where a programme can be defined. In the hands of an accredited consultant the methodology may be tailored to suit the specific needs of the performing organisation.

Generally, what we have found in the practice of applying the methodology is that organisations, which are entrepreneurial in nature, require less rigorous paperwork to accompany the projects and programmes but have more frequent verbal reporting or use graphical formats for the transmission of information.

Planning Process within the PMBOK® GUIDE

The Planning Process within the PMBOK® GUIDE (PMI, 2000, p. 55) contains separate processes. MSP places a similar emphasis on this process where the first two processes focus on establishing an understanding of the requirements of the programme and planning and preparing for the implementation of the portfolio of projects. There are requirements to monitor progress and adjust plans throughout the implementation phase but the primary focus and effort is applied at the commencement of the programme.

If the “preparation” processes are adequately resourced, the implementation will be easier to manage because of the existence of a reliable baseline to monitor progress against. Additionally, there are review points following completion of the first two processes at which the stakeholders must endorse the “scope” and “plan” for the work to be undertaken; this is contained within the Programme Definition Document. There are opportunities at these points for the stakeholders to modify the programme or to identify misinterpretations of the programme objectives.

Project Management

Introduction to PRINCE2

PRINCE2 is an acronym of PRojects IN Controlled Environments and is a processed-based methodology for the planning-management-control of projects.

PRINCE2 was developed by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA), now part of OGC, in response to a number of problem projects. The methodology was born out of IT and telecommunications projects within the British Government. It was rapidly taken up by the IT industry in UK and Europe. Once the second version was released the methodology became more widely utilised. The second version of the methodology focused on the decision-making requirements of the project and was more generic making it applicable to different environments.

Overview of Processes

PRINCE2 has three elements, which combine to create the environment relevant for delivery of projects:

Processes - 8 processes shown in Exhibit 2
Components - 8 principals of good practice in project management
Techniques - 3 techniques for dealing with specific situations

The processes are at the heart of the methodology and provide step-by-step guidance to managing the project. The methodology focuses on what management activities should be undertaken and at which point in the project lifecycle they should be undertaken. In many cases, the details of how these actions should be undertaken are left to the discretion and experiences of the project manager and team.

The PRINCE2 Processes

Exhibit 2 – The PRINCE2 Processes

The processes outline every step required to be undertaken, including review points by the stakeholders, to ensure that the project progresses in a controlled manner with moving consistently through the life cycle using good practice. In this manner all projects may be conducted using the same process and decisions made by the appropriate personnel at the appropriate times throughout the project. This consistency of method within each project and between projects provides a robust system, which may be employed throughout an organisation irrespective of the personnel involved in a particular project.

Management of Stakeholders

One of the key elements of both methodologies is the management of stakeholders through the processes and communications. This is critical to the success of projects and programmes and team structures are established, complete with specific roles and responsibilities, within both methodologies to enable the engagement of the key stakeholders and those who must use the final output from the project at an early stage of the programme and also of each project.

Experience has found that the greater the engagement of the stakeholders at the start of the project and, to a lesser extent, as progress is underway the more suitable the outcome of the project. There are also side effects of this engagement, such as the greater team building and collaboration and co-operation between the parties with an interest in the project.

The implementation of the methodology will, in time, ensure that the stakeholders become familiar with their contributions and ability to influence the outcome of the project by the early commitment of resources to define the objectives of the project or programmes.

Conclusion

The development and implementation of project and programme management methodologies is quickly being adopted throughout the Asia-Pacific region and indeed globally. One of the prime considerations in the adoption of a methodology is to provide a standard and well-understood approach to all projects within an organisation regardless of location and personnel. In many organisations this approach has improved project success rates by at least 35%.

Multi-national organisations and those with a significant compliance obligation are leading the way in adopting a recognised, auditable methodology.

MSP and PRINCE2 are becoming the de facto standards within the region, in much the same way as they have in Europe and Australia, because of their generic nature and flexibility in application. There is no license fee for using these methodologies and the third-party accreditations ensure that there are capable project and programme managers available for resourcing the management of change within organisations.

With users throughout the region including multi-national organisations and government agencies and the United Nations the use of PRINCE2 and MSP will continue to grow and guide project and programme managers through the difficult and complex environments in which the profession is required to work within. With the approach to management standardised and consistently employed there will be more resource available for dealing with the technical requirements.

References

Bassidy, L., Charan, R. & Burck, C. (2002), Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, New York: Crown Business

Krames J.A., (2005) Jack Welch and The 4 E's of Leadership, New York: McGraw-Hill

Project Management Institute, (2004) A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK® GUIDE®) (Third ed.). Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2006, Kenn Dolan
Originally published as a part of 2006 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Bangkok, Thailand

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