Program/project management Featured

2:15am EDT August 30, 2006
Successful organizations seeking to enhance their differentiating strengths need to be able to use underlying technology infrastructure and applications. Implementation of the technology and processes supporting company strengths must be accomplished as rapidly as possible.

Jennifer Bricker, a principal at Avvantica Consulting LLC, says effective program and project management is essential to making this happen. “The start of a successful project in today’s environment should be focused on the rapid development of a plan that lays out the fastest and most efficient way to reach the end result. It should be defined in easily understood language that any team member can grasp.”

Smart Business spoke to Bricker about key ways companies can implement efficient technology into their work force.

What are the key elements that need to be in place for strong program and project management?
There are three. Executives must understand the end goal. Information about the project must be communicated to the broader work force. And the fundamental tools of program/project management — a program management office (PMO), a project plan, and the right team — must be in place.

What do you mean by executive understanding of the end goal?
Executive understanding of the end goal must span the entire executive team. The key decision-making team should be able to visualize how the company will look when the project concludes. It should be educated on what will be accomplished, who will be impacted, how long it will take, and what the expected improvement will be when the project is complete.

Education of the executive team must occur again and again throughout the project — coupled with ongoing status of accomplishments to date.

The executive education process is not a one-time event. Each and every time that a major status update is provided, it should be done with a quick refresher on the original project goal and path. This is important as day-to-day events come up and some members of the executive team may become focused on a recent issue and want to refocus effort on that issue versus staying on point to the end goal of the project.

Projects of any magnitude should also be continuously communicated to the organization’s board. The board should be educated on the project end goal, and then updated throughout the course of the project.

Why does the entire work force need to receive communication on the project?
In a large-scale process and technology project, the core work force of the company will most likely feel the greatest impact. Workers will be asked to change how they do things; they will be expected to use new technology applications in their day-to-day work processes; and, ideally, they will be engaged to be an active part of implementing the solution.

The communication to the entire employee group should be consistent, concise and continuous. Consistent communication is enhanced when it is conducted by a single source, preferably the PMO/project leader. This helps to ensure that the information provided is accurate and complete.

The three fundamental tools sound like the same tools that have been described in Project Management 101 for many years. What is different or — maybe more importantly — what needs to be different?
Many of the basic principles of project management are still there, but they need to have been updated in order to be effective.

Program management office provides direction, leadership and oversight to multiple individual projects that must be aligned and coordinated in order to achieve the overall goals of the program. It should consist of two or three key executive level owners of the project. However, in contrast to past generations of PMO function, these executive level owners of the project should be much closer to the project. They should be far more than an executive stamp. They should be prepared to roll up their sleeves and delve into the first layer of detail surrounding key project success factors as well as key issues as they crop up.

Project plans should be structured, simple and action-oriented. Prior decades of project implementation and project management were sometimes impeded by the quest for the ultimate project technique and dogma. Pursuit of the project methodology and ultimate workplan sometimes became a project of its own — requiring two or more FTEs to manage the workplan.

The collection of project support tools was sometimes receiving more attention than the end result. A project plan should be grounded in the proven fundamentals of effective project management.

JENNIFER BRICKER is a principal at Avvantica Consulting LLC. Reach her at (214) 379-7920 or