“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.” – Leonard Bernstein, American conductor, composer and pianist (1918-1990)
There is a common misunderstanding regarding the difference between project management and program management – even within the industry. People have a tendency to use the terms interchangeably, despite the fact that they are clearly two distinctly different activities. Simply put, projects have a clear beginning and ending with specific deadlines and deliverables; whereas, programs may oversee multiple projects, are continual and incorporate long-term goals including maintenance. Since program management is a stream of uninterrupted processes, it can easily get off track. We’ve identified seven ‘deadly sins’ – or the most common mistakes – that lead to inhibiting progress.
Sin #1: Lack of senior management commitment
Before designing a program – and the projects within it – be sure to obtain buy-in from senior management. This is not the most egregious failing, but it’s probably the most common and serious. Who wants to initiate a program – possibly get part or halfway through a project – only to learn that management will not approve the budget? It’s is a waste of time and money, and causes much dissention and frustration within the ITAM team. Obtaining approval at the start of the program by outlining the various projects (or phases) including budget, timing and ROI will help the ITAM program stay on track without interruption.
Sin #2: United we stand, divided we fall
Failing to set clearly defined roles for the ITAM program management team and appointing project managers leads to confusion, inefficiencies and likely a failed program. Create one main steering committee comprised of the technical and business executives to act as the decision-making body for the overall ITAM program and establish defined roles for each project.
Sin #3: Who? What? Where? When? The ITAM program versus project implementation
More often than not, the ITAM program has defining objectives and goals, but the projects within the program lack definition, prioritization or a strategic plan for each phase. While the overarching program has all those elements, it’s also important for each project phase to also have these distinct elements that complement the ITAM program objectives.
Start with a small realistic goal that will show the executive team what a good ITAM project can do. For example, a user discovery program for software and/or hardware that can uncover compliance issues, possible cost savings and provide a strategic plan that can be understood by management – such as finding 30% of savings. By creating process templates you institute processes that all can easily follow. Divide tasks for individual stages and gates for reviewing. Bear in mind, each stage can have many tasks linked to it, each with its own deadline and expected deliverables.
Sin #4: “A fool with a plan can beat a genius with no plan”
(quote from: Thomas Boon Pickens, Sr.)
Operating without a lifecycle plan will only lead to misunderstandings, mismanagement, mistakes and mistrust. Things run more efficiently when you stay on top of ever-changing product needs. For example, procurement always faces the challenge of buying better, smarter and faster and they can do so by:
- Managing smarter by tracking when updates are due, thus avoiding unnecessary costs incurred from outdated products and/or expired licenses.
- Locking in better terms and conditions.
- Create better value by understanding longer term enterprise strategy to create year-over-year value and ultimately, savings. One avenue to explore is buy-versus-lease (or even lease with an option to buy) – on hardware.
Sin #5: Forget, Forgetting, Forgotten
Projects get frequent attention, but programs don’t. With technology constantly evolving, it is crucial that programs are monitored and updated when necessary. Assign one individual, perhaps a project analyst, to be responsible for this to confirm that projects are on schedule and being properly reviewed and approved. A delay in one project alone could cause disruptions for the entire program. Ensure that communication awareness and appreciation for the technology’s impact is realized.
Sin #6: In for a penny, in for a pound
Nothing will get senior management hot under the collar like a budget run amuck. Program costs tend to run higher for various reasons. First, a program may include many projects. Secondly, there are usually more types of expenses including: labor, applications and hardware. Be sure to identify financial needs at the onset of the program. As a precaution, consider either giving initially higher budget numbers for each project within the program or give a cost range.
Sin #7: What have you done for me lately?
(Translation: What’s the latest ROI for your program?)
Metrics, metrics, metrics. The key to more support and funding from senior management for your ITAM program is quantitative results. While Einstein had a point when he said “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted,” he’s never had to sit in front of the CIO or CFO to justify or re-justify an ITAM program budget.
What’s needed? Four key metrics for every program are quality, performance, business value and compliance. By focusing on quality and performance, there can be a determination whether the processes are successful, how successful and if they are operating efficiently. For some reason, compliance is often an afterthought when it is arguably the most important. How can a program be expected to succeed if the processes aren’t being followed?
Program management is complex and successfully navigating it entails discipline, organization, strategic planning and clear goals. By being aware of the seven common errors and taking action to avoid them puts you on your way to running an efficient and cost-effective program.