Defence programmes can increase their chances of success by addressing the project, programme and portfolio management (P3M) basics. While this sounds simple, we often see those basics being forgotten. This can be attributed to inertia in implementing P3M, a prevailing view that responsibility for it lies with others, who often lack knowledge in P3M, and/or a lack of recognition of it as a professional practice and an effective management control. It’s unsurprising, then, that the UK Government only rates 17 per cent of its major projects and programmes as likely to deliver on their objectives.
With recent changes to working patterns as a result of COVID-19 driving more remote and virtual practices, there is an even greater need for P3M controls. Documenting progress in lieu of social face-to-face interactions has become more important as organisations become reliant on P3M documentation suites being updated reflecting the latest information. This allows managers to go straight to the source of information themselves, rather than waiting for the previous weekly or monthly programme review meetings that occurred in pre-COVID times.
The good news is, implementing the basics of P3M will quickly improve projects and programmes by helping to bring them back on budget and schedule, and demonstrate greater value for money. The key is to consider the three Cs over the short-, medium-, and long-term:
Controls - project, programme and portfolio level
Inadequate controls make information less visible, reduce communication and limit change management. So, it’s vital to develop and implement a P3M controls framework with templates and tools focused on four key controls:
- risk management
- performance management
- change control
- schedule and cost management.
This will immediately start to build coherence among teams, allowing for quicker, targeted interventions that accelerate projects and programmes towards successful outcomes. For example, we helped a defence organisation transition to a new organisational structure and improve their programme management capability upon reviewing their P3M processes and introducing controls. This helped the organisation achieve a 10% time saving in processing activities and a 15% efficiency improvement within the programme team. Establishing effective programme controls in the Ministry of Justice also allowed a complex technology programme to meet a key delivery target on schedule for the first time.
It’s important to remember that not all P3M processes need attention simultaneously. The approach of reviewing the four key controls is deliberate as P3M practices are based around a ‘toolbox’ of interventions. Not every programme requires all the tools all at once, and no two programmes will need the same tools either. Large, complex and critical programmes, such as the UK Ventilator Challenge, will need greater attention and deployment of P3M controls than a smaller, narrow scoped project. It is our experience in implementing and deploying P3M controls that enabled the coherence and co-ordination of 40 million ventilator parts from 21 countries within a three-week period. Using the four key controls will therefore give a sound footing in baselining the visibility, health and direction of any programme, at any stage of maturity.
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