Rupert Taylor

Rupert Taylor

September 2019

PPM| Blog

Avoiding the Project Planning Pigeonhole

It’s a common misconception that a great Programme Director is essentially a supercharged project planner. But in reality, the truly effective Programme Director wears many hats, including those of a subject matter expert and project manager, and that of a great salesperson: an adept persuader, negotiator and communicator.

In fact, it is often the Programme Director’s less tangible skills – such as leadership, relationship-building and people management – that prove critical to the effective delivery of a programme. Below we’ll dive more deeply into these skills, and discuss why it’s so critical for a Programme Director to hone them if they are to add true strategic value to a business.

Communication is key

As a programme develops, the Programme Director will need to communicate with new people in different functions across the business, each with their own priorities and agenda. Effective communication with these individuals to help manage their engagement, involvement and output will be vital to achieving a smooth path to successful benefit realisation through the programme phases.

The Programme Director should ensure transparent progress tracking, reporting processes to keep projects timely and accurate, arranging regular meetings for project teams to escalate issues and risks, and offering regular status updates with key stakeholders across the business. This will help to keep the programme prioritised and provide high levels of momentum across all the contributing projects.

Lead the way to success

Getting everyone involved in the delivery of a programme on the same page requires the communication of a clear vision, the setting of realistic milestones and engaging the appropriate senior executives to champion the programme. This will help to answer common questions such as: Why are we doing this? What deadlines are we working to? What does success look like?

It’s imperative for the Programme Director to instil belief in the value and achievability of projects across their programme team.

Providing strong leadership is key to projects running smoothly and staying on track. The Programme Director should assume full responsibility for goal-based projects being delivered on time and on budget, communicate clearly the reasons when projects are struggling and report on what is being done to rectify any issues.

It’s also the Programme Director’s responsibility to ensure that everyone involved in contributing projects across the programme understands their role and responsibilities and has a clear understanding of why sticking to assigned timelines is so critical. They need to sell the benefits of the programme throughout the process and encourage project teams to buy into its success.

The sponsorship of senior business leaders can also be a vital project success factor, especially when deadlines are missed or budgets have run out. A Programme Director’s ability to manage upwards is key to getting an executive sponsor’s assistance in removing  roadblocks, prioritising resources and making the key decisions to get projects back on track.

Engaging execs for programme success

Establishing credibility with senior executives and stakeholders is therefore central to successfully leading a programme. To do so requires the Programme Director to demonstrate the strategic value of the programme and its contributing projects  and to understand how it aligns to execs’ specific objectives and requirements so that they will buy into, prioritise and inject momentum into the programme.

Senior business leaders are increasingly demanding more active involvement in activity across the programme lifecycle. Indeed, Kivue’s recent research found 96.9% of execs believe it is either ‘extremely important’ or ‘very important’ to be actively involved with project and portfolio activity.

However, many businesses fail to deliver this requirement and make the mistake of providing execs with information that is too wordy or complex. That’s why it’s useful to have access to a tool that offers anytime, anywhere, executive-level reporting and insights on portfolio performance.

Kivue Perform is such a solution. It’s an executive-ready, simple-to-use portal that allows Programme Directors to provide executives with a clear overview of their portfolio of projects.

The reporting tool is crucially customisable to the needs of each key stakeholder and generates drillable dashboards at the click of a button, eliminating the challenges of using tools such as PowerPoint and Excel. The Programme Director can send out tailored alerts to key stakeholders when an issue arises so that they can deal with it there and then, enabling a more agile approach to delivery.

Providing this level of insight will build credibility with stakeholders, gain their attention when it is needed and assist the smooth running of the programme.

The multi-talented Programme Director

The Programme Director plays a vital role in establishing a programme and leading it through to successful implementation and deployment. While project planning is a must-have skill, it’s their ability to lead and manage people that is so often the difference between success and failure.

Mastering these intangible skills will help the Programme Director to establish their strategic importance within an organisation. No longer pigeonholed as simply a high-level project planner, the multi-talented Programme Director should aim to be seen as central to the success of a business’ most important programmes.

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