The program management landscape is ever-changing as PMO responsibilities fluctuate in response to the scope of work required to overcome common plan execution failures. As expectations change, the capacity to successfully execute multiple projects at the same time becomes more challenging with every shift in priority. We’ve worked with hundreds of program managers across multiple industries and organization sizes to help set up their plans for successful execution. Despite the type of plan each program manager is executing, we’ve found the following trends in common for those plans that are set up for success:
Competition, limited resources and internal and external environmental factors compound with the already-pervasive time and budgetary constraints to impact the timelines of any project. It was easy for the program managers we’ve worked with to fall victim to only operating at a project level, focusing on the goals of each individual project. Program managers who choose to operate from the hot seat are focusing their efforts and time on reacting to urgencies, and never getting to longer term strategic changes.
Program managers who align to organizational strategic initiatives see more success in supporting the business overall. By focusing efforts around overarching business goals, the teams that we’ve worked with have seen a major shift in the way they operate. By focusing on the strategy as a whole, these teams have gained some time back to be more proactive about project execution.
Traditional plan tracking is a big pain. Those who attempt to track in Excel or other static spreadsheets deal with version control and hounding colleagues for updates while doing a lot of cutting and pasting. Across the board, these emails are readily ignored and deadlines are missed.
One of the things we’ve seen successful program management teams do is to send only one email detailing all needed updates that can be provided without even opening Word, Excel or PowerPoint. Some management tools purpose-built for execution even provide the ability for objective owners to provide updates from the email itself, and that data is automatically compiled into one, living system that can be displayed as an overview dashboard and filtered for more efficient meetings.
Several program managers that we’ve worked with have all come to us with this same challenge – most of the time in project meetings is spent answering, “Why?” Questions like, “WHY is this month lower than last month? WHY was this checkpoint not reached? WHY is our pipeline bigger than it’s ever been?” Understanding the answers to these questions is imperative, but by the end of a 3-hour meeting, oftentimes nothing has been decided in regards to the future. We’ve heard and seen it happen over and over. Program management teams run out of time after coming to an understanding about the data in front of them, so no discussion is then devoted to answering the more important question, “Now what do we do about it?”
We’ve seen program management team after team start to adapt a workflow that provides data in context from the beginning. When everyone knows the answer to “Why?” before even sitting at the conference table, better discussions are had about what was learned, about what worked and what didn’t. More time is freed up to examine how to proceed – and more goals are achieved. We’re seeing a positive trend of program managers who seek contextual insights and being more able to course-correct in a timely manner.
Program managers who come to us realize that project management tools aren’t necessarily built for the demands of program management today. Project management tools are designed to measure activity, tactics and lower-level tasks. AchieveIt is purpose-built to measure execution and results of a plan as a whole – and multiple plans at once, in one place. As the program management discipline progresses more towards a strategic focus instead of project-based decisions, project management tools fall short of what those in the PMO need to measure success.
Project management tools are helpful for allowing team members to organize assignments and tasks, but they often live in a vacuum. AchieveIt shows leaders how projects align to larger initiatives, and how those initiatives support the larger strategic plan. Our Execution Insight Platform provides visibility into the execution of a plan, to show whether it’s on-track, off-track or at-risk. It allows leaders to hold people accountable for the performance of their team, business unit or region. Most importantly, it allows the PMO to prove it’s value by quickly and easily providing the high-level status reporting executives need.