Program Management – Pre-Program Steps for Success Page 1 of 4
Program Management – Pre-Program Steps for Success
By Manish Srivastava MBA, MCA, PMP
Success is what everyone is looking for – in all aspects of life (especially in professional career).
It is measured based on the outcomes derived from the performed activities. To maximise its
probability, planning and pre-requisites are required so that experience and knowledge can be
applied before the real ‘Begin’.
Based on my experience and exposure, to make a program successful and hence achieve
customer satisfaction, there are few steps that can be taken during the Pre-Program Setup stage
by the service provider. These will benefit in defining success measures, setting expectations,
preparing program road map and above all develop trust and instil confidence in the working
relationships. Both the customer and service provider will have the same definition of success
and identical yardsticks to measure.
As an analogy it is like participating in a car rally with customer and service provider as the
navigator and driver respectively. Route and rules of the race are defined, vehicle decided,
support team formed, duration and environment conditions mostly known and most
importantly the definition of success engraved in mind - waiving of the chequered flag on
crossing the finish line.
The service provider after being identified for implementation of the program should
proactively carve out a Pre-Program Setup stage and invite the customer for a discussion in a
workshop mode. During the sessions at customer premises, the service provider team should
discuss the program details with all stakeholders and arrive at a common understanding. This
relationship and trust building activity will further help in formalising the Program Governance
and plans for forthcoming implementation phases.
The service provider should make sure that all internal and external stakeholders and their
representatives attend the meet. The agenda for the workshop should be covered in following
Step 1. Introduction to Stakeholders – All stakeholders associated with the program should
break the ice via this introduction and start building the engagement. This rapport building
step will help the service provider program manager to analyse (especially for the external
group) and categorise them into - Positive, Negative, Neutral or Satisfied force.
Positive – Members who are affirmative towards the success of the program and want it
rolled-out to benefit the organisation. They are Sponsors who drive the initiative, Program
Directors and Managers who are nominated and empowered to implement the change and
the team who will be dedicated for the implementation. They will always infuse enthusiasm
and play the role of saviour during the course of implementation.
Program Management – Pre-Program Steps for Success Page 2 of 4
Fig. 1 Influencing Stakeholder
Negative – Not all members will be optimistic about the proposed change. There will be
room for scepticism, resistance, defensiveness,
and reservation. Their viewpoints will surely
affect the outcome and hamper the progress of
the implementation. They need to be managed
Neutral – Members who have accepted the
change and are in a way enablers for it. They
should be associated with the ‘Negatives’ as
catalyst and help them in changing their
Satisfied – This group will be populated later
during the course of the implementation after
monitoring and owning the outcomes.
This classification during the course will help in managing the program by handling the
stakeholder accordingly - influencing Negative towards Neutral; Neutral towards Positive;
and more confidence to Positive (to retain the spirit) as Satisfied.
Step 2. Definition of Program – After introduction, the program manager should guide the
discussion for defining the program’s objective and success state acceptable for the
implementation. The points should be derived from four major input streams –
Organisation’s Value Chain, Program Requirements, Benefits Expected and Critical Success
Organisation’s Value Chain – As a context, the sponsor of the program should brief the
gathering about the Value Chain of the organisation and also the role and contribution of
the proposed program in it. This will help the group in gauging the stake, impact, relevance
and criticality of the program.
Program Requirements – Based on the above context, there should be several sessions of
discussion covering the documents provided by customer in form of Tender or
Requirement/Scope Specifications. The intent is not to have a detailed Requirement
Analysis session, but an overview to gain insights related to understanding, importance,
coverage, dependencies, complexities, limitations and expectations from the concerned
stakeholders. It will also reveal certain important factors including depth of knowledge,
willingness and readiness from customer’s perspective.
Benefits Expected – The fundamental reason for any program to exist is to deliver benefits.
The deliverables as outcomes should reap recognisable and measureable benefits. As part
of benefit realisation, the Program Manager should discuss and construct a Benefits
Dependency Network and help the group to analyse vital points like – Why the program is
needed, what are the objectives, what changes are required in the organisation, what other
projects and programs are related in achieving the objective etc. The benefits should be
identified, quantified, collated along with their priority.
Critical Success Factors – The group (lead by the customer) should brainstorm and identify
Critical Success Factors mandatory to achieve from the program. The mission, objectives
Program Management – Pre-Program Steps for Success Page 3 of 4
Fig. 2 Correlation for Common Outputs
and goals of the program and its impact on the Value Chain should be articulated. These
factors down the line should receive serious continuous attention from the management.
The discussion in this step will help the group to have a common definition of the proposed
program and the expected outcomes from it.
Step 3. Definition of Program Success – Once the group reaches the consensus about
identifying the benefits expected and
critical success factors based on the
requirements and value chain, they should
formalise the details in form of matrices
that needs to be monitored throughout the
program lifecycle. The program manager
should propose traceability matrices that
correlate the benefits, critical success
factors and the requirements and
establishes a formal relationship. All the
inputs should be correlated and given due
importance and priority.
In a normal scenario, the progress of the
program is monitored by the
accomplishment of the requirements,
whereas measuring the benefits and
success factors are dealt with separately (if
need be at all). The stakeholders do not get to see the complete picture. The benefits and
success factors become a qualitative discussion subject to interpretation.
In the proposed correlated relationship, a better combined information dashboard at any
point should assist the stakeholder in traversing the benefits, objective, purpose, critical
success factors, requirements and scope coverage with their actual past and current state
and planned future state.
Based on the exercise, the measurable criteria and yardsticks can be derived that will help
to monitor the success of the program in terms of direction, progress, and completeness
and therefore satisfaction.
Step 4. Document the Consensus – The matrices and dashboards derived for defining the
program success should be formally documented and enclosed as part of Statement of
Work (or other related legal document). The stakeholders should be explained in detail
about all the artefacts arrived upon and their significance and relation to the yardsticks of
success. These artefacts should be made into a binding document between the customer
and service provider. For all the forthcoming phases and plans, these matrices should
always be followed. Any change or deviation should be mutually agreed.
Program Management – Pre-Program Steps for Success Page 4 of 4
Some Program Managers treat requirements, benefits and critical success factors as separate
silos. They are more inclined towards meeting the requirements and unintentionally
overlooking (or providing reduced weightage to) the other two important pillars. This is due to
their project management experience and influence which is driven by deliveries rather than
benefits. The paradigm needs to shift. Along with milestones and deliveries, benefits realisation
path and achievement should also be considered.
To make a program successful, the end result should be accomplished based on the targets
jointly defined by customer and service providers. The Program Manager should take the
initiative of discussing the requirement’s overview under the context of benefits, critical success
factors and value chain before the kick-off and arriving at a common platform to perform and
excel. This will set the expectations and also provide both the groups a set of commandments to
follow and achieve.
About the Author
Manish Srivastava, PMP, has over 17 years of global experience in managing large projects and
clients in India and abroad from different domains including Finance, Cargo, Travel,
Manufacturing, Procurement and Government. He has orchestrated numerous end-to-ends
Software Life Cycle from Pre-Sales bid to Warranty Support for Web/Client-Server technologies
under the Quality frameworks of CMM Level 5 and ISO. In addition to his PMP certification
(2006), he also holds Master of Business Administration (2006) from University of Bradford and
Master Degree in Computer Applications (1995) from Magadh University. He would welcome to
discuss further using Linkedin.