Property and Infrastructure Specialists

Are all programs created equal?

There has been a lot of chatter lately around the far-reaching benefits that a well-executed capital works program can provide. Particularly when it comes to governments using construction packages as a form of stimulus to help boost the economy. But are all programs created equal? And if not, what is it that makes some programs more beneficial than others?
Are all programs created equal

Through our involvement in many capital works programs, APP have learnt that extracting value from a program often requires an intense focus on driving efficiency across the entire delivery solution. If that’s true, how do you approach a program of works in a way that encourages efficiency?

Part of the approach is understanding and addressing the repetition that naturally occurs in a program. The key to addressing repetition is understanding that it manifests as both a risk and an opportunity, and it is only by finding ways to address both of these aspects that you can maximise program efficiency.

To illustrate, let’s first explore the idea of repetition as a risk. Fundamentally the causes of program distress aren’t dissimilar to those faced by traditional project delivery teams. The vast majority of problems are caused by a lack of (or refusal to follow) project control systems. The lack of control then results in complications managing scope, cost and time. Where programs differ from projects, is that the repetitive nature of programs tends to exacerbate these problems by causing issues to compound. A phenomenon that can turn even small inefficiencies into logistical nightmares. Identifying potential issues early and addressing them through process design is therefore critical to avoiding the administrative burden that programs can generate.

Discussing repetition as an opportunity is a little more complicated. The Project Management Institute describes a program “as a group of related projects managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually.” By that definition, the moment you start to group projects by similarity (and thus create a program) you introduce repetition by default. If identified early and managed well, that repetition can then be exploited. Doing so generally requires both an intricate knowledge of project management processes and an ability to effectively leverage those processes to provide benefit at a program level. It’s through this idea that concepts like shared product specifications, panels of specialised service providers, bulk procurement deals, and knowledge and information management systems are realised. Like most opportunities however, the potential to leverage repetition relies on someone with the experience to identify the opportunity and act on it before the potential is lost.

Once you understand how repetition manifests on a program, the key to addressing it is essentially determining whether the repetition you’ve identified should be eliminated or leveraged. Given the propensity for programs of work to quickly derail into administrative chaos, whether through inefficiency or missed leverage opportunities, how do organisations faced with program challenges develop and maintain delivery solutions that address repetition in a way that maximises value?

APP’s Program Solutions division has an established internal Program Management Office (PMO) to do just that. The PMO provides a dedicated working group, tasked with finding, researching and implementing initiatives that significantly improve the way the program solutions division delivers capital works programs. The PMO operates independently from the program delivery teams providing essential governance and support, facilitating their work and removing the administrative burden that would typically constrain their productivity.

The Program Solutions PMO also works with external clients to establish similar working groups within their own organisations. This exercise generally involves a holistic review to understand existing arrangements, business objectives and stakeholder needs. Followed by the design and documentation of a PMO governance model, resources structure and fit for purpose delivery models. On agreement, an implementation strategy is proposed and then executed. The result is an operational PMO with all the tools and resources needed to extract the full benefit that a program of works can provide.

Whether its bespoke first principles process design, the establishment of systems framework or simply the automation of reporting requirements, APP’s Program Solutions team, strives to create a series of program management initiatives that address repetition, to help clients maximise time, cost and quality benefits across their capital works programs.

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