The journey towards agility

Jon Poore

Director, Consulting and Advisory Services

Australia and New Zealand

Rolling projects into a centralised programme is a powerful way of driving efficiencies and mitigating risk. It can also help organisations become more agile and responsive to navigate changing market conditions. But clients will be unable to reap the full benefits without the necessary investment in organisational and system capability.

Most leadership teams are faced with the same challenges: how to improve the efficiency of project delivery while driving up quality and innovation, how to manage rising costs and mitigate risk, how to use finite resources more carefully, and how to improve the experience of the end user. Rolling projects into a centralised programme, with the benefits this offers, could provide the answer.

The benefits

As well as raising the visibility of ongoing work, an integrated programme can ensure that a more consistent approach is being taken across the business. Shifting from the traditional command and control method, projects can be monitored centrally with a much lighter touch. This method can empower business leaders to deliver on long-term strategic goals, helping them become more agile in their decision-making, and enabling them to assess the long-term value that their investments are bringing to the brand.

Embedding the right culture

Moving from an individual project or asset to a programme-led environment requires a major cultural shift. Before the transition, it may be necessary to carry out a skills audit to understand the current capabilities of staff, introducing education and training programmes where necessary.

This is important because programme-led environments will require managers to think differently. They will need to be comfortable engaging with a wider and more complex group of stakeholders. Their perspective also needs to broaden: when running projects their priorities are tactical, ensuring that they are delivering within the set milestones, on time and on budget. At programme level they should be investigating whether the right projects have been chosen in the first place, and whether the investment is delivering the right financial returns.

Making the transition

The transition usually takes several phases before the full benefits can be realised. The speed and ease of change depends heavily on the reliability of the organisation’s existing data, systems and processes.

A ‘health check’ – covering everything from delivery manuals, templates and risk registers to software tools – can identify problems and provide a route map towards a fully integrated programme.

Consistent data is the basic building block of all reports, forecasts and decisions and is a non-negotiable aspect of any programme, so achieving this forms part of the first transition stage.

When consistency of data has been achieved, the next phase of maturity is introducing governance controls and systems, making better investment decisions and driving up value across all projects. Mastering these aspects will free up a client for the final stage: using the programme to inform strategic decisions, creating an ever more agile and continually improving organisation.

Setting the agenda

As a programme travels towards maturity, the benefits accumulate quickly. Previously, in a chaotic project-led environment, business leaders may have felt overwhelmed by data, and that they were losing perspective on the rationale behind certain business decisions. Now they have sufficient high-quality information to set their stamp on their agenda, aligning activities with strategic goals.

As competition intensifies, resources become scarcer and budgets are squeezed, moving to a programme-led environment is important, not only for the survival of individual businesses, but also for improving the performance of the entire built environment sector. Programmes can help business leaders and sectors ride out the difficult peaks and troughs of uncertain markets and rapidly changing economies. They have an essential role to play in boosting the capability and reputation of the sector and raising standards globally.