Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Connecting the Dots - Using Program Frameworks to Successfully Link Enterprise Projects

As project complexity increases in the enterprise environment, simple structures are needed to deploy mission critical applications. Program frameworks allow projects to be bundled together using straightforward governance structure, common communication methodology and shared ownership.

A Great Name

A good program starts with a great name. When a single program encompasses several businesses or technology projects, it can be a challenge to get a single name that works to distill everything. However, it pays to take the time to do some crowdsourcing, run a naming contest or engage a design firm to assist. The program name should tie back to the highest overall goals of the program and a quality name brings clarity to the mission of the overall engagement. Most importantly, a great name gets people excited, starts people talking and keeps the program at top of mind across the enterprise among both senior executives and the rank and file.

Simple Governance Structure

Enterprise programs benefit from simple governance structures that can be summarized on a single sheet of paper. The key is to create a series of steering committees and team status meetings that allow information to flow up and down the organization quickly and clearly. If everything can’t fit on a single one-pager, you probably have too many committees, too many teams or too many layers.

Common Communication Methodology

Once again, a one-pager dashboard is vital. Program transparency is greatly improved when you create a document, or website, that provides a single one-page overview of all projects and all common metrics. A regular spreadsheet with simple colour codes, project statistics and key roles/names should be updated every week and presented with all relevant financial reporting. Documentation should be posted using a common platform like Sharepoint, or Google Docs. A communication matrix should be developed to ensure that everyone gets the information they need, when they need it.

Shared Ownership

Shared ownership of a program starts with a common understanding of the overall goals. When clear project goals are defined up front with input from all levels of the organization, all teams can agree on a definition of success. A series of iterative working sessions to develop the program goals creates a conduit for senior management to float competing priorities, gauge reaction from peers/stakeholders, then revise. This ‘survival of the fittest’ process will ensure the ideas really have legs and they will form a solid base for the success of the program.

Simple frameworks are the glue that holds an enterprise program together, working to increase the chance that all program sub-projects are executed with success.

Dave Ullrich, B.Comm, PMP specializes in IT project management consulting and strategy with his company Cilantra Solutions. He has based this approach on the results of several successful IT project implementations with teams distributed across Canada, US, and the UK. He can be reached at daveullrich@gmail.com.