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Programs are finite, too

May 16, 2011

A project has an ending, a program sometimes has two.

Since the nineteen nineties many debates have been waged on the ending of projects and the way in which this should be achieved. Meanwhile, the fact that projects are finite has been accepted amongst project managers, although the actual ending of projects still does not always go smoothly.

But how about programs? Even to this day, some managers still hold to the believe that programs are infinite and could go on forever. And even when a program is ended, often the reason for stopping the program and the terms and conditions under which the decision was made, all too often remain unclear.  This article aims to answer some of these question, by means of a case study. Because programs are finite, too.

At the beginning of the year, in which our case study is situated, a large IT-company has entered into an agreement with a semi-governmental organization to outsource its mainframe-activities. The deal included multiple computer systems, including all related datacenter services. The program “Professionalization Outsourcing Relationship”  lies at the base of the case study described in this article. A program with not just one, but two endings.

The case study

The changes, involved in the transitional phase, are concluded in the fall of the same year except for a number of remaining issues. In the subsequent professionalization phase, in which performance goals, as agreed upon by way of Service Level Agreements (SLA’s), are being achieved, both organizations conclude improvements  are in order. To this end a survey is conducted into ways of improving the cooperation between the two organizations. The results of the survey are compiled in a report, the main body of which consists of an improvement plan, comprising some twenty separate activities. The activities range from small to large, from simple to complex and from easily achieved to requiring planning over several years.

The recommendation from the report, to implement all the defined activities, has been accepted. For the implementation a program-approach is selected, because simply implementing the various solutions as separate projects, will not guarantee the achieving of the common strategic goal. The goal of the program “Professionalization Outsourcing Relationship” is the professionalizing the cooperation of the client and IT-business organizations. Which translates in improved performance, transparency, mutual understanding and trust. The activities, as defined in the survey report, are deemed (suitable) means to these ends.

MSP in stages

The program-approach is based upon the Managing Successful Programs (MSP) methodology and consists of a number of phases or stages (figure 1)

FIGUUR 1: Program stage planning based on MSP

Stage 1 Preparation
Focus, in this stage, is on validating the survey report and setting up the initial program organization.

Stage 2 Benefit selection
In this stage the main objective is on determining quantifiable goals for the program

Stage 3 Determine Blueprint
Here the so-called Blueprint of the future organization is presented. The Blueprint describes the future organization (as goal for the program). In this case this organization is a ‘virtual’ organization, an organization on the coupling plane of Client-organization and IT-organization.

Stage 4 Defining projects
Based on predefined (and quantifiable) benefits as well as the blueprint, in this stage projects and activities will be started. These will be documented in the program planning.

Stage 5 Executing Projects
This is the stage where projects and activities are actually executed.

Stage 6 Closing down the program
The program is closed down with an evaluation of the goals and benefits achieved and the formal communication about the end of the program.  The program organization is dismantled and program documentation is archived.

Figure 1 gives an overview of the different stages in general. The chosen approach and structure of the program ensure that along the way the program requires less and less involvement of program management and results are embedded more and more in the regular organization. This article does not go into details on the actual management of the program, but instead focuses on the end, the closure of the program.

Programs are finite.

Looking at the case study we will now try to address the questions of why programs are finite and when and how they should be ended. In order to do that, we will zoom in on the factors that determine the end of a program and that necessary to round off a program smooth and successful.  We will start with the question: “Are programs finite, or should they be?”

The term ‘program’ is used in many different meanings. It is, therefore, important to use a clear and decisive definition. For this article we will use the following definition for the term ‘program’:

“A temporary and flexible organization formed  especially for coordinating and managing the implementation of a coherent set of projects and activities, aimed at realizing benefits related to the strategic goals of an organization.”[1]

This definition clearly states the temporary nature of a program. But are there any logical arguments to be found for this statement? In order to answer that question, we have to look at the basic question: Why was the change instigated through a program, as opposed to changing (the organization) as part of everyday (management-) activities?

Separate management.

In order to realize changes in standing organizations, extra efforts (above and beyond normal day-to-day activities) have to be made. Efforts which, all too soon start to exhibit all the characteristics of projects.  The many projects and activities in a line organization, the relationships between activities and influences from (often complex) surroundings set high demands, in terms of effort, on company management and their co-workers. For the implementation of organizational changes, the existing line management and implementation capacity are insufficient. In organizations, set on realizing serious changes, the need has arisen for some other way of managing the implementation of these changes.

Program management is such a way, when it comes to managing the implementation of a coherent set of projects and activities. With the creation of a separate program-organization dedicated to achieving the strategic goals set, the line organization saves itself time and money. The savings possibly achieved by means of a program approach, know many aspects. One of these aspects is the fact that, the moment the biggest change is achieved, the major gains (partially) have been realized and the overall impact on the regular organization is reduced, a choice can be made to hand-over the remaining, outstanding, activities to the line organization. In any situation there will come a time when the costs of maintaining a separate (program-) organization does no longer outweigh the benefits of such a decision. This may well be the most important reason for ending a, otherwise successful, program.

“When the objectives of the program have been achieved, or when it is concluded that the remaining benefits do not merit the maintaining of a separate program-organization, the program should be terminated.”

If the above answers the question of whether a program should be ended, there still remains the question of how to do so. In the program from this case study, “Professionalization Outsourcing Relationship”, this question was addressed very conscientiously. Lessons learned during this process have become references for future programs.


The program “Professionalization Outsourcing Relationship” has reached the stage where the standing organization can direct en finish the ongoing activities, without the support of program management. This situation has been reached in accordance with the initial program planning, due to the combined effort of the program organization, which has focused on this goal. Based on the situation, the program board has decided to end the program and hand-over the remaining program activities to the standing organization for completion.

Business change management ensures that the changes, brought about by the program, become embedded into the standing organization. In this program the role of BCM was fulfilled by line managers from both organizations.  This was a deliberate choice, since the process continues after all projects and activities are completed. In the end ‘maintenance and control’ as well as further optimization will be carried out completely by line management. In this way parts of the program structure remain present in the line organization, even after termination of the program.

Figure 2 shows assurance in the line organization, after termination of the program.  Control transfers from the program organization to the line organization. The ‘relation escalation board’ remains unchanged and consists of the senior management of both organizations. The regular strategic meetings are supplemented with members from the program board. Program management is transferred to the contract manager and the service manager who take part in the service management meetings. The contract manager and the service manager performed as Business Change Managers during the program.

FIGUUR 2: Assurance of program results after the formal end of the program

Closing down the program (1)

Just like projects, programs are finite. The criteria for closure as described in this article are recognizable for stakeholders and easily identified at the start of the program. This makes the program tangible and provides insight.

In fact there are two reasons for ending a program:

  • When the blueprint and benefits have been realized, or
  • The organization is capable of continuing the changes in the line organization,

The program is complete and the program organization can be dismantled.

Closing down the program (2)

The actual program has now been terminated but, as mentioned, there are still a number of activities form the program being carried out by the line organization. At some point in time these too will be embedded in the standing organization and the last remaining elements of the program organization will merge with the line organization. At that point the program will be completed entirely.

Finally some recommendations that may prove useful in the execution of a program;

  • Keep in mind that the difference between programs and projects is not always immediately clear of all participants and it takes time for people to get used to this;
  • The demarcation between program and line management is a fine line and needs to be monitored. This is particular true because both operate in the same context. Division is important because the goals of the program (professionalization) differ from the (daily) line management goals.
  • Ensure ample capacity (time) for Business Change Management. The program and the line organization come together at Business Change Management. This double function demands for extra  effort outside normal duties.

Hedeman B., Vis van Heemst G.

Program management, an introduction based on MSP

Van Haren Publishing, 2009

Hendriks T., Vis van Heemst G.

Programs can end

Projectie Augustus 2005

[1] Hedeman, Vis van Heemst, 2009

Symbision organiseert klantevent:

March 14, 2011


De volgende stap in project- en programmabesturing.

Gabor, Expert in het aansturen van projecten zal vertellen over ‘hoe snel toegevoegde waarde te creëren met een PMO’ en programma- en portefeuille expert Mark de Goeij vertelt over het belang van Project Portfolio Management.

Wanneer: 14 april 2011


Meer informatie? Bekijk hier de uitnodiging!


Programme management – an introduction (part 2)

February 20, 2011

Projects in programmes
As indicated earlier a programme has only one or a number of projects including several activities. Think, for example, of setting and starting up a warehouse as a programme, where all sorts of projects are necessary in order to develop it. The objective of the programme is then formulated in terms of profit figures, stocks, number of customers (per time unit), etc. Projects can therefore be: starting up a shop, laying car parking spots, contracting in personnel, etc. Yet, activities are needed, such as purchasing and selling of products, to develop this and to achieve  the benefits

Depending upon the organization structure, the Project Boards of the various projects are acquired with the programme organization. Usually the role of Executive will be filled by the programme manager or a person directly delegated to do so. In most cases a coordinating Project Support and Project Assurance will be set up. This provides great support to the communication in the programme and across the projects. In this way the underlying projects will get much of the required information from the programme. And vice versa, for issues beyond projects, the information flows more easily to others involved in the programme.

When starting a project within a programme there is usually a good overview of the main points of what has to take place. The Project Mandate will contain a large part of the information required to make a Project Brief. Even if it concerns planning, a project will have to aim at the expectations of the programme. However, this must not be taken literally just like that. It is still important to continually assess how realistic this information is. That is the responsibility of project management. During the programme project tolerances will be defined that are recorded in the Project Brief and in the PID.

The Project Brief is supplied by the programme. The Business Case and the project outcomes are linked to the benefits that must be achieved by the programme. The project is controlled upon the basis of the deliveries related to the benefits upon which the programme is calculated.

Each change that influences areas outside the project must be tailored to programme management strategy and where necessary programme management must make the decisions. An example here can be the change of objectives or of predefined project outcomes, as well as changes to the Business Case.

Types of programmes
Each programme is unique in what it aims to deliver and the circumstances under which this is carried out. Figure 3 shows examples of types of programmes and areas where changes are carried out.

Construction, engineering and ICT
It is characteristic of this environment to be unambiguous and the results to be delivered are often clearly described and specified. It is clear what must take place and often how much time and energy will be required. There will be few major changes while the project is being carried out. This will involve the preparation and completion of products, with the focus more on result-oriented work rather than just the objectives of the project.

This type of programme differs from projects in the distribution of tasks, authority and responsibilities. With a project, the manager (the Project Manager) is responsible for producing project results that are within the budget, produced on time and can be used by the client to realize the Business Case. With a programme, the manager (Programme Manager) is responsible for the above, as well as for delivering the results and (partial) realization of the Business Case.

This may, for example, deal with the implementation and development of a new computing centre, or the introduction of a new product where development will be reviewed after a few months to see if it can be included in the standard range.

Change management
This concerns programmes for carrying out changes in an organization from a strategic viewpoint, with effectiveness and efficiency as starting points for the change. Consideration is therefore given to the realization of benefits. This type of change is often less clear than the previous type of programme, but there is still a reasonably good vision of what must be done.

The chances for change are greater, but the changes will generally be across the board and dealt with reactively. More components will become clear throughout the implementation period and these can be managed as projects.

Examples of this type of programme may include changing a department to accommodate the demands of a new market, or the reorganization phase following a merger or takeover.

Figure 3 Types of change
(source: Programme management based on MSP)

Policy and strategy
A strategic programme consists of a set of projects and individual activities for realizing an organization’s strategic objectives. This is also based on a vision, but deals much more with reaching the higher strategic goals than just the benefits.

The environment is ambivalent, so there is no clear picture of what must be done. Negotiations are often carried out in this case to find clarity for the procedure that follows. The frameworks are more flexible and the entire scope of the changes is dealt with carefully. While this is being done, parts of the tasks will become clearer and they can also be managed as a change phase. What is remarkable is that the objectives from the various projects might conflict with one another, but they will still support the coordinating goals in the wider context. The challenge here is to have the various objectives balanced in such a way that the strategic objectives can be achieved.

An example of a strategic programme is setting-up an e-business. Implementation is often only driven by a vision of the final outcome. A lot of uncertainties exist in the beginning and the Programme Manager will react pro-actively to possible future developments. The programme could involve the setting-up of systems, motivating clients to work with e-business, preparing the organization for e-business and setting-up a helpdesk.

Multi-organization programmes
This type of programme is characterized by the co-operation of various organizations in managing or sponsoring the programme. These organizations might have the same or different backgrounds (industry or market). The reason for the co-operation is the joint goals and benefits, which the organization cannot achieve on its own.

Such programmes are common in the logistics sector, where the concept ‘providing the complete package’ is becoming more and more important. Far-reaching co-operation is required here in supply chain management, to serve the final consumer efficiently. In these programmes, each partner supplies the input for realizing the joint vision. Each participating organization maintains its own business goals that are to be achieved, as well as the joint vision of the partnership.

Other well-known examples include the private-public ventures where local government and private businesses work together to develop areas that would be much more difficult to launch without direct co-operation.

Critical success factors
There must be a good reason for carrying out the changes. An accepted image of the solution needs to be put in place by the most important people in the organization and this must be seen to be done. The Programme Manager should be involved and want the change without this being forced on him. He must be seen to work quickly and this should be a fixed feature of daily operations. Only then can changes actually be implemented and show their added value for the organization in the long term.

The following steps are conditions for successful implementation:

Make the necessity clear
Changes cost energy. This energy can only be released if there is a clear need for the change. This can be a possible threat or an opportunity, so it is also important to state and share this need for urgency.

Involving senior management
The choice of implementing changes depends largely on the image and experiences of the most important players within the organization. It is not sufficient for the need for change to be felt lower down in the organization or in middle management. The change is not viable if senior management cannot be convinced of the need for it; they must be behind the change and regard it as their problem.

Looking for an owner within senior management
Someone has to take responsibility for the change at senior management level. If everyone is the owner, then no-one is the owner, and nothing or very little will get done. It must be possible to address the owner at the appropriate management level; he’s the figurehead, the ‘champion’, owner or standard-bearer of the change.

There are several names, but they all mean the same, important thing: that this ‘Senior Responsible Owner’ bears managerial responsibility for the programme and is the real owner of the change. The change will have the best chance of success if the owner is also the primus inter pares (first amongst equals) from within the leading coalition of senior managers.

Clear and consistent vision of the final outcome
It is important that everyone involved in the change has the same image of the future and of why the change must take place. By sharing the vision and the Blueprint of the change, the parties involved can identify themselves more with the programme and what is happening. This is also the case with procuring and maintaining the use of staff and resources.

Clear tasks, responsibilities and authorities
One of the most numbing factors with project and programme management is that those involved do not know who is responsible for what, or who can be approached about what. Normally, nothing will happen if several people seem responsible, so establishing clear roles is a must.

Focus on added value
Realizing the benefits is a programmes primary objective. Managing the benefits, from identification through to receiving and measuring the added value, may cost a lot of time, money and management effort, but it is essential for implementing the change. Without this focus on the benefits, the change will have no drive and will soon get bogged down in haggling about what should happen.

Focus on the justification and the risks
There must be practical justification in order to implement a programme and there is no change without uncertainty. The justification and the risks must be established at the beginning of the programme and be tested and managed regularly during the programme.

Empowerment is an important condition for success. Empowerment means that those involved in the programme can make decisions and have sufficient powers and authority within the framework of the programme. This does not mean that each person might decide his own direction, but that all those involved may give as much of their own personal interpretation as possible within the business limitations necessary for realizing the objectives.

Planning, governing and monitoring the process
A structured change is not possible without process management. Changes must also be planned and require governing and monitoring.

Generating and celebrating quick wins
It’s great to see that on paper the new way of working should improve the situation, but nothing is more convincing than these improvements actually happening. Celebrate the success and reward the successful. Do not leave this to chance, but consciously seek short-term successes; these are energy for the motor of change.

Nothing is more frustrating than those involved not knowing what is going to happen. What does the change mean for the organization, how far ahead is the change, has the change already had an effect, and what does the change mean for me? It is not enough for the message to be spread but it is important that management acts in accordance with its own message, as a good example is worth following. Furthermore, it is essential to repeat the message again and again.

Securing the new work method
Changes that are not secured in the organization tend, after a time, to return to their original state. It can take years before new work methods become ‘business as usual’. It is therefore essential to embed the changes into the organization’s procedures and control systems.

Basic principles of MSP
MSP endorses all the mentioned success factors for implementing changes. Specific issues of MSP in relation to other methodologies are:

  • A description of the vision and a Blueprint of the new organization must be defined before starting to implement a programme and these are the main elements in planning and realizing the programme;
  • Identifying and establishing the added value for the organization, and ensuring they are measurable and then managing the added value so that this can be realized;
  • A focus on the justification and the risk: this is essential within the MSP philosophy and is the leading principle for programmes. MSP also has a defined organizational structure with clearly described roles, each with their own set of tasks, responsibilities and authority. In the organization model, the Management Team is offered a structure to help guarantee as far as possible the involvement of senior management and stakeholders.

Based on all information you can conclude that MSP (Managing Successful Programmes) is a best practice approach for changes and useful to apply. The MSP method gives a pragmatic approach to managing programmes. It helps organizations to realize corporate strategies and goals in their organizations, as well as achieving innovation, implementing new management and ensuring planned added value. The principles for managing programmes have been developed over several years and applied within several fields. These principles can be applied to all sorts of programmes, from developing complex housing problems to corporate reorganizations and e-commerce services.

Questions? More information?

Programme management – an introduction (part 1)

January 31, 2011

Change is part of everyday life. People change their place of residence or work, children leave home or the garden is changed; it’s part of life. The increasing social environment appears to bring us more choices, and these lead to more changes, which follow one another in ever-faster succession. This is also the case in organizations. Globalization, increased competition and changes in clients’ demands are just a few examples businesses are faced with. As the saying goes ‘change is the only constant’.

But the implementation of change is not easy. Change always involves risks and disadvantages, as well as advantages. They are dependent on many other factors; as soon as you change one item, you have to change the other factors too. Various parties are also involved, with different interests and priorities. Many changes are unsuccessful, cause much more trouble or are seen with hindsight to be more painful than necessary. There is, therefore, a clear need for a method of implementing change and thus increasing the chance of success. Programme management is such a method for successful and structured change implementation.

Project versus Programme
But first; both projects and programmes deliver change to an organization, but there is a fundamental difference between a project and a programme. Based on the book ‘Project management based on PRINCE2’  the following definition of a project is being used:


A temporary organization created for the purpose of delivering one or

more business products according to a specified Business Case


The Executive is ultimately responsible for exploiting the outcome and achieving the projected benefits. The benefits are only realized once the project has been closed.  A programme on the other hand is more than simply delivering an outcome. With a programme there is also the responsibility of achieving the benefits or part of the benefits during the course of the programme. A programme is defined as:


A portfolio of projects and activities that are co-ordinated and managed as an unit

to achieve one or more predefined strategic objectives


A programme achieves one or more corporate objectives of strategic importance. A programme is a temporary management structure covering all projects and a temporary management structure in between the projects and the (top) management of the corporate organization in order to ensure that new corporate objectives involving change are achieved in a structured manner.

In general the outcomes of several joint projects are needed in order to achieve specific corporate objectives. The duration time of a programme is longer than the duration time of related projects.

A programme must consciously be stopped. With a programme, the pros and cons concerning the investments in the change and the benefits to be achieved to justify the existence of a separate (programme) organization must be weighed up. In practice, a time will come when it is no longer necessary to manage the changes in a separate organization from a programme, but that this can better be done in the line organization. The programme can then be decommissioned and the programme organization discharged by the Programme Director. The end of a programme must therefore be self-determining and is not a direct consequence of a predefined outcome as with a project, where delivery of the outcome automatically signals the end of the project.

The benefits are defined from the corporate objectives of an organization that must be achieved with the programme. Therefore, a programme must develop a number of activities  besides carrying out a number of projects in order to exploit the outcomes. The organization must be prepared for the changes to be implemented. The outcomes of projects must be implemented in the organization, the organization must work with the new possibilities and it must be ensured that the new method of working is “business as usual” and that the corporate objectives are actually achieved with these new possibilities.

Programme management
Programme management provides a framework for defining and implementing changes in an organization. This framework covers making a view explicit, defining the blueprint and providing the added value of the future situation for the organization, as well as the organization and processes in order to implement changes and achieve the added value.

Within programme management the necessary projects are identified and started, the interrelationship of the projects is coordinated and the project outcomes to be delivered are tailored to one another. In addition, programme management covers identifying the added value of changes for the corporate organization. The added values are made explicit and managed throughout the life of the programme.

The basis for the programme must lie in the contribution of the objectives to be achieved in the programme to the corporate strategy in relation to work to take place. The basis for a programme is laid down in the Business Case. The Business Case must be checked throughout the life span of the programme.

Figure 1. Results of projects and outcome of programmes
(source: Project management based on PRINCE2)

Programme management environment
Corporate strategies can be implemented by individual company sections. Usually several company sections are involved in achieving the corporate strategy. It is recommended therefore to define programmes in order to achieve corporate strategies. Programmes make it possible to implement strategies over several company sections.

Essential to a successful programme is that dominant corporate strategies are established in the corporate organization and that they are supported by management and those carrying out the work. Furthermore, it is important that programmes are able to anticipate change in the corporate strategy and can be changed to the new initiatives.

Programmes trigger projects where new products and/or services are developed that are needed to implement corporate strategies, until the future vision becomes reality and the added value of the programme is achieved.

A clear picture of the future corporate organization needed to develop the new corporate vision is essential for the establishment of programmes. This picture, the blueprint of the new organization, must be clear and unambiguous to all parties and remain so for the duration time of the programme. Figure 2 shows the dependencies between projects and programmes.

Figure 2 Dependencies between projects and programmes
(source: Project management based on PRINCE2)

The programme management structure
The implementation of change in organizations requires a focused vision towards that change and a structured approach, coordination and management of the change activities. Programme management delivers this approach and helps to reach such a vision through a defined organization structure, phasing, processes, activities, products and the method of thinking. The methodology puts the organization and staff in a position to implement changes and to deal in a controlled way with uncertainties and upheavals that will appear during the process. The structure is also a base for development and completion of the necessary skills in order to implement the changes.

Programmes are different from projects. Whereas projects deliver products or services, programme management is based on implementing changes or realizing added value for the organization. Programme management is thus not only based on coordinating projects necessary for the changes, but also on implementing and securing the changes in the organization and realizing the benefits envisaged by the organization.

When should programme management be used?
With many projects and activities in an organization, the relationships between these and their dependencies on the (often complex) environment mean that change management demands a great deal of effort from the line organization and operational management. Carrying out changes with a limited capacity to realize them all has led to a need to find another method of control for managing changes. The characteristics of this approach are that we are dealing with phases characterized with much uncertainty and risk, and also with a clear link to the strategy of the business. Programme management can make a particular contribution in situations whereby:

  • There is a lack of clarity as to the goals to be achieved;
  • Complex changes need to be implemented;
  • There are strong dependencies between many projects and activities;
  • The available capacity is limited;
  • A turbulent environment exists within which the changes that are to be implemented;
  • There are many risks connected with implementing the changes;
  • There are various possibilities for implementing the changes;
  • The outcome of various projects is needed to make changes possible;
  • Management has to spend too much time on implementing the changes;
  • Implementing the changes has too great an impact on the primary processes, jeopardizing continuity;
  • This requires co-ordination of several initiatives, with common ground with existing business processes.

In summary, programme management can be used in situations where relations between the specialties of groups of projects are complex and where efficient use must be made of the shared capacity. Programme management can also make a positive contribution where the total costs of the change must be limited and managed, and where the focus on the objectives and benefits must be realized without too much disturbance to the primary process. Another reason for switching to programme management can be that senior management has to spend less time on changes.

Advantages of programme management
The benefits of programme management come from co-ordinated change management, governing the mutual dependencies between projects and activities, and a central focus on realizing the benefits. The most important advantages are:

  • Effective realization of changes by an integral (planned and managed) approach to various elements of change, without existing business processes being disturbed unnecessarily
  • Effective response to strategic initiatives by bridging the ‘gap’ between strategy and the realization of projects and activities
  • Focus on the goals of changes by providing a framework for senior managers in the organization whereby they can govern and manage the change process
  • Efficient resource management whereby programme management provides mechanisms for project priorities and project integration
  • Better risk management by placing the complexity and range of the Project Portfolio in a wider context
  • Realization of objectives and benefits by setting-up a formal process of Benefit Management.
  • Important steps in the process are: identifying, defining, monitoring and measuring the benefits.
  • Effective management of business objectives (Business Case). Setting-up and maintaining the Business Case allows constant appraisal of the best solutions from a business point of view and whether the continued implementation of changes is still desired
  • Gradual transition from current to new business processes. The transition from the current organization to the new way of working is a separate aspect of programme management.

Tailoring Different kind of PRINCE2 projects (part 3)

January 11, 2011

In my last two articles about tailoring I was writing about tailoring of PRINCE2 and specifically tailoring projects within programmes. Every time I try to focus on those aspects that truly increase our chance of success. What do I have to do to be successful?! In this article I have searched for ways to tailor PRINCE2 projects within different kinds projects and context.

Lifecycle models
PRINCE2 is a project management method; it helps with the management of a project. There are many other methods that address the content approach of a project and the delivery and testing of specialist products. Examples are the waterfall method and agile methods (for example DSDM Atern). Because PRINCE2 stands apart from these aspects, it is possible to connect with these specialist lifecycle models. This is achieved by:

  • Enabling the phasing of the management stage to connect with the development lifecycle (for example design, building, testing, handover).
  • Using tolerances, such as limited tolerances for time and money and a more generous tolerance for range and quality with the application of an agile model or repetitive models.
  • Integrating specialist roles in the Project Management Team. It is often unclear what these roles should be called. This is not a problem. It is only important to be clear about the responsibilities, so that these can be understood by all involved.
  • Lifecycle models can also prescribe project management products. In similar cases it is important to avoid double work or breaks in activity. It is also important to make a conscious choice for an unambiguous approach.

Different kinds of projects
The management of projects is essentially the same, irrespective of the sector in which the project is executed. However, in practice it seems that the approach differs for each sector. So, for example, project management in the IT sector is likely to be different from that for cultural projects. The organization and direction of large and small projects, or single disciplinary and multidisciplinary projects differ. However, in all cases the basic process scheme is the same. The basic scheme can, however, be tailored for each project. Examples of different kinds of projects are:

  • Commercial customer-supplier projects;
  • Multi-organization projects;
  • Development projects;
  • Feasibility projects;
  • Projects in the private or public sector.

Commercial customer-supplier projects
If a commercial relationship exists between the customer and the supplier, it is important to realize that there are at least two reasons (one for the customer and one for the supplier) to execute the project, two management systems, two structures and two corporate cultures. The customer and the supplier also have their own Business Case. If one of the Business Cases no longer applies, the project runs into trouble and will most likely go wrong, even if the Business Case of the other party is still valid. The Business Case of one party is often (partly) not unavailable to the other party.

The appointment of the role of Senior Supplier is a major decision in a commercial relationship. Should the supplier fill this role or leave it to a manager in the customer organization? And what if there is more than one supplier? If there are more than four suppliers, it is recommended that a main accepter be appointed as Senior Supplier. If there is a purchasing stage in the project, an experienced person from the purchasing department can fulfill this role until the supplier has been chosen.

In most cases the Project Manager will be appointed by the customer, while the supplier fills the role of Team Manager. If the project is initiated by the supplier, the corporate representative of the supplier is the Executive, and the head of the department who has to realize the project result is the Senior Supplier. So, who is the Senior User? That is usually the sales manager as they represent the customer within the supplier organization.

It should be indicated in the strategies whether this design emanates from the customer, the supplier or from a combination of the two.

If the project is managed stage by stage, stage assignments can be given, or a contract can be awarded for the entire project with part assignments concluded. The Team Plan of the supplier cannot be made public to the customer. A good Checkpoint Report then forms the basis on which the Project Manager should monitor and control the relevant Work Packages.

The Risk Register can also be confidential, since some risks are relevant to one party only. If a combined Risk Register is kept, then it must be indicated who the owners of the individual risks are.

The change procedure should link up with the purchasing procedures of the customer and the approval procedures of the supplier. The manner in which the progress of the project or the stage is reported, should tie in with the control demands of both organizations.

For the sake of the supplier the processes must be tailored. The Starting up a Project process will take place pre-contract in response to the request of the customer for a tender. Some of the Initiating a Project process will be pre-contract whilst contract negotiations continue. At the end of the initiation stage a contract is subsequently put in place for the delivery. If at the end of SP a contract suddenly has to be placed for the entire project (initiation and delivery), it is advisable that the first stage (the initiation stage) is executed on the basis of hours times price and a definite agreement reached on the contract soon after approval of the Project Initiation Documentation.

The Project Initiation Documentation must fit in with the liabilities and contractual responsibilities. Between the customer and the external supplier a Work Package can be regarded as a legal contract.

Multi-organization projects
It has already been indicated that a project is typically run on the basis of a customer/supplier relationship. However, it can also happen that multiple organizations are involved, such as joint ventures and inter-departmental projects or partnerships. In such a situation the ownership is shared by several organizations. It is advisable to organize similar projects with a programme control as the dominant structure above the actual project and to stick to a single Executive for the project itself.

Development projects
Projects usually start without a rigidly defined output, but with specifications that are developed further during the project. The specifications that have been prepared during the initiation stage are only adequate for making a ‘good and agreed’ prediction about the business justification of the project. In each stage or with every stage boundary the necessary specifications are defined for the next stage and the specifications of the project products are refined to safeguard the permanent business justification of the project. Similar projects are totally supported by the PRINCE2 method by the drawing up of the Stage Plan and the Business Case at the end of every management stage.

Feasibility projects
A feasibility project or study can be necessary to examine a situation and to develop the options further. A similar study is a project in itself, since such a study is in itself a business product with its own business justification to execute this study (see figure 1).

A feasibility study produces an advice report containing the recommendation in each case for the future. The Project Board can take a decision on the basis of the advice report. Policy projects look like feasibility studies; the output has an immediate value, but contributes to reaching a reliable decision. Executing the decision taken is a project in itself.

Figure 1. Example of feasibility lifecycle
(Source: Project management based on PRINCE2)

Projects in the private or public sector
There are different sectors, each with their own dynamics and qualities. However, the characteristics of a project apply whether the organization is in the public sector or the private sector. Despite the fact that there may be differences in the approaches taken to the development of a Business Case, nevertheless the importance of knowing ‘what we do it for’ is applicable everywhere.

The Business Case in the private sector is usually based on a return on investment, even if that is still not the case in some instances. In the public sector the concept of political decision taking often comes up, though the main questions revolve around: what is the added value? Is it realistic and do we want to spend so much money for the proposed solution or are other, less costly solutions available? Even the authorities cannot always get what they want and also their money can only be spent once.

In the public sector as well as the private sector it is notably important that the different stakeholders are involved in the project. The choice of whether to adopt a Project Board depends more on the culture and the scale of the organization and the importance, size and complexity of the project, than on the sector. In the public sector another consultation body is sometimes involved, for which the responsibilities and the competencies are not clear beforehand. Whatever the method, this is a situation to be avoided.

When considering the public responsibility, it is likely that the various reports and decisions are typically recorded more formally in the public sector than in the private sector. In the PRINCE2 method it is entirely up to the customer to complete the necessary documentation.

This was the last article in the series about tailoring PRINCE2 in different circumstances. I hope you enjoyed the articles and were able to apply it in practice.

Please feel free to comment on my articles. I’d love to get into remarks and questions.

For any other information, please mail me (



2010 in review

January 3, 2011

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2010. That’s about 4 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 19 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 20 posts. There were 30 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 13mb. That’s about 3 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was October 18th with 28 views. The most popular post that day was Tailoring (part 2) – Projects in Programmes.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Tailoring (part 2) – Projects in Programmes October 2010


De feiten en financiële gevolgen over ongemotiveerde werknemers October 2009


Introducing tailoring PRINCE2® (part 1) July 2010


Project managers are from Mars, executives are from Mercury May 2010


A Clarifying moment April 2010

Merry Christmas!

December 20, 2010

Groeien bij een bedrijf dat aan het krimpen is

December 14, 2010

‘Meld je talent!’, dat was het statement van Peter Milovic, bedrijvendokter en eigenaar van leiderschapsbureau Milovic Associates, tijdens het interview over ‘groeien bij een bedrijf dat aan het krimpen is’ op BNR Nieuwsradio. Hij werd in dit interview geflankeerd door BNR-gespreksleidster Hester van Dijk, GITP-adviseur Alexandra Lindner en Walread Cremers van NOLOC.

Kernvraag van het gesprek was hoe medewerkers toch kunnen groeien in een bedrijf dat moet inkrimpen. Als voorbeeld werd gegeven de afvloeiing van duizenden medewerkers bij Defensie.  Hoe zorg je er nu voor dat je medewerkers op een goede manier laat afvloeien en je je doelstellingen bereikt. En hoe ga je om met de achterblijvers in de organisatie en zorg je, zoals Alexandra aangaf, dat er een afgeslankt en fit bedrijf achterblijft dat klaar is voor de toekomst.

Verbinden, vernieuwen en verankeren
Peter zei hierover; het allerbelangrijkste voor organisaties is dat ze weten te verbinden, vernieuwen en verankeren. Zorg voor sterk en inspirerend leiderschap in de organisatie met een duidelijk beleid en kijk naar aanwezig talent. Een reorganisatie zonder visie laat veelal ontheemde, verwarde medewerkers achter die niet op de juiste plek zitten. Dit is een groot risico voor bedrijven en zonde van al dat verspilde talent. In de verbinding wordt het werk gewaardeerd wat gedaan is en hoe dit gedaan is. De vernieuwing geeft medewerkers ruimte;  de vrijheid om zelf naar voren te treden daar  waar hun kracht ligt en  dit  in te zetten voor het bedrijf. Alexandra vulde aan; ‘dit is juist een tijd om te investeren in de competentieontwikkeling van medewerkers’. De verankering borgt dat heden en verleden bij elkaar komen en er een stroom ontstaat die mensen in staat stelt hun plaats te zien in het geheel en betrokken te blijven.

Het gaat om de alignment van organisatie en mensen, van de na te streven doelen en de aanwezige capaciteiten en van verleden, heden en toekomst.  Voor bedrijven is het dus cruciaal om bij een reorganisatie vanuit hun visie en doelstellingen eerst te kijken naar wat aanwezig is, de juiste mensen hiervoor te selecteren en dan die mensen op de juiste plek te zetten. Dit creëert de basis om samen te bouwen aan de toekomst!

Samenwerking Milovic Associates en intrprimus
Het is alweer een paar jaar geleden dat Peter en ik voor het eerst samenwerkten in een opdracht. Dit beviel goed en sindsdien hebben wij contact gehouden en zijn er wat kleine gezamenlijke ontwikkelingen geweest. Afgelopen jaar is dit verder geïntensiveerd en werken Milovic Associates en intrprimus nauw samen. Waar Peter zijn kennis en brede ervaring inzet op het gebied van leiderschap, breng ik de aanvulling met het doorvoeren van veranderingen. Peter heeft een unieke kijk op leiderschap die ik sterk herken vanuit mijn ervaring binnen grote organisaties. Hij spreekt vaak over ‘inspirerend leiderschap’, iets dat ik alleen maar kan omarmen en die ik persoonlijk als onmisbaar ervaar in projecten en programma’s.

Gezien deze mooie aanvulling op elkaars terrein hebben we afgesproken regelmatig artikelen op elkaars blog te plaatsen of te verwijzen. Ik hoop dat jullie het ook een mooie aanvulling vinden.

Mocht je willen reageren, dan kun je me bereiken op

Tailoring (part 2) – Projects in Programmes

October 11, 2010


As I wrote in my last article about tailoring, it’s all about making choices! What do I have to do to be successful. This article I will getinto tailoring PRINCE2 to fit for projects within a programme and large projects versus small projects.
As was indicated earlier, one programme recognizes one or more projects and a number of activities. Think, for example, of an organization that is starting up a warehouse as a programme, where all kinds of projects are necessary to bring about its utilization. The aim of the programme is then formulated in terms of profits, stocks, number of customers (per time unit), etc. Examples of projects could be: the organization of the shop, constructing the parking bays, hiring of staff, etc. Nevertheless activities are still required to enable development and to realize benefits , such as the buying and selling of products.
With the tailoring of a project as a part of a programme, a few aspects are adapted: themes, processes and management products. For the programme management aspects reference is made to ‘Managing Successful Programmes’ (MSP) from the OGC.
With Starting up a Project within a programme there will usually be a good overview in place of what must happen in outline. The project mandate will mainly contain the information that is necessary to enable a Project Brief . Sometimes the complete Project Brief has already been delivered by the programmes. However, this Project Brief must not simply be accepted. It remains important to check again every time whether the delivered particulars are consistent and realistic. That is the responsibility of the Project Manager .
The Business Case of the project is defined on the basis of the standards of the programme. Sometimes the Business Case is provided by the programme or it can be a reduced level of content. The responsibility for realizing and monitoring the benefits of the project lies with the programme. The Benefits Review of the project can be a part of the benefits realization plan of the programme.
The organization structure is about an optimal connection being created between the programme and project organization for an efficient manner of reporting and reviewing. Often the role of Executive will be filled by the programme manager or a direct delegate. In this way coordinated Project Support and Project Assurance is also organized in most cases. This helps enormously with communication in the programme and across projects. In this way the underlying projects will get the necessary information of the programmes much more directly. And vice versa, with information about, for example, a project experiencing scope creep reaching other parties involved in the programme more seamlessly.
Another example of the possible integration of roles is that the change manager(s) in the programme can fill the role of Senior User(s) in the project. The design authority, or the architect of the programme, can also fill the role of Project Assurance or Change Authority in the project (see figure 1). What is important is that there is a clear division of responsibilities and that overlap is prevented.

Figure 1. Project and Programme management roles
(Source: Project management based on PRINCE2)

With any project that exceeds the planned level of change, coordination with programme management must take place and, where necessary, programme management will have to take decisions. Here one can for example think of not only changing of the objectives, but also changing the Business Case.
Another aspect is that the programme can supply the Quality Management Strategy for the project. In this way the programme can give advice about quality methods and provide help with the execution of quality control and quality assurance activities. With the planning of the project, care must be taken that the standards of the programme monitoring and control are followed. In the Project Plan dependencies with other projects within the programme must be covered.
When determining a project’s strategies, the strategies of the programme should form the starting point. It also has consequences for the techniques and classifications to be used, in the project. The issue solution strategy of the programme is used as a guideline for the issue and change procedures of the project.

The information management strategy of the programme will be a guideline for the Configuration Management Strategy of the project. In the same way the monitoring and control strategy of the programme is a guideline for reporting and monitoring activities of the project. In addition the programme determines the project tolerances and the number and length of the stages.

Scale of the project
The scale of a project doesn’t only relate to its size, but also the complexity, the risk and the importance of the project. For all PRINCE2 principles it must be established how they can be used instead of not using certain principles. The use of PRINCE2 can be regarded as the reduction of project failure. If an element of PRINCE2 is taken less seriously, it must be regarded as a risk.

Table 1. Examples of projects of different scales
(Source: Project management based on PRINCE2)

Large versus small projects
Medium-sized and large projects recognize several delivery stages in addition to the initiation stage. With short-running, non-complex projects with limited risks, the project may only consist of two management stages: the initiation stage and the delivery stage. With small and straightforward projects the Starting up a Project and Initiating a Project processes are sometimes combined (see figure 2).
In such cases the two processes can be informally dealt with together in a single discussion. It is advisable in such instances to record the decisions in a discussion memo. For example this could be possible where the project involves a small internal move within one department or something similar.

For small projects the Controlling a Stage process can be summarized in the following activities:

  • Allocating work to be executed;
  • Monitoring the progress;
  • Ensuring that the agreed quality is realized;
  • Ensuring that changes are carried out after approval;
  • Monitoring risks;
  • Reporting the progress of the work;
  • Keeping a watchful eye for changes occurring to the plan.

These activities must be carried out even in the smallest projects. The question is, however, whether reporting on these activities must always be done by means of bulky reports. In small and informal projects quite simple reports are adequate, or reporting can even be done verbally or via e-mail. However, the project management team must realize that verbal reports have inherent risks. An argument may develop about what had been agreed. And what happens if the Project Manager is temporarily unavailable or leaves the organization? The other themes can also be completed in a simpler manner, which results in smaller overheads.

Figure 2. Phasing projects
(Source: Project management based on PRINCE2)

For smaller projects and for those projects with only one team that reports directly to the Project Manager, the coordination between the Project Manager and the Team Manager can also be less formal. The Project Manager and the Team Manager may be one and the same person. The work of the Team Manager can be summarized as:

  • Setting up agreements on work that must be done;
  • Planning the work;
  • Supervising the execution;
  • Keeping an eye on the progress;
  • Reporting the progress;
  • Having the product s tested;
  • Recording the results;
  • Keeping up with the changes;
  • Ensuring that the products are checked;
  • Delivering the products to the Project Manager.

The role of Project Support can also be undertaken by the Project Manager.
For small projects the Closing a Stage process can be summarized in the following activities:

  • Checking whether everything has been delivered and accepted;
  • Checking that there are no loose ends;
  • Recording outstanding points;
  • Archiving the project file for later assessments;
  • Signing off people and resources.

Small projects and bureaucracy
Sometimes small projects are choked by too much paper and bureaucracy. Most procedures and templates in organization s that are developed to organize and manage projects, are based on large and complex projects. For organizations that have ISO certification, it is applicable for management and specialist activities to be thoroughly undertaken. That requires additional paper work and the accompanying signatures. This is not a PRINCE2 requirement, however.
PRINCE2 can reinforce all of this because the method is complete and is underpinned by a large number of templates. All available PRINCE2 templates are often also used to guarantee a feeling of maximum control over the project. The result is an overkill of documents. This can detract attention from what is really important and can create an aversion to all documents, including instances when a document is in fact important. An overkill of documents in any case costs a lot of time and attention to produce and study. This time and attention can often be better spent on other matters.
All PRINCE2 processes must be adhered to in every project. However, the question is whether all processes in a given project are so important that specific procedures and templates for the execution of these processes are necessary. It is important to use only those procedures and templates in a project that are really important in the given circumstances and provide added value for organizing and managing that project. For small projects certain processes can be gone through and completed quickly and informally.

Project Manager versus Team Manager
Small projects typically use one project team. Only members of the project team itself work on the project, reporting directly to the Project Manager. In addition two situations can arise:

  • Separate Work Package es are to be differentiated, but these Work Packages are still undertaken by one person. This person is then simultaneously a member of the team and Team Manager. In such a case the Project Manager and the Team Manager are separate people.
  • The Project Manager does not direct the team member at the level of Work Packages, but at the level of activities. That is also the case if the team member is not yet sufficiently senior to execute the Work Package independently and the Project Manager has sufficient subject content expertise about the work area to be executed. In such a case the Project Manager and Team Manager are one and the same person.

In small projects both situations can occur simultaneously. The second option, however, has the inherent danger that the team member concerned feels insufficiently involved and will sit back, “The Project Manager tells me what to do anyway. It is their project/problem and not my project/problem.” This develops especially when a team member (in their own estimation) has sufficient expertise to function as Team Manager, but is not given this responsibility. This is not good for team building and commitment in the team and only reinforces the risk that the Project Manager will still interfere with the content. Too often the Project Manager strongly interferes ‘out of habit’ with the content of the activities. It could be that the Project Manager is not used to directing on the basis of Work Packages and remains stuck in the old procedure. Coaching by a senior Project Manager is then necessary to avoid similar situations.

Large projects
There is essentially no difference between a ‘small’ and a ‘large’ project. A product or service still has to be delivered. A large project, however, is regarded as a project with several project parts where each is directed as a project, for example with its own Executive , Project Board and Project Manager. A Project Board that coordinates all the different Project Boards is responsible for the entire project. The building of the space shuttle is a huge project, just like the building of the Channel Tunnel. However, the result that is delivered is nonetheless still a product. It is for the customer to use the product and to realize their objectives with it. So, it remains a project and not a programme .
The difference between a portfolio of projects and a large project is that in a portfolio of projects the different projects sometimes deliver several results, sometimes solitary and sometimes in clusters, with each being capable of delivering added value for an organization; with a large project, one inextricably bound total result is delivered.
With a large project one can naturally use the same methods and techniques as with multi project management and with managing a portfolio of projects, and these techniques are found again in the management of programmes.

In the next article I will go into tailoring PRINCE2 for different kinds of projects and in different context. All kinds of projects have their own characteristics and possibilities to tailor it towards success!
Please feel free to comment on my articles. I’d love to get into remarks and questions.

For any other information, please mail me (

PRINCE in Practice meeting – 30th of June

August 5, 2010

I was looking forward to this event, the Prince in Practice meeting about portfolio management with Liander, titled ‘portfolio management and Liander, a good combination’. Liander/Nuon is a client for over 10 years now and I carry the organization and colleagues in my heart. It is a interesting environment with all kinds of elements that makes it dynamic and challenging. The approach was to share some knowledge and experience about (implementing) portfolio management based on our own experience in the last couple of years.

We had some 20+ project and programme managers joining us in this event. For starters I gave a presentation about the theoretical side of portfolio management; what is it about, how does it look like and how can you employ this in an organization. So we looked at different definitions of the item from several organizations and choose one of them as leading for this evening.

the management of a group of projects and programmes that collectively provide the new capabilities that are necessary to realize one or more strategic corporate objectives

Basic question was how to use portfolio management and also what the main reasons are to implement portfolio management. We discussed this from the perspective of both the organization as well as the project manager. Why should he choose for such approach or at least how can he profit best from this situation. It was a lively discussion and it was most interesting to see the balancing of disadvantages and advantages of implementing a management structure that is both increasing power for projects, but also feels like losing individual power as project manager. This is exactly what happens in organizations implementing portfolio management.

Next I explained more about the ways portfolio management can be positioned in the organization and the role of portfolio manager and portfolio  board. Also we looked at the factors that can determine a successful implementation and working portfolio management. This was the starting moment for Ben Tubben, manager Projects of Liander, to give some insights in the way portfolio management is being used within the Uitvoering- organization of Liander. He was very clear on the choices they made along the way and how this worked out for them.

Ben explained the roadmap to us, used by Liander for all their developments and how this interacts with portfolio management. He told us about the different aspects they used as pillars for implementation; Organization, Processes, Resources and People.

Finally Ben shared his dreams for portfolio management and his Projects department with us. It was a cloudy sky, but the sun was shining through the clouds. Ben, thanks so much for your open and meaningful presentation!

As I said, I was very excited to do this presentation with Liander. There was lots of interaction with the group and good discussions. Several of them continued during the closing drink. I want to thank all attendants for their contribution and inspiring feedback!

Download presentation: Presentatie_intrprimus_PiP Portfoliomgt en Alliander_v100