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Comment: How to achieve organisational and IT change

As retailers adapt and respond to the expanding and changing marketplace, whether creating new routes to market or developing existing channels, complex projects and programmes are being introduced to oversee the planning, delivery and support of organisational and IT change. 

As the budgets for these developments can often stretch into millions of pounds, the cost of delay or failure can have far reaching consequences.

Project and programme management provide a framework for change that helps retailers not just to implement tactical deliverables, but also to sustain business-changing, strategic outcomes.

A programme is a framework that:

At the heart of successful programme management are nine strands, which describe the activity needed to ensure the strategic outcomes have the best chance of being achieved. The strands each deal with a specific set of deliverables and management activities. The nine strands are described below:

1. Vision - establish and communicate a clear vision upfront

This strand establishes and documents the programme’s end goal in a way that is easily understood. It describes the desirable future state, has implicit benefits arising from the transformation, and is compelling and motivating, while avoiding specific dates and too many performance targets.

2. Business case - at start and in programme management

This strand establishes the programme’s benefits, costs, risks and timescales, which are then used to judge whether or not the programme is (and remains) desirable, viable and achievable. The business case includes project, programme and transition costs, capital requirements and changes to operational costs.

3. Organisation - keep stakeholders and projects aligned with company strategy

This strand creates a clearly defined programme management organisation, including roles and responsibilities for the steering group, stakeholders, business change leaders, quality assurance, programme office, project managers and workstream leads.

4. Leadership and stakeholder engagement - continuously provide change leadership

This strand identifies and manages stakeholders, who have an interest in the programme, and provides the leadership required to direct, influence and motivate others towards the desired outcome, including the programme RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) and communication matrices.

5. Blueprint design and delivery - define and maintain a coherent blueprint, then communicate it

This strand defines and designs the programme’s required outcomes, setting a specific framework of measurable deliverables that achieve the desired capabilities and benefits. The blueprint may cover as-is, intermediate and to-be states, including:

6. Planning and control - keep the projects on track

This strand builds the programme plan and control regime, including workstreams, governance activities, resourcing, project milestones, deliverables, dependencies, transition activities, communication, benefits management, quality management, quality assurance, gateway reviews and health checks.

7. Risk management and issue resolution - enable cross-project approach to avoid silo working

This strand manages risks and issues, including management strategy, risk and issues logs, mitigation, contingency and monitoring, and ensures cross-project issues are visible and managed.

8. Quality Assurance - continuously learn and improve throughout the programme

This strand assesses all aspects of the programme to ensure they are appropriate and fit for purpose, enabling the sponsor and stakeholders to be assured that the planned outcomes have the best chance of being realised.

9. Benefits realisation – management to set performance targets upfront to enable clarity of individual objectives

This strand involves the benefit realisation framework that identifies, defines, tracks and optimises the realisation of benefits (and dis-benefits), which are tangible, measurable and definable in financial terms, with additional intangible ‘soft’ benefits where appropriate.

As a programme evolves through its lifecycle, the programme management role adapts as strands change in importance.

It is essential for the programme manager and sponsor to recognise this and enable the evolution to take place. Without it an imbalance in management focus may occur, leading to important actions being neglected and delivery put at risk.

To support this evolution, a clearly defined and well communicated programme structure is essential so that the sponsor, stakeholders and those contributing to the programme can understand their role and what they need to do.

Will Treasure is the director of the Operations & Technology Consulting practice at Javelin Group, a specialist retail and omnichannel consultancy.

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Javelin Group