THE ability of an organisation to successfully execute major strategic initiatives is fundamentally tied to proficiency in mastering programme management practices.

Programme management comprises a set of disciplines and practices for managing a suite of related projects in a coordinated way to effect organisation-wide change.

Organisations can no longer rely on past beliefs, expertise and technology to succeed - the rapid pace of innovation and the rising level of management, stakeholder and consumer expectations demand that companies re-assess and reinvent every facet of their existence to survive, compete and flourish.

Resolving the struggle between tradition and transformation requires a trusted vehicle for managing change. This is the essence of programme management.

Programmes typically fail for several reasons, including:

* Underestimated complexity:

* Lack of firm leadership, commitment and sponsorship;

* Lack of effective planning;

* Misaligned stakeholder expectations; and

* Inadequate programme management skills.

The following 10 vital elements of programme management, if done right, will help organisations overcome common causes of programme failures and ensure success in delivering the benefits of change.

1. A solid business case

An effective business case should clearly define the strategic value of the proposed business or organisational change. It must address three questions:

* Why is the programme important and what does it need to achieve?

* What is the current "as-is" state and why does it need to change?

* What will the end "to-be" state look like?

The answers to these questions will help describe the anticipated outcomes and benefits, weighed against some initial assessment on what it will take to execute the programme - the level of funding, the extent of organisational change, the degree of risk and the overall timeframe.

2. The right organisation

Putting the right people in place to direct and manage a programme is crucial. The programme governance team will need authority, influence, skills and experience in a number of areas:

* Sponsorship - providing authority on programme funding, purpose, and direction;

* Programme management - defining, organising, planning and monitoring the entire initiative;

* Change management - preparing the business for change and aligning stakeholders' expectations;

* Risk management - implementing a rigorous process to counter threats to success; and

* Business analysis - coordinating stakeholder requirements and controlling programme scope.

It is the programme manager's responsibility to assemble the right team and provide the necessary leadership so that the programme's objectives can be met.

3. The right architecture

Establishing a top-down approach to defining the programme early on ensures effective alignment among stakeholders and the implementation team and ultimately for influencing the integration and communication of all programme work.

The programme architecture is the roadmap for getting from the "as-is" to the "to-be" state. It helps:

* Define all the projects that need to be accomplished;

* Ensure projects deliver benefits; and

* Define important dependencies.

The architecture is really a blueprint that outlines how all the individual component projects within the programme will, together, deliver the capabilities that result in the required benefits.

4. Stakeholder expectations

Stakeholders are individuals and organisations whose interests may be affected by the programme outcomes. They play a critical role in the success of any project or programme. They can either help or hinder programmes, depending on the benefits or threats they see.

Typical members of a programme stakeholder group might include:

* Individual customers;

* Other business units; and

* Governmental regulatory agencies.

The programme manager must understand the stakeholders' source of power and how they exert their influence. Addressing stakeholder needs while remaining mindful of the programme boundaries requires dexterity and sensitivity.

Effective programme management demands strong negotiating skills, an ability to manage cross-functional conflicts and a properly balanced approach to coping with multiple interests.

5. Integrated planning

A number of vital steps are needed to ensure that the programme plan is reliable. The planning effort should:

* Define the overall scope;

* Develop a detailed schedule; and

* Determine the required resources.

Planning begins with a programme charter that outlines the programme goals, the people involved, the funds needed, and the processes to be followed. The charter provides the foundation for scoping the detailed work plans of each of the component projects.

These individual work plans must then be integrated into a single masterplan that provides the programme manager with a complete and accurate view of all the programme work. This will then be used to monitor and communicate progress toward the programme goals.