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A programme is born

The next day snow lies deep in the car park. Jason’s sporty car is completely unsuitable for snow and he arrives a late and flustered for a meeting about programme definition with Bob, Mike, Sue and Anna taking place in Bob’s office. Sue finds the surroundings to be rather intimidating as this is a place she has never visited before. Her usual ebullience is curbed. Anna notices this and realises with a little pride how used she has become to dealing with the senior management. She goes out of her way to make Sue feel comfortable.

Jason starts the meeting partly because he has prepared and partly because everyone else is looking at him expectantly.

Success that depends entirely upon the commitment of individuals rather than effective working practices is a characteristic of level 0 capability maturity.

The ETP project has progressed from level 0 to level 1.

‘I want to outline a slightly more formal process for starting up projects and programmes. I think we rather blundered through the first part of the process on the ETP project but arrived at a pretty good project definition.

That this was successful was mostly due to the wit and intelligence of the people involved at that stage but we should not rely on that always being the case. I do think that at the project definition stage we didn’t really think through the weighing and security issues. Of course we were then a great deal less mature than we are today. I do think that in the future we must be more thorough’

Jason is developing a political way of telling Bob off whilst complementing him at the same time. But this is not lost on

Bob who replies: ‘less of the brown-nosing please – let’s try doing it properly and see how it works.’

Jason explains the diagram he hands out: ‘I’ll go through this process to explain it using the e-Trolley Pilot Project as it is something we all know about. I think you’ll see that we skipped some stages. I am going to suggest that once we understand the process we follow the full process for the e-Trolley Roll-out programme.

‘The first stage is to define a vision which, on the ETP project, I think really came from Bob based on an idea from his wife. This is always going to be very much an outline and expressed in broad terms.’

Bob glances round the room and notes Anna’s arched eyebrows and Sue’s slight frown. This is the first time that Anthea’s role in the e-Trolley has emerged.

Jason goes blithely on, ‘For the next stage we should take our focus off the project all together and think about the business. The question to be addressed when thinking about a blueprint is this: to achieve this vision what business processes will be changed and how will they be changed. We should not get involved yet in how we are going to change them but we start off thinking about the changes we need to deliver. In these terms a process is anything that goes on within the organisation.

‘I’ve done this retrospectively for the pilot project and I think they look like this.

In Store Operations – we needed some new checkout and security processes. We needed some staff training and to change some floor layouts. We had a new process to deal with battery charging.

Point of Sale (PoS) system updates – we needed to make changes to the way the tills operate.

Trolley Management – we needed new trolleys with fitments like the barcode readers, communications and a charging system. We had to spend a lot of time researching the weighing issues and communications devices.

Market Research – we needed a new process to gather data to evaluate customer reactions to the new trolley throughout the pilot project’s on-site phase

Marketing Promotion – we devoted some time to thinking about how we might market this new technology if we decided to roll out it out.’

Bob suggests that all this makes sense and asks: ‘So what did we get wrong?’

Jason has a short list: ‘We completely overlooked trolley maintenance but we got away without a problem in that area as they lasted pretty well for the short period of the pilot.

‘We completely overlooked the security implications and we should really have got our security team involved much earlier on. I personally think the effort put into drafting promotional material was premature as we haven’t even decided to go ahead with the programme at all.

‘Finally I think we should have spent more time thinking about this weighing problem that has been weighing on all of our minds. Also had we not reacted quickly enough we might have now been committed to opening a whole new department in Barcode City weighing and recording all in-coming goods so that we would have a database of packaged goods weights. I believe that this came up well after the project was running. And finally we overlooked the fact that these e-Trolleys need to be stored inside the store or at least undercover and need to be charged up when not in use.

‘Don’t get me wrong – I am not at all sure that a formal process would have avoided all of these and that the project would have been perfect but I think this process will help to get future project and programme definitions much closer to perfection. After all, this was a pilot project designed to discover this kind of thing. The next stage will be a much bigger programme and we must get that right.’

Bob has been listening carefully to all this. Anna and Sue have been watching Bob’s reaction.

Bob says, ‘I can see the sense so far, keep going Jason, what comes next in this process?’

Jason is on a roll and has fallen back into consultant mode: ‘in the next process we try to group the changes into sensible work groups.

‘Work like market research, e-Trolley procurement, weighing systems and all the IT database and point of sale work, is applied across the whole programme. For each store we had work groups including:

  • In store layout changes
  • Device (e-Trolleys) installation
  • POS software updates
  • Training
  • Market Research

‘The next stage is to think about benefits in a benefits map and benefits realisation plan. The map shows how outputs, outcomes and benefits are related, and the realisation plan is simply a type of delivery plan that shows when benefits are expected to be delivered. We still are not thinking about the projects to deliver the changes but we are thinking about the changes themselves.’

Another way of looking at this is that it is simply the identification process of the programme life cycle.

This brings a thought out of Anna’s subconscious into her conscious:’ I’ve been worried about something here, Jason. The roll out programme, if we go ahead with it, should deliver loads of benefits to the company and Bob outlined many of these in the early days of the pilot project. You go on bout benefits and how all programme expenditure should deliver benefits to the organisation and how we should have a very clear idea of what the investment and benefits are. We have spent quite a lot of money on the pilot project but I am not clear what the benefit of has been. Can you enlighten me?’

‘It is a good question’, says Jason as everybody nods in agreement, ‘I think the benefit has been to reduce the risk of the rollout project. Imagine if we had dived straight into a major roll out of an e-Trolley across the group. Think about the mistakes we might easily have made and what a failure it could have all been. The risk register for such a project would have been frightening. So what we have done is carried out a project where the benefit is in terms of new information and reduced risk.

The modern term for such projects is a ‘discovery project’ as they are designed to discover some information and knowledge. We might have called the project the e-Trolley Discovery Project in place of the E-Trolley Pilot Project. Are you all happy with that?’

Anna is still not totally happy: ’I can see that but I cannot see how we could have compared the investment we made in the pilot with the value that we got back. It seems incompatible with a clear understanding of investment versus benefit. Maybe there was another way of reducing the risk, perhaps to a lesser extent, by spending much less money?’

Bob rescues both Jason and Anna: ’let’s not forget what Jason said at the start of this meeting. SpendItNow is a great deal more mature at dealing with projects and programmes today than it was back then. I hope one day we can be sophisticated enough to value risk in financial terms so as to compare it with investment. Are there such techniques, Jason?’

‘Yes I’m sure there are but I’ve never actually used them. But let’s move on – often a programme is broken down into a number of tranches. Each tranche contains a number of projects or parts of a number of projects and delivers some benefits. The thinking here is to try and get some quick wins from a programme rather than waiting until the last moment to start delivering benefits.

‘Once we have the benefits map we can prepare a brilliant programme definition by which time we will have a clear understanding of the changes we expect to deliver, the work groups and the projects we expect to run and when the benefits can be expected. A key thing here is try not to miss anything, not to overlook some important change.’

Sue decides to make her voice heard at this meeting. She can’t stay quiet for long no matter how intimidating the environment is: ‘Surely in this case the benefits are going to come in one big bang when the e-Trolley goes nationwide?’

Anna has been thinking about this: ‘You’re probably right, Sue, but it did occur to me that we could run the major roll-out in some phased way maybe moving around the country or perhaps using some types of store first and others later. If we did phase the programme we would start to deliver benefits in some areas long before others. On the other hand there are always going to be projects that, in themselves, deliver no benefit at all. The software changes for example.’

Jason says that Anna has just outlined perfectly the case for running a programme in tranches.

Anna asks, ’Jason, I don’t think I have ever used the word tranche. What does it mean, where does it come from?’

Jason, being the super-smart consultant that he is jumps to explain: ‘I haven’t the faintest idea. Does anyone know?’

This is Sue’s turn to contribute as it is she who attends a French class every Tuesday evening, ’In French, Trancher is to slice so I guess a tranche is something sliced from the whole. That seems to make sense from what Jason was saying.’

Having waited for everyone to be extremely impressed Sue puts her glass of water down and raises a different point that has been bothering her: ’Wasn’t there another benefit from the pilot project – we already have the point of sale software changes – we don’t need to do that again for the major roll out. Isn’t that another benefit?’

Jason steps in with a little theory: ’It is and it isn’t. It’s a Platform Project in that it does not deliver a benefit itself but it does allow other projects to go ahead which will deliver benefits in turn. Do you recall the four types of projects?

Direct: projects with direct benefits – these are pretty rare

Enabling: projects that deliver no direct benefit but which are vital to the delivery of a range of benefits from other projects

Passenger: projects that can only add to benefits expected from other projects.

Synergistic: a group of projects each of which makes no (or only a very small) contribution unless combined into a programme.’

The pilot certainly delivered software that can form part of the roll-out programme always assuming we don’t need any further modifications and that IT don’t dream up some reason to re-write in another language or whatever.’

Jason is keen to progress his ideas about processes, ‘But back to the process. Once the programme definition exists and is approved we move into rather better known territory- we can establish the programme which implies starting up and managing the projects. We manage the projects, when they are through we close the projects and eventually close the programme.’

Bob asks if that is how Anna remembered the ETP project.

‘Not really’, she replies, I was called the project manager and ran the single project that was the pilot. I had help from Sue in Store Operations, Mike for the weighing issues, Stephanie in Barcode City and from Max in IT but I wasn’t really clear what their titles should be. How did we fit with this approach, Jason?’’

‘I am keen to have a project per function in any roll out programme and that is why I want to hold back from defining the projects too early on. In my view we should run the roll-out as a programme with a programme manager at the helm. The programme manager should be responsible for delivering the whole programme to the programme board and an early job is to break the programme down into projects and appoint a project manager per project. In this case I expect we will have the e-Trolley Roll-out programme with around 4 or 5 projects: In-Store operations, Point of Sale, Trolley management, Marketing and maybe an IT project as well. There might be separate training and security projects. I don’t know and I don’t think we can yet decide.’

Anna is aware that she might get, or should that be get landed with, the job of managing the rollout programme.

What Jason has just said makes her think that she is drifting away from the role and she cannot decide if that is a good thing or not.

Whilst she is thinking these thoughts Jason suggest that they go through the process for the e-Trolley Roll-out programme now known as ETROP.

After some lengthy discussion they decide to drop, reluctantly, the whole weighing idea. Even Bob has to admit that the problem of weighing very light articles and the changes required to measure and store packaged weights of their wide range of goods present insurmountable problems. They decide to adopt the simple random checking approach with a manual override that lets security select a customer where suspicion warrants it.

They also decide to leave RFID until a later date after realising this technology can be added when it becomes more relevant.

They decide that the blueprint changes required are:

  • In store layout changes
      • Revise Checkout Layout
      • Enhance shelf space
      • Provide indoor storage of e-Trolleys and charging systems
  • Trolley Management
      • Purchase e-Trolleys
      • Purchase barcode readers
      • Purchase power supplies and chargers
  • POS software updates
      • Add random and non-random checking functionality to POS software
      • Implement new software on e-Trolley tills
  • Training
      • Training staff to deal with new equipment
  • Marketing
      • Make public aware of e-Trolley through the media
      • Make shoppers aware of procedures in store
  • Security
      • Provide security team with ability to trigger non-random check
      • Provide Training for Security Staff
      • Provide policy guidance on non-compliant checked trolleys

They talk through the possible tranches at which point Sue smiles brightly just to remind everyone of her recent contribution in French. They decide to plan roll outs in four regions each relating to a regional manager.
Jason thinks this is just great, ‘I have been worried about the role of sponsor. This is the role that is responsible for taking the programme from its authorisation at the beginning through the delivery of the components and on to realising the benefits. The project managers deliver their deliverables to the programme manager, the programme manager combines these deliverables together into outcomes and then hands all that over to the sponsor.

The business change managers have to make sure the business uses the capability to deliver the benefits.
‘If we involve the four regional managers we make them into business change managers. It will be their responsibility to actually use the e-Trolleys and measure the benefits for their part of the country. Ideally their budgets would show them paying for a share of the roll out programme and also the increase in income we expect to derive.’

Bob thinks about this for a moment, ‘I am happy with the idea of giving the regional managers a role but I am not sure we are yet ready to adjust their annual budgets. On the other that does sound like a great idea for dealing with IT programmes – imagine if the IT group have to sell their ideas to their users on the basis that their budgets are adjusted to suit! That is one for the future, we must talk more about that, Jason.’

They decide to have five projects each matched to a part of the organisation.

Project 1: is the IT project which spans all stores. The IT department, they remember, has to add in the random checking functionality as well as the security over-ride.

Project 2: covers all aspects of the E-Trolley itself – the purchasing of all the components, the assembly and their installation plus an on-going maintenance scheme.

Project 3: includes all the physical in-store changes – the changes to the floor layouts to allow for a smaller number of tills and the re-use of the released space for shelving and stock plus the e-Trolley charger points. This project also includes the changes to staffing levels includes in-store signage

Project 4: includes the training requirements of both store managers, check-out and security staff.

Project 5: covers all aspects of publicity both at a national and local level.

Anna suggests that a part of the programme management role should be to arrange for a survey of all stores to check for any special needs. This is to recognise that some stores might not be able to use the e-Trolley at all due to high levels of crime and some might have restrictions for other reasons.

Jason is unhappy about this and questions the reasons for not making it into a separate project.

Anna replies, ‘We can do with our own staff, I mean I, err, the programme manager, could do a survey by mail to eliminate most stores and then perhaps visit a few problematic ones. It seems too small to be a project.’

Jason says, ‘I don’t agree, there should be a budget for this and there should be a project manager. My initial thought is that it ought to be carried out by someone in Store Ops’, he glances at Sue, ‘and they will need time and money to carry it out. It is a big part of risk reduction.’

The survey becomes project 6.

On the basis of this discussion and, after rescuing his car from a snow drift, Jason, assisted by Anna, is able to produce and circulate by far the best Programme Definition anyone in SpendItNow has ever seen.

The company decides to start adopting a portfolio, programme and project management methodology based on the framework and they set up a PMO managed my Jason with a staff of one and a half. The half amuses Jason a little but is caused by sharing one junior member of staff with the IT group who also have decided to have an in-house expert on project planning.

Jason is determined that the method will not get too heavyweight and not be an over-the-top burden but appropriate and sensible and helpful.

Anna finds herself back in her flat the following Saturday morning surrounded by overdue post, her address book with rings round her overlooked friends, coffee, toast and a deep, flat feeling that remains after the project and the matchmaking and excitement are all over.

Jason calls excitedly and tells her that she is being asked to run the major roll out – the biggest highest profile programme in the whole company. Anna says ‘thank you’ to Jason and to herself:  ‘here we go again’.

 

 

 

Thanks to Geoff Reiss for contributing this book

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A programme is born

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