Four vital principles for project and programme governance

Word cloud containing key terms centred on governance

What is effective project and programme governance and why is it important to define and establish governance arrangements for success and the realization of benefits?

TPhil Smarthe focus of many organizations, particularly in the public sector, is how to reduce the cost of operations or to maintain the existing level of service at a lower cost base.

Managing a programme of work to identify, develop and deliver projects focused on improving the cost base – or generating cash savings – can be particularly challenging when it comes to engaging stakeholders and using management information and insight to drive the right behaviours. An example of this is a typical Cost Improvement Programme (CIP) within an NHS Provider Organization that can have upwards of 200+ projects or initiatives to deliver reductions in the organization’s overall cost base.

With the pressure to meet financial targets, identify and deliver cost saving initiatives as early as possible, it is easy to omit appropriate governance. Without the governance in place, people don’t understand roles and responsibilities and the process for generating ideas and dedicating resources to progress them is not managed. Failing to progress new ideas into phases of development, delivery and – ultimately realization – is wasted time and effort, while the chances of success are severely impacted.

Appropriate, well-designed governance ensures that only ideas and initiatives suitable for further investigation receive the resource to develop them further. Deploying resources in a more controlled manner enables an organization to balance the number of hypothetical, sometimes far-fetched ideas, generated, whilst also encouraging innovative approaches. Testing these types of ideas – using appropriate governance arrangements – demonstrates that organizations can gain more value from driving the right behaviours and should develop only genuine ideas to deliver cash-releasing savings.

What does good governance look like?

Effective governance arrangements are developed upon the following principles:

  1. The processes and procedures are simple and easy to understand and are communicated and shared with all relevant stakeholders
  2. They are designed to meet the needs of the organization and reflect how the organization works – taking into account other programmes in a wider portfolio of work and effort
  3. The governance facilitates an appropriate level of challenge
  4. The ability to manage risks within given parameters with a clear route to escalation as required.

Organization benefits

The benefits of introducing appropriate governance arrangements within programmes are:

  1. Increased clarity of the roles and responsibilities of project and programme resources and wider stakeholders
  2. Improvement in the overall value of ideas delivered and realized
  3. Increased programme control and reduced leakage (wasted time and effort)
  4. Improved visibility of the overall programme value and the value of projects at each stage of development – enabling the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) to make effective decisions
  5. Improved return on investment with resources deployed in the most appropriate way; doing the right things and aligned to the programme vision
  6. Increased sustainability of programme if requirements for each stage in the project lifecycle are well-understood and communicated.

An environment of appropriate governance arrangements provides a level of management and control to reach a particular end point and achieve success. This means deploying resources in the most appropriate way, managing accurate and timely data, insight, benefits realization and the delivery of outcomes.

Governance needs to create the right behaviours, encourage innovation whilst introducing an element of control and escalation. Implementing appropriate project and programme governance arrangements may feel like a time consuming exercise. However senior stakeholders should recognize and appreciate that the effort applied to this exercise will provide a much larger return during the delivery of benefits and increase the overall chance of successful delivery.

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