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Author  Andreea Iuras – Biopharma programme/project manager

June 4, 2021 |

 3 min read

  • Blog
  • Programme management
  • Project management
  • MSP

Using highly-valued project and programme management best practice allows you to not repeat the same problems over and over again.

It provides a form of wisdom that brings you up to speed before starting something new and, in this way, best practice has become my guiding light and starting point.

In previous pharma industry roles, working as a process engineer and drug product workstream leader at GSK, I acted as a project lead for product development and continuous improvement initiatives. While I had subject matter knowledge, I needed more support for the project and people side of the job.

For example, when a project hit blockers, I didn’t always understand why and this led to frustration and the feeling that I wasn’t doing enough as a project lead. Having project management knowledge helped me understand roles and responsibilities and it allowed me to take a step back, reflect on my role and reframe problems in the context of project management; managing my own expectations, identifying gaps and addressing them.

Working with best practices and adapting them to the environment made a big difference and helped me understand how to contribute fully to the project team.

Moving up to Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) in biotech

Since working in start-up biotech, I have encountered certain challenges, particularly in co-ordinating multiple projects.

The biotech sector is very fast-paced, priorities change quickly and project management is the default way of organizing work. However, any misalignment between projects can result in delays, burnout or not fully realizing the envisaged benefits, impacting the creation of value for both the company and for patients. For this reason, I really wanted to explore programme management with Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) to obtain a more co-ordinated approach and truly enable benefits to be realized.

In the biotech context, MSP is very tailorable to a start-up environment, without being at all restrictive. It offers practical guidance on tackling common challenges – such as complex dependencies and lack of focus on outcomes and benefits – and ensures outputs deliver value to the organization.

Adopting programme management in biotech start-ups does require an investment and sustained commitment to embedding it in the company. MSP can be the scaffolding that builds enterprise awareness for people involved in projects and offers a thorough, yet flexible way to evolve and improve your ways of working.

From project manager to programme manager

If you are a project manager moving up to manage programmes, MSP can certainly ensure you achieve greater alignment for multiple projects and think in an enterprise-aware manner. You won’t focus solely on achieving your project outputs in the shortest timeframe but on how the project fits with the enterprise’s strategy, how to align with other projects and achieve benefits.

Once I understood the benefits of best practice in programme management, I could then understand where a project manager’s role ends and where a programme manager is invaluable. I’ve also been able to identify gaps and how certain risks or issues have appeared in the absence of a programme management approach. It’s now obvious to me why a particular situation has occurred and what could have prevented it.

If you want to drive change sustainably in a company – something I believe MSP is very keen on – project managers can learn to reflect on the bigger picture rather than just focusing exclusively on their own projects.

The start-up biotech sector puts a high value on agility, moving quickly and building the right product in the right way at the right speed. Therefore, having structure and alignment in your change initiatives with something like MSP means you can still work in a flexible way with all approaches including waterfall, agile and hybrid.

Building an approach from best practice which is relevant to your sector or organizational environment is much better than starting with a blank sheet of paper. Also, context matters in project and programme management! Instead of copying another’s company model (the Toyota model, the Spotify model etc), start from best practices and tailor for your unique sector and circumstances.

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