Late last year, United States President Barack Obama signed into law the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act (PMIAA). The bipartisan initiative represents a major step forward for programme management, and got the President’s full support despite the US’s tough political landscape.
So what does the Act dictate, and what is its relevance to New Zealand and Australia?
The Act has four key goals:
- Creating a formal career path for programme managers
- Developing a standards-based programme management policy
- Recognising the essential role of executive sponsorship and engagement by designating a senior executive to be responsible for programme management policy and strategy
- Sharing knowledge of successful approaches to programme management through an interagency council on programme management
The Act is intended to cover all Federal Government agencies after research showed that US government entities waste 10% of funds spent on projects and programmes. Just 64% of US government strategic initiatives ever meet their goals and business intent.
From my perspective, I think we would find that we also reflect those statistics in New Zealand and Australia, across both public and private sector groups.
Delivery of business strategic initiatives and outcomes within a well-considered and implemented delivery framework is something we have been advocating with our clients. Promoting a programme management approach is not just about saving cost, but entails high value delivery which ultimately saves money.
Executive sponsorship and governance around a programmed approach instils organisational buy-in to delivery from the top down. The US is recognising this essential role in organisations because it helps to firmly set direction and the activities that will be needed to achieve desired changes or outcomes.
Programme management is about holistic delivery, a means of articulating outcomes – what it is that needs doing and why? It also centralises setting expectations around benefit outcomes, quality, time and cost.
The framework of prioritisation, risk assessment and allocation of resources to get things done are all part and parcel of a programmed approach, and they can be simplified to meet an organisation’s maturity and complexity of the programme. The objectives and benefits aren’t forgotten along the programme delivery journey, as they are captured as part of the programme reporting and governance.
Do we need a government mandate in New Zealand and Australia?
Personally, I think we do see organisations acknowledge the essential role of the programme manager at senior leadership level and provide a good conduit into the senior leaders for reporting – but this is an area we need to improve. If more organisations adopt a programme management approach, the establishment costs are more than offset by improved delivery quality with real savings.
Tracking programme outcomes better is a must, together with identifying project and programme executive sponsors. If this is more widely adopted, programmes and programme managers will be more effective and our performance on delivering expected outcomes will improve.
Clearly the US Government believes in the value that programme management brings to the delivery of capital spend and the realisation of strategic initiatives – so do I!