The future of programme management

The future of programme management is changing but the fundamentals remain the same.

In an environment where change and disruption is a constant and no longer an exception, an organisation’s ability to manage change through effective programme management has never been more critical.
It is certain that disruptive forces in the form of new and emerging technologies, economic and geopolitical tensions and increasing regulation will play a part in the future of most organisation’s change agenda.
However, what is also clear is that no matter whatdisruptive forces emerge, the foundations of purpose,people and effective communication must be at the heart of all programme management initiatives and remain a constant into the future.
An organisation’s purposeis driven by human-centred,social engagement that seeks to create value for the stakeholders who will experience the change but also inspires the individualswho deliver the programme.
Over the last 18 years, I have gained first-hand experience of major local and global programme transformations across the financial services and oil and gas sectors.In my experience, many of these regulatory or compliance-driven programmes are seen simply as tick box exercises, that lack purpose and direction.
What start out as exciting and strategic imperatives lose momentum because the purpose has become diluted or entirely lost under the day-to-day mechanics of programme management.
However, unearthing and reinforcing to those involved what the purpose of the programme is for customers, businesses and employees helps organisations take advantage of their‘obligations’ and focus on creating meaningful change.

Understand the ‘why’

Leading change in an organisation requires more than just a clear definition of ‘what’ you are doing, but a focus on ‘why’ you are doing it. Understanding why a programme is being implemented requires a strong focus on the problem that will be solved and what it means for those delivering and experiencing the change. Consistently reminding stakeholders of the purpose and the ‘why’ is particularly important on multi-year programmes to help maintain momentum, overcome challenges faced and navigate critical junctures.
Successful delivery of major transformation is often harder than expected, requiring all elements of the transformation from people, process, system, data and governance to be aligned through rigorous programme management.
EY recently published our inaugural Irish Project and Programme Management Guide using the results of a survey that identified the key concerns and challenges facing businesses in Ireland.
The survey identified a set of key challenges in delivering transformation projects.While 67% of project teams are aware of the purpose of the project only 54% of the project leadership teams are using purpose as a tool to drive delivery.Many transformation programmes are clear about what they will deliver, the solution that will be put in place or the new capability that will be established – different versions of the ‘what’ – but are not always clear on the ‘why’.

Having a clear purpose allows programmes to:

  •  align leadership and sharpen priorities
  • enable transformation at a more agile pace
  • mobilise the full culture
  • unlock strategic thinking and innovation

Having clarity of purpose helps achieve the desired outcomes. EY’s survey found that 86% of projects have improved their ability to meet their objectives, where purpose is used as a delivery tool.

Communicating the purpose

Having a purpose is of no benefit if the people involved are not aware of what it is. Programme leaders need to live and breathe the purpose every day.
Throughout the journey, clear and effective communication and governance is needed to ensure people understand the value they are delivering, not only for the organisation, but for themselves – this is critical.
Where programme teams are unaware of the purpose of their programme, this poses a risk of higher team attrition, which leads to knowledge leakage, impact on team morale and loss of and connection with intended benefits.

Implementing a purpose-driven programme

While many leading organisations understand the power of purpose, they find that integrating it into their strategy and realising its full value is much more challenging.

The following key steps are vital when implementing a purpose-driven programme:

  • Define the programmepurpose and align to the organisation’s overall strategy
  • Be ambitious yet grounded in the reality of what can be delivered
  • Be clear on tangible and intangible elements & quantify them
  • Mobilise and launch purpose from the s
  • Communicate the purpose, talk about the purpose over and over


Technological, regulatory and geopolitical forces will continue to drive disruption and change for organisations in the future. While the methods and personnel will vary, there will always be a focus on implementing change quickly and in a cost-effective manner. Regardless of the new technologies and project management methods that are adopted in the future, purpose, people and effective communication are theheartbeat of transformation programmesthat have a higher likelihood of success.
Purposeis the critical factor in seeing beyond the mechanics of programme delivery and motivating your team to embrace disruption and deliver change that has meaning and value for both the organisation and individual.

Florian Plass, Director, Advisory Services, EY

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