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Top 5 Challenges We Face in Program Management


“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

   – Joshua J. Marine


In a previous post we discussed a holistic perspective to the management of solution efforts; an approach that is much broader than focusing on simple ideas of managing scope, cost and timeline. At LDS, we seek to adopt a management approach that cares for and balances the relationship of business value, solution delivery and sustainable operations with an ultimate objective of achieving business goals. These business goals usually have their roots in a radical change; business transformation, competitive advantage, efficiency and effectiveness, productivity etc.

Due to the nature of these engagements and the extent of the change they are trying to enable, the program challenges are complex. Here are some of the top five challenges we see frequently across our engagements.

1. Readiness and Maturity of Business Programs

Most business programs of transformation have online channel enablement as an important part of the strategy to deliver these programs. It is of no surprise that business program definition, operationalization and envisioning of the online channel are concurrent activities. The challenge is how to make aligned progress while entertaining the dependencies. We have to find the right balance of knowing ‘enough right things’ to proceed and have approaches to keep validating what was done as more information becomes available.

2. Technology Driving the Solution Direction

A common pitfall is observed in engagements when organizations force-fit a technology solution to solve business problems. Many examples are around us…we are moving to ‘XYZ’ platform to solve high call volumes because people cannot find what they need or we are launching the new collaboration platform so that people can connect better. Huge efforts are spent on initiating these technology-driven platforms, only to find that they created more chaos, absent clear line-of-sight with business goals and business context.

It is important to say that IT strategy alignment is critical, but when IT initiatives become the driving force in how business solutions get envisioned, the organizations are taking the risk of not meeting business objectives.

3. Imagining the Unimagined

Organizations needs and priorities vary; and so should their solutions! As leaders, we are responsible for imagining forward-looking business solutions; solutions that are innovative in all contexts: business, design, and technology. As program managers, it is important for us to not only imagine these solutions with our expert teams, but partner with our clients to pursue the applicable contexts for realization. Our clients should be able to see the differentiating value and market it to their stakeholders and constituents.

4. Cross-Organizational Barriers

The solutions we design keep the constituents as the focus. They are simple, seamless and elegant. They necessarily cross organizational boundaries to provide a coherent experience to the users. The challenge in designing such solutions is to draw the right set of people from across the organization, bind them in common philosophy, build consensus for the solution, accountability and ownership with an ultimate goal in mind – the constituent – bringing in the business value! We are asking these teams to think and work together in ways that is different from they may be accustomed to.

5. ‘Brave and Passionate’ Sponsorship

As it is evident from the challenges we describe, the success of the program is largely dependent on our sponsors. These solutions need sponsors that firmly believe that the solution will play an important role in achieving the business goals. Envisioning and operationalization of these solutions can span multiple years – it requires passion, dedication and ability to maintain the excitement and momentum all around – amongst the teams, senior leadership, extended stakeholders and constituents. It requires ‘brave’ sponsors that truly believe in the outcomes of the effort. Throughout the process, it’s our responsibility to ensure we guide and support our sponsors for the best possible outcome of the program.