Is now the time to cancel your Digital Programmes? Part 2

Programme assessments can help CFO’s rapidly shape the tactical “new normal” and make informed decisions about their programme’s future.

As we head further into the new normal, many CFOs’ and will be left facing a financial shortfall, scarce resources and conflicting priorities, which require them to make difficult decisions about whether to proceed with their planned digital transformation programmes. Organisations with a mature digital operating model pre-COVID may have been able to adapt and survive more easily than those with without, either way CFO’s will be under pressure to invest in tactical digital programmes which help sustain the survival and move an organisation to the new normal. Time and cost already invested, business and investor expectations and commitments made, can make it challenging to reach the right conclusion in a short space of time.

In this, the second part of our two-part article, we explore the options to enable CFO’s and senior business leaders to make the right tactical decisions.

Part 2: Defining and assessing the new transformation priorities:


In part 1 we looked at defining and assessing new priorities, the business and benefits case and risk. In Part 2 we focus on transformation delivery performance, resource capacity and the need for a formal programme assessment framework. 

4. Delivery Performance 

Even during normal times, programme delivery presents a challenge for many organisations, with analyst firm Gartner reporting that an estimated 60-75% of programmes fail to meet their objectives, or deliver on time and on budget In the midst of delivery those working directly within the programme are often too close to the work and can miss early warning signs of problems. 

Organisations were already under pressure to maximise every pound invested; however, the World Economic Forum 2019 reported that almost $2 out of every $3 spent on digital is wasted due to poor programme performance, these are scarce funds which organisations simply cannot afford to waste. Add to that a work from home mandate, travel restrictions, potential illness and self-isolation and even previously high performing programmes may struggle to succeed. 

It has never been more important for leaders to have full visibility of the programmes they sponsor, in order to understand the challenges they face and the critical risks to delivery, at this time it will allow them to make fully informed decisions about whether to proceed with a programme and when to implement any required changes to avoid major problems.

One way to achieve this is through One Eighty programme assessments which can provide an objective independent perspective on how well a programme is performing. Another way to gain visibility is by updating or implementing robust programme reporting. For example, how are the programmes performing against any tolerances which have been agreed? Or determine the key metrics which you need sight of and obtain consistent reporting of all programmes current status which will allow you to make an informed decision about a programme’s future. 

5. Resource Capacity   

In my experience, many programmes under-estimate the amount of human resource required to deliver successfully. Even during normal times, this can lead to serious delivery issues, add to that resources needing to self-isolate or being diverted to deliver track and trace services, existing programmes can be in real danger of proceeding only to fail to deliver the intend benefits due to a lack of resource. 

It is important for programmes to re-review their plans and to make sure that they don’t just focus on tasks and milestones, but really consider the holistic amount of effort required to complete them. This will give programme Sponsors confidence that programmes fully understand what’s required and that the resource demands placed upon the organisation and its delivery partners is accurate and can be sustained. 

The impact of this crisis upon programme resources cannot be underestimated. Even with a clear business need for a particular programme and sufficient funding the impact of pulling a key resource from an operational area at this time may add unnecessary strain to an already stretched operational organisation.  

In order for some programmes to proceed it may also be necessary for organisations to look at alternatives and perhaps rely more heavily on utilising partners.  A word of caution when assessing programmes with existing partners and contracts in place as unwinding these can be difficult. Most partners will hopefully understand that this is not a business as usual situation and be more than willing to work on an amicable solution. However, if your relationship with the partner is deteriorating, a decision to pause the programme can be a good way to work out the issues and restart later but on a more solid footing when more time can be dedicated to the programme’s success. If this isn’t possible roust commercial management may be urgently required.

Conclusion 

Digital Transformation Programmes are never undertaken lightly and weighing the risks and costs associated with pursuing a new tactical direction, continuing, pausing or stopping a programme can be difficult. However, using a structured, objective and consistent framework to support these decisions can turn an emotive situation into a well-considered and defendable process. As a result, Organisations are far more likely to make the right choice, which helps them to respond to the changing demands and ensure success during this most challenging time. 

How can we help 

If you are considering assessing your programmes, the Programmes assurance and turnaround experts at One Eighty Advisory can help you consistently evaluate your options and make the right decision for your organisation. You can learn more about us here.


This article was written by Alisdair Bach, a senior SAP Business Transformation Programme delivery turnaround specialist and SAP Enterprise Architect.

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