The Changing Face of the Program and Portfolio Manager

Posted by Audra Proctor

By Audra Proctor, Head of Learning & Development, Changefirst

Gartner predicted that, by 2016, successful change leaders would be directing 60 percent of the program budget to organisational and business process change activities. Stumbling upon this prediction last year (2014), I made a note to come back to it, particularly as we are not far off 2016 and am curious to know “What percentage of transformation program budgets are actually apportioned to organisational change activities?”

I’m not sure how much of this 60 per cent of the change management budget actually refers to the design and development of organisational and business process infrastructure (i.e. reporting structures, skills and competency frameworks etc.) to help people engage with major IT-enabled changes; much of this being paid out to expert providers and consultants. Nevertheless, I thought it was an interesting statistic, as we retrospectively estimate that at least half of the organisational change budget (30 per cent) is used for change management activities as we define them;

  • a structured approach with change plans to transition individuals, teams and the organisation from a current state to a desired future state
  • practical actions to help employees embrace major transformation and changes to their current ways of working

So I might refine my question to ask “What proportion of your organisational change management budget is apportioned to help people embrace change and transition to new ways of working, versus organisational and business process infrastructure”.

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Turning our attention now to the people leading these transformations; program and portfolio managers, who are tasked with providing visibility and decision support to C-suites in global organisations, I’m also motivated to ask the question “Can you really be responsible for a program and budget, where 60 per cent of it is lies outside your skill-set?”

Organisational change lies at the heart of successful business transformation, but it is often ignored because program and portfolio managers themselves lack the necessary skills. In our summer 2015 blog, we wrote about the lack of ECM (Enterprise Change Management) capabilities among business leaders and user groups, leading to significant challenges for program and project managers.

There is no discounting the importance of building high levels of change sponsorship and educating user groups in change management skills, processes and tools relevant to their role, but it highlights the need to ask what additional skills do program and portfolio managers need to be more effective at:

  • building programs that take account of how much change an organisation can undergo in any given period and stay within that threshold to not overwhelm the organisation
  • securing, and even developing the right skills and expertise in the organisation
  • providing more collaboration and complete dashboards to support visibility of strategic change initiatives

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The television program featuring British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay – Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares – reminds us of how difficult it is to run a successful restaurant business without understanding, tracking all aspects of the restaurant food chain, not to mention the business and financial management. Similarly, to deliver an effective, integrated transformational outcome, all aspects of the organisational environment must be transformed at the same time.

The need for faster and better transformations will bring program and portfolio manager skills and deficiencies under the spot light, and at the very least we would see these practitioners advancing their practices with;

  • Tools and processes to measure change demand versus capacity so as to prioritise the load effectively
  • Processes and skills to map and analyse the change landscape, potential impacts on people and likely execution challenges
  • Change skills and tools to diagnose the time needed to align the culture to support transformation
  • Tools and processes to engage and prepare leaders for their change role

And so I was curious to hear your thoughts on the changing face of program and portfolio managers today and would appreciate 2 or 3 minutes of your time to complete a quick pulse survey.  I’ll share survey results in my next blog.

Click here to enter survey.

Tags: change management, Change Management, change agent, change capability, Change management tools, Change Management Training, Change methodology, Enterprise Change Management, Leadership, Organisational Change, Organizational Change Management, Project management

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