Program Director: Leading Teams Towards PLM Success

Implementing enterprise digital platforms, and associated business change enabled by PLM to ERP, CRM or MES solutions, requires strong delivery leadership. This often starts with a Program Manager or Director who can join the dots between all involved stakeholders, disciplines, strategies, tools and technologies. PMBOK defines Program Management as “a group of related projects managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually”.

When it comes to PLM, business complexity often meets with data, integration and change management related challenges. Managing uncertainties during PLM exploratory projects is the number one risk to mitigate when embarking on such business change and digitalization initiatives.

In this post, I discuss the role of Program Directors in leading PLM programs, as budget and delivery owners, driving effective stakeholder management and leading teams toward value realization.

Programs are long-term temporary endeavors to drive business change towards a vision of an end state—yet, a realistic, reachable vision, even if there is often no confirmed pre-defined path. It does not mean that there are no paths in sight to start with, rather that there are options to assess and confirm as part of the implementation (a.k.a. the ‘transformation journey’ as many organization and consultancies refer to it).

Beyond the textbook, program management is about driving initiatives without losing sight of the ‘big picture’, aligning with business strategic goals, mitigating risks, leading stakeholders towards a credible roadmap, optimizing resource capacities across a portfolio of projects and driving quality continuous improvement.

“The benefits of program management include: 1/ reduction of risk from project interfaces, 2/ coherent resource prioritization, and 3/ reduction in management effort [and uncertainties].” (virtual+digital, 2015)

Managing a portfolio of strategic projects

Program Directors are responsible for crafting and balancing delivery projects, ensuring that they align with business and IT strategies; also, holistically including supporting functions: talent management, learning and development, supply chain management, sourcing, customer and employee experience strategies… In a nutshell, this relates to all user benefits realized during the program lifecycle as well as afterwards.

Delivering what is required, when required

Defining and adapting the program organization structure as the program matures or evolves is essential: it is not a static organization. Program Directors are accountable and responsible for organizational change management with the business (as solutions are rolled out to users) and within the program organization itself (as the project portfolio matures, sourcing and other business strategies evolve, etc.).

Program Directors must anticipate what programs need at a given time, integrating a number of functions into the program structure:

  • Business change management
  • Program office / PMO
  • Design authority
  • Key users and change leads
  • Executive governance (steering committees)
  • Supplier governance
  • Change authority
  • Project assurance

Leading PLM-enabled change

When it comes to implementing PLM-enabled change, Program Directors must balance expectations of clarity with the solution design and validation maturity; especially, data migration and integration.

  • What to prioritize now, and when to freeze assumptions and requirements.
  • What to test early and how to validate that all elements are understood and controlled.
  • What program and project boundaries to define, and how to change-manage associated design and delivery principles (including the operating model with internal and external services organizations, and transition to business-as-usual).
  • How to moderate contradicting requirements and associated trade-off decisions, including late-discovered requirements.
  • What to run in an agile mode, and with what level of flexibility.
  • Etc.

What are your thoughts?


Virtual+Digital Blog (2015): Learning Mechanisms in Projects and Programs

This is an original publication by:

Momentum PLM and written by Lionel Grealou

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Lionel Grealou

25th January

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