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Four steps to mitigate risks and protect the ROI of your programs

Keep your programs on track with these risk management strategies.

Steve Wakefield | July 29, 2016

As program managers, it’s difficult to pinpoint and control risks, but risk management is a critical success factor for large, complex programs. With the trend of program management offices (PMOs) running lean and focusing on speed-to-market, it’s critical to get ahead of risks before they become problems that will erode the ROI of your most strategic initiatives.

Here are tips to pinpoint risks, assess your PMO capabilities, and accelerate improvements to ensure your program stays on track:

1) Analyze your program’s risk profile

First, it’s important to understand the inherent risk profile of your program. In a previous blog post, we provided a guide to assessing your program’s complexity and associated areas of risk.

A table showing a company’s program risk profile

In the graph, you can see this program’s major areas of risk—the highest being business risk, followed by change management and scope. These risks are typical with large, global technology transformation programs.

“Risk management is a critical success factor for large, complex programs.”

2) Assess your PMO’s maturity and capabilities

After understanding the risk profile of your program, create a view of your PMO’s maturity and identify your PMO capabilities that fall within the same factors you used in the risk profile. It’s important to be objective about your PMO’s capabilities and maturity, so be sure to engage with stakeholders and experts from diverse areas of the organization in order to get an accurate and fair assessment.

A table showing a company’s program risk profile

Looking at the organization’s historic PMO capabilities in this example, you can see it’s mature in program governance, scope and change control, and quality management. Business benefits management and change management are at relatively low levels of maturity.

3) Overlay program risk and your PMO maturity for a more comprehensive view

Take these two key sets of data—the program risk profile and PMO maturity—and overlay them into a “spider graph” like the one below. Use the spider graph to tell your PMO’s story. Depending on the specific PMO maturity factors used in your assessment, you may need to do some analysis to map them back to the risk factors of your program.

A table showing a company’s program risk profile

4) Pinpoint gaps and address them

In the spider graph above, the green outline represents your PMO’s maturity assessment, and the red outline represents your program’s risk profile. Areas of concern are where the risk profile falls outside of the maturity assessment. In this example, we need to focus on developing systems and processes to improve business risk management and change management, our two highest risk areas. It also revealed that while our third-highest area of risk was scope and change control, the PMO is relatively mature in this area, so there’s no need to expend additional efforts to mitigate this risk.

By creating a holistic view of your program’s risk profile and PMO maturity, you’ll gain valuable insights into where you should improve and course-correct to keep your most strategic programs on track.

Slalom Consulting Steve Wakefield

Steve Wakefield is a solution principal in Slalom’s Silicon Valley office. Steve has been managing technology projects and helping clients deliver solutions for over 25 years.


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