Major Challenges to the Successful Implementation and Practice of Programme Management in the Construction Industry




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Major Challenges to the Successful Implementation and Practice of Programme Management in the Construction Industry


Zayyana Shehu1 and Akintola Akintoye 2


1. School of Built and Natural Environment

Glasgow Caledonian University

Glasgow

G4 0BA


2. School of Built and Natural Environment

University of Central Lancashire

Preston

PR1 2HE


Zayyana.shehu@gcal.ac.uk


Abstract:


In all human endeavours from the design and production of new projects to implementing policies, organisations usually face major challenges which can put the entire enterprise to the test, or even force the initiators to rethink the feasibility of their strategies. These challenges can emerge from anywhere: strategic, tactical or operational. These challenges may originate from human resources, political, commercial, societal, economical, or even technical aspects of the organisation. Programme management is not exempt from such challenges. A mass migration from project to programme management is clearly imminent in the construction industry, yet there is still no clarity in what challenges lie ahead. To exploit the benefits of successful implementation and practice of construction programme management, a critical understanding of the major challenges is essential. A successful programme management can only be achieved if the major challenges are far less than the anticipated benefits. The findings of this research were achieved through pragmatic triangulation of literature review (in programme management), an industrial questionnaire survey and semi-structured interviews with programme management experts - a total of 119 usable questionnaires were received and analysed, and 17 semi-structured interviews were conducted with programme management experts. This paper is based on an ongoing doctoral research into the implementation and practice of programme management in the UK construction industry. The paper synthesised the findings of the triangulation and provides a critical insight into the major challenges to the implication and practice, and the way forward to successful construction programme management.


Keywords: Challenges, implementation, practice, programme management


Introduction


Programme management deals with the systematic planning, coordination, execution and overall management of a portfolio of related construction projects to achieve benefits that would not have been possible had the projects been managed independently (Reiss et al., 2006; OGC, 2004; Reiss, 2003; Bartlett, 2004). Programme management has the capability of improving the way in which construction projects are delivered if professional and successfully implemented (Ferns, 1991), in addition, Kangari and Riggs (1988), observe that managing a portfolio of projects poses less risk than independent projects. Kangari and Riggs’ observation coincides with the need in programme management to collect a group of related projects together.


According to Shehu and Akintoye (2008), programme management has reached a significant level of use in the other sectors of the economy while awareness and understanding are relatively low in the construction industry. In spite of the benefits achievable in successful programme management, it remains an unfamiliar practice, and a debate on its future is yet to be had (Shehu and Egbu, 2007). Regardless of the low level of awareness and understanding, a mass migration from ‘projectification’ to ‘programification’ seems imminent. To be accepted in the construction industry, programme management needs to be critically examined and understood. This research provides a detailed insight into the major challenges to the implementation and practice of programme management.


To fully exploit the benefits of programme management, major challenges to the implementation and practice of programme management have to be identified and addressed. From the literature review, a list of major challenges was developed and thereafter presented to the construction industry to assess the criticality of the challenges to the successful practice of programme management. To gain an insight and expand the depth and breadth of construction programme management knowledge, semi-structured interviews were conducted with programme management experts to understand the major challenges to the successful implementation of programme management. The following constitute the major challenges as identified in the literature review:


Lack of commitment from business leaders


Lack of commitment from business leaders is one of the major challenges in programme management (Williams and Parr, 2006). Martin and Nicholl (1987) define commitment as willingness on the part of individuals to contribute much more to the organisation than their formal contractual obligation. Merriam-Webster defines commitment as an act of committing to a charge or trust.


Programme management can only be successful if designed and implemented professionally in any organisation with commitment of the business leaders (Williams and Parr, 2006; Black et al., 2000). The top management approach can be seen in the form of commitment and support, appropriate organisational policy that is accepted by every employee in the organisation, and regular management reviews (Sambasivan and Yun Fei, 2007). Fowler and Walsh (1999) cited Cash and Fox (1989), that if projects (in this case programmes) affect a large part of the organisation, the involvement of senior management is crucial. Lack of interest and involvement can let other activities take priority attention, which is not favourable to a programme. Williams and Parr (2006) believe that lack of commitment from business leaders is a major challenge to the practice of programme management.


Late delivery of projects, Lack of cross-functional working, Lack of coordination between projects, and Lack of alignment of projects to strategy


Abraham (2003) states that, the traditional approach to success in the construction industry, places great emphasis on the ability to plan and execute projects on time. Organisations completing projects in a timely manner within an established budget and meeting required quality considerations have been considered successful. Therefore, if a programme delivers the functional projects late, this can result in a major challenge to the practice of programme management (Milosevic et al., 2007; Williams and Parr 2006).


The alignment, planning, coordination, governing and execution of functional projects in a programme are made with a high level of precision, as a problem from one project is likely to affect the other projects, which will in turn affect the entire programme. With this level of synergy, lack of cross-functional working and coordination in any of the projects will become a major challenge to the success of the programme (Milosevic et al., 2007; Williams and Parr 2006).


Lack of knowledge of portfolio management techniques, risk management and financial skills


According to Choi et al., (2006) knowledge is an essential strategic resource for a firm to retain sustainable competitive advantage. As knowledge is created and disseminated throughout a firm, it has the potential to contribute to the firm’s value by enhancing its capability to respond to new and unusual situations. Lack of knowledge of managing multiple projects, lack of risk management and financial skills are major challenge to the successful implementation and practice of programme management in the construction industry (Williams and Parr, 2006).


Lack of cross-functional communication


It is generally understood that effective communication involves the exchange of meaningful information between groups of people in a programme to influence belief or actions. Programme management is not exempt; it survives on the exchange of timely and useful information between the stakeholders and programme team. Lack of cross-functional communication, therefore, is a major challenge to the practice of programme management (William and Parr, 2006; Bartlett, 2004; CCTA, 1995)


Lack of appropriate ways to measure projects benefits, resources (human/financial) to analyse project data and people constraints


A lack of appropriate ways to measure programme benefits, and a lack of resources to enable programme data (as well as people constraints) are additional major challenges to the practice of programme management. Organisations engaged in programme management get the benefits that are not available in project management (OGC, 2003; Thiry, 2003; Milosevic et al., 2007, Bartlett, 2004). Lack of appropriate measures - or terms of measurement - into its benefits is a challenge that will face an organisation new to programme management. Organisations will be required to come up with what type of benefits they want to achieve in programme management. Even if the benefit measure has been established, the organisation may be faced with the task of providing a sufficient amount of human and financial resources to analyse the programme data in view of making decisions (Reiss, 2000).


Financial Constraints


Reiss (2003) highlights that putting together and operating a programme management environment is not a cheap affair, and Bartlett (2002), also explains that the true cost of a programme comprises the cost of resources, infrastructures, materials, premises, a equipment, and risk exposure, which is only apparent at a certain stage of the programme. William and Parr (2006) suggest that financial constraints may be encountered by the organisations operating programme management.


Lack of Relevant Training


Programmes are quite complex structures with a high level of coordination and synergy among the cross-functional projects, involving many stakeholders with conflicting interests. Programmes can only be successful if its management possess the relevant skills and competency for the role. Training is essential for programme members, which the organisation will have to source and provide. Lack of relevant training is a major challenge in programme management (William and Parr, 2006; OGC, 2004)


Research methods


This part provides a brief overview of the methodological consideration and approach of the research, and how they culminated into the research methods used. This research utilised a plural methodology (qualitative and quantitative) to complement one another and expand the depth and breadth of the knowledge of programme management practice in the construction industry (Denzin, 1989; Creswell, 2003; Liyange, 2006; Denscombe, 2007; Dainty, 2007). Through using plural methodologies, researchers can improve the accuracy, confidence and reliability of findings by using different methods to investigate the same subject (Denscombe, 2007).


The sampling frame for the quantitative data collection was convenient sampling; convenient sampling is a non-probability approach, through which a researcher selects a sample without using any statistical indices (Leady and Ormorold 2005). This sampling frame is commonly used where the target population is vast and the targeted respondents are not known. On the other hand, the semi-structured interviews sample was selected by providing a column in the industrial questionnaires administered and snowballing (reference by the participants) (Denscombe, 2007). Generally, a total of 119 usable questionnaires were received and analysed, and 17 semi-structured interviews were conducted. In semi-structured interviews, the respondents were asked to discuss predetermined questions (Denscombe, 2007).


Analysis of results


The analysis of results for the data was conducted in two-folds: qualitative and quantitative data analysis and the results were analysed using appropriate systems of analysis. Although the quantitative data analysis was collected before the interviews (qualitative data), this research presents the qualitative data, analysis and inference first to provide a logical chronicle of the arguments. The initial discussion is based on the major challenges to the successful implementation of construction programme management, whereas the second part discusses the major challenges to the successful practice of programme management.


Major challenges to the implementation of programme management


The discussion of the major challenges to the successful implementation of construction programme management was based on the qualitative data collected. The analysis of the qualitative data for the semi-structured interview was conducted using NVivo7. The data was coded using a conceptual approach; in this approach, the coding is done within the concept of the subject of analysis (Palmquist, 2000; Creswell, 2003). Regardless of the interviewees’ industry, they all have a cross-sector or even multi-sectors experience of programme management, thereby making the discussions easier to relate to the construction industry. The sample consists of programme directors, programme managers, project managers working the construction environment and other programme operatives. Table 1 presents the position and the sectors of the interviewees:


Table 1: Positions and sectors of the interviewees


Position

Construction

IT & Telecoms

Others

Programme Director

1

5

3

Programme Manager

3

-

2

Project Manager

2

-

-

Programme Support Manager

1

-

-



The construction interviewees consist of three programme managers, two project managers, and one programme support team member as shown in the Table 1. The aim of the cross-sector sampling is to gain knowledge of practices of programme management from other sectors of the economy.


A question about the challenges that the interviewees faced in implementing programme management in their organisations and what they expect in the construction industry was asked in the semi-structured interviews. In the answers provided to this question, certain factors, such as lack of awareness of programme management and its benefits, persuading the directors to accept the implementation of programme management, organisational challenges, and other challenges have been established as the major sources of the challenges. Table 2 presents the major challenges involved in the implementation of programme management.

Table 2: Major Challenges to Implementation of Programme Management:


Source Challenge

References

Percentage (%)

Awareness

23

32.857

Organisational

18

25.714

Directors Buy In

11

15.714

Other

18

25.714



The most critical major challenge to the successful implementation of programme management was a lack of awareness. Literally, Encarta Dictionary defines awareness as knowing that something exists by noticing or realizing that it is happening. Pointing the argument towards the definition, it can be observed that the implementation of programme management will remain impossible where the awareness is absent. Lack of awareness tops the list of the major challenges to the successful implementation of programme management with 23 (32.857%) references in the interviews. Providing awareness would help to gain cooperation from the members of the organisation in establishing programme management. The second most critical major challenge was getting the directors to buy into the programme idea. ‘Directors’ buy-in accounts for 25.714% of the total references. Organisational challenges, such as lacking management maturity, stakeholders’ interest, organisational behaviour, and financial standing also covers 25.714%. Other factors, such as recognising programme management as a profession, fear of lost power by some members of the organisation, constitute another challenge. One of the participants (a construction programme director) observes that:


“The acceptance of programme management by the organisational directors, which means it, needs to be supported by the board of director through continuous communication (talks) (awareness) and follow ups, feedbacks from programme managers to the board of directors and clarifying the interfaces and the benefits”.


To avoid or mitigate the major challenges, it is advisable that awareness (information) is provided to the members of the organisation and the potential programme management team members, while awareness of the organisational members is important, focusing on the directors to make sure they understand and agree that programme management is essential to the objectives of their organisations.


Having seen the possible challenges in implementing programme management, the next section focuses on the major challenges to the successful practice of programme management in the construction environment.

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