Introduction to the Interviewee:
Sandeep Mathur, PMP, PgMP, AgilePM, MoP, has 34 years of experience in IT Industry with over 20 years in Project/Program/Portfolio Management in organisations such as Transport NSW, First Data, Westpac, HSBC, Commonwealth Bank, Deutsche Bank, Societe Generale, IBM, Fujitsu, CSC and Tourism Australia. Besides experience in industries, he has held other positions such as past President and Director of Project Management Institute Sydney Chapter, Member of ISO/IEC SC-40 Committee for Governance of IT standards.
Q1. In VUCA era, what do you believe are the top qualities of a successful program manager?
Sandeep Mathur: Being adaptable and agile are key to being a successful program manager. Rate of change in current climate means that even after the business case is approved, the program manager has to continuously scan the environment for changes which may impact the original benefits profile of the business case. The program manager needs to be on front foot in proposing changes in scope to stakeholders to enhance the benefits profile or to reduce sunk costs on scope items which may no longer deliver the intended benefits.
Q2. How should the success of a program be measured? What are the major barriers to the success of program management?
Sandeep Mathur: While the traditional measures of scope, time and costs are important, it is the ability to respond to changes in delivering outcomes, keeping stakeholders engaged and satisfied that are more important for the program success.
Major barriers can be a combination of people, process and technology maturity in an organization. When people insist on fully signed documentation before moving to next stage rather than taking a pragmatic agile approach of “good enough”, delays are introduced and sometimes programs can become irrelevant. Significant research is being undertaken in program management and adaptation of new techniques is key to success.
Q3. How do you understand the distinction between a project manager and a program manager, a program manager and a portfolio managers?
Sandeep Mathur: Project Management Institute’s Standard for Program Management defines the three roles clearly:
Portfolio Manager: The person or group assigned by the performing organization to establish, balance, monitor, and control portfolio components in order to achieve strategic business objectives.
Program Manager: The individual authorized by the performing organization to lead the team or teams responsible for achieving program objectives.
Project Manager: The person assigned by the performing organization to lead the team that is responsible for achieving project objectives.
The reality is that in a low maturity organization, the role delineation is not very clear. A Portfolio Manager may encroach in Program Manager’s territory and similarly a Program Manager may manage component projects instead of Project Manager. With increasing awareness and maturity, the roles will become a lot clearer.
Q4. Have you applied Agility in your practice of program management?
Sandeep Mathur: I apply Agility in all programs I have managed. The streams for software development lean very easily to be managed using Agile principles such as Scrum. For other streams, I use Kanban. I find some of the base ceremonies like daily Standups, Sprint Planning, Sprint Review, Retrospective can be used across for all programs.
Q5. What is your attitude towards program change management?
Sandeep Mathur: There is a strong correlation between a good Program Change Management and Benefits Realisation. It is unlikely that benefits will be realized if effective change management has not taken place.
Q6. You have saved a program as Program Director for Mortgages Made Easy (MME) program. Would you please share your secrets in it?
Sandeep Mathur: In a large program such as Mortgages Made Easy (MME) and Commonwealth Bank, decomposition into multiple component streams, strong governance, effective stakeholder engagement and change management are required. This is what led to the success of MME. If we overlay agile principles to the above, we do have a secret for program success.
Q7. With the arrival of AI and digital transformation, how do you see the future of program management?
Sandeep Mathur: As per Gartner, Global IT Spending will reach $3.8 Trillion in 2019. According to Forbes, Big Data market revenues are projected to increase from $42 Billion in 2018 to $103 Billion in 2027. So we can see a tsunami on its way in AI and Digital Transformation programs.
Current program management literature does not lean nicely to delivery of such programs but research is underway. University of Technology Sydney is undertaking research “Data Science Program as Exploratory Projects – A new approach to Program Management”. I am sure we will have appropriate solutions in place shortly to handle new requirements.
Q8. What are your suggestions to newcomers in the field of program management?
Sandeep Mathur: For a newcomer, both skill and experience are essential. Sponsors may be unwilling to give a newcomer, a complex program to manage. To take part in program management courses and obtain certifications such as MSP, PgMP are a good start. While the progression from Project Manager to Program Manager may not be linear, delivering complex and large projects puts a newcomer in good stand for getting a program to manage.