Unlocking Strategic Benefits for an Organization
Srinivas Reddy Edulakanti and Dr. Swapna Yadavalli

Unlocking Strategic Benefits for an Organization

Head, Aerospace and Defense IT Business Delivery, Tech Mahindra

Program management emerged as a distinct discipline in the late 20th century. It has progressively developed for the management of strategic objectives or multiple interrelated endeavors to produce strategic benefits since the scope of project management is limited to complex projects. It is now largely recognized that programs are a significant undertaking, consisting of multiple actions spanning multiple business areas. Programs are also generally complex. Program management deals in both high ambiguity and uncertainty, and requires a high degree of organizational maturity.

PMI’s Standard for Program Management explains the concept as: “A program is defined as related projects, subsidiary programs, and program activities managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually.” Programs are conducted primarily to deliver benefits to the sponsor organizations or constituents of the sponsoring organization.

Organizations initiate programs to deliver benefits and accomplish agreed upon objectives that often affect the entire organization. The organization implementing the program considers and balances the degree of change, stakeholder expectations, requirements, resources, and timing conflicts across the component projects.

Programs introduce change throughout their duration. This change may be reflected in the introduction of a new product, service, or organizational capability. Changes may be introduced to a variety of business processes through the actions, guidance, and leadership of the program manager, who works within the five program management performance domains. Together, these performance domains comprise the program management framework and are critical to the success of program.

Refer to Figure 1 for the program management performance domains.

Fig-1: Program Management Performance Domains

Business Value of Program Management
Program management enables organizations to effectively pursue their strategic goals through the coordinated pursuit of projects, subsidiary programs, and other program-related activities. Program management seeks to optimize the management of related component projects and programs to improve the generation of business value. Many organizations employ program management to improve their abilities to deliver benefits.

Non-commercial organizations: benefits may be delivered in the form of social or societal value (for example, improved health, safety, or security)
Commercial organizations: benefits are delivered in the form of business value

Strategic Organizational Benefits of Program Management
A benefit is the gains and assets realized by an organization and other stakeholders as the result of outcomes delivered by a program. Various types of benefits may be defined and generated by programs. Some benefits, such as expanded market presence, improved financial performance, or operational efficiencies, may be realized by the sponsoring organization, while other program outcomes may be realized as benefits by the organization’s customers or the program’s intended beneficiaries. Regulatory changes may require the initiation of a program. The realized benefits from regulatory compliance programs may be harder to identify. These benefits may be limited to compliance, avoidance of fines, and avoidance of adverse publicity.

Program management also ensures that the benefits provided by the organization’s investment in a program can be realized and sustained following the conclusion of the program.
Fig-2. Organizational Benefits of Program Management

Unlocking Strategic Benefits at Tech Mahindra
Program management is a strategic oversight function responsible for the consistent delivery of large-scale initiatives and achieving the desired benefits. The program management practice has evolved as an organizational function at Tech Mahindra that oversees a group of initiatives or projects linked together through a shared organizational goal or common area of impact. This programmatic grouping provides synergy, consistent management, and greater visibility to stakeholders.

Program grouping is done based on the following criteria:

Business transformation projects/large system integration projects
Size of business in terms of revenue and/or resources
Customer business domain/line of business
Contractual obligations
Having interrelated and unrelated engagements bundled

Further at Tech Mahindra, programs are broadly structured into two types across the organization:

Type-A programs are large engagements, which can be segmented further based on parameters like competency and geography with interrelated deliverables acrosssegments. For examples -system integration and business transformation programs.

Type B unrelated engagements are bundled or grouped for effective leadership of the program manager. Examples are an unrelated set of customer projects grouped under a program manager, multiple unrelated projects grouped to cater to region, vertical, project type, growing technology, or growing customer engagements.

Tech Mahindra has a well-defined set of program management framework processes for program types A and B. The purpose of the program management framework is to ensure that all programs are formally initiated, planned, executed, tracked, and monitored for on-time delivery, within budgets, and assuring solutions/services of high quality, meeting stated outcomes and benefits, and leading to delighting the customer and other stakeholders.

In his career spanning more than 25 years, Srinivas Reddy Edulakanti has served the Indian Air Force for a decade, followed by program management leadership roles in the IT industry. Currently, he heads the Aerospace and Defense IT Business Delivery for Tech Mahindra.

Factors Influencing Strategy Execution in Global Organizations

Vice President, Technical Program Management

Due to the rapidly changing business environment and increased competition, there is an immense pressure on organizations to adopt mechanisms to survive and succeed in the marketplace. Senior executives emphasize upon embarking on digital transformation strategies, accelerated innovation, rapid growth, organizational change, market penetration, and many other such strategic initiatives.

Every strategic change is a project or a program and all strategic changes within the organization happen via projects and programs. A strategy is the direction and scope of an organization in the long run. It helps an organization achieve an advantage over its competitors through an efficient configuration of resources. It also ensures that the market’s needs are met, along with the expectations of all stakeholders.

The two most vital stages of strategic management process are strategy formulation and strategy execution.

Strategy formulation is an analytical process of selection of the best suitable course of action to meet the organizational objectives and vision. It is one of the steps of the strategic management process. The strategic plan allows an organization to examine its resources, provides a financial plan, and establishes the most appropriate action plan for increasing profits.

Strategy execution is the process by which the business strategy is put into action. It includes the design and management of organizational systems to achieve the best integration of people and structure, allocating resources, managing human resources, and developing information and decision processes to achieve organizational objectives.

It is the implementation of a strategic plan to reach organizational goals. Even the best strategic plans can fall flat without the right execution. Strategy execution is a critical competitive mechanism for accomplishing the desired goals and objectives, and achieving a superior performance. Turbulent business environment, technological impact, globalization, increasing customer demands, and rigid rivalry are factors that drive organizations to embark on strategic implementation practices (Manktelow & Carlson, 2014).

Studies have identified a number of challenges in the execution of strategy: weak and poor management positions in implementation, lack of or inadequate communication, lack of awareness or comprehension of the strategy, lack of commitment to the strategy, unaligned organizational resources and processes, and poor coordination of work. Strategy execution is critical since its rate of accomplishment or failure has a significant impact on the organization’s performance and continuity. The major drawback with execution of the plan is the speed at which the proposed strategy is accomplished.

Whether the vision calls for digital transformation, organizational change, or accelerated innovation or growth, a gap between strategy and execution is a constant danger. It becomes clear after a review of the literature that the terms ‘strategy execution’ and ‘strategy implementation’ have been used interchangeably.

Strategy execution is an iterative process of implementing strategies, policies, programs, and action plans that allows an organization to utilize its resources to take advantage of opportunities in the competitive environment. Many studies have acknowledged that business strategies often fail not because of inadequate formulation, but because of an inappropriate implementation.

This article explores the factors that enable or impede effective strategy implementation. It highlights how strategy implementation has been researched so far and how this field may be moved forward to help in effective execution of a strategy. Nine critical factors for strategy implementation emerge, as discussed here:

Formulation of an effective strategy, making the strategy work and implementing it throughout the company is a difficult task (Hrebiniak, 2006). Many factors potentially affect the process by which strategic plans are turned into organizational action. Unlike strategy formulation, strategy implementation is more of a craftrather than a science. After successful formulation of the business strategy, difficulties usually arise during the subsequent implementation process.

Four key factors that influence strategy execution
1. Strategic Alignment

Strategic alignment plays a critical role in sustainability of strategy. It is the process of aligning all stakeholders, internal and external, so that all are focused and committed to achieving a shared organizational vision. Alignment begins when senior executives share or cascade the enterprise strategy throughout the organization and engage functional leaders, team leaders, and individuals to help them identify and develop their own goals, plans, and actions.

2. C-Level Engagement
Leadership buy-in and support are two of the most critical elements in the successful execution of strategic initiatives. Surprisingly, the engagement of the C-Suite in strategy execution is limited in organizations. The initiatives aimed towards putting the strategy into place often do not receive necessary sponsorship from the senior-level. In most organizations, the C-suite owns the strategy formulation and leaves the execution to the teams without appropriate governance. There is a need for an overall change in the approach, starting with the C-suite. Leaders need to start off by giving greater attention to the execution of a strategy and focus on the correct activities in the right areas. Their role also involves allocation of resources on the basis of prioritization of the initiatives undertaken. Integration of the strategy formulation with implementation is also critical to success.

3. Simplified Communication
Strategy execution communication to the organization and external stakeholders is crucial to the success of any strategy. After a strategy is formulated, it must be extensively communicated to the rest of the organization and relevant external stakeholders during execution. Organizational members cannot execute a strategy if they do not know what it is all about. Communicating the strategy and the progress of its execution must be done on a continuous basis. Strategy execution is all about taking action and achieving results. Organizational members must therefore clearly understand what they have to do make the strategy a success.

4. Organization Culture
A stable culture will systematically support strategy execution, fostering an environment of partnership, unity, teamwork, and cooperation among employees. This type of organization culture will enhance commitment among employees and focus on productivity within the organization rather than resistance to rules and regulations or external factors that prohibit success. Creating an organizational culture that is open to change starts with a senior leadership team that communicates an organization’s strategic priorities often and effectively. Effective execution of strategy occurs through creating and reinforcing a culture of change, top-down employee buy-in, strategy ownership, implementation, and accountability.

Swapna Yadavalli is a strategic portfolio leader with over 20 years of experience in the banking, financial services, and insurance sector. She has structured and led global teams in several multi-million dollar businesses and technology transformations across geographies. She mentors aspirants of PMI’s Program Management Professional (PMP)® and Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)® certifications.