Programme management - some key success factors

Programme management - some key success factors

How can using programme management assist in delivering challenging projects?

Case study

The eThekwini water mains replacement projects were challenging, because of the lack of service data, the need to keep water supply going in hilly terrain and the secondary socio-economic sustainability objective (to use and develop many local small contractors on the projects) providing employment for the unemployed.

A programme management approach was adopted across all the projects and contractors, with new target contract incentives and responsibility allocation.

This allowed standard delivery processes to be applied, generated some quick wins to enhance stakeholder support and enabled quicker take-up and learning of the new methods and contract arrangements.

At the same time, it streamlined project delivery and created savings and efficiencies.

So, this procurement strategy helped to ensure that the secondary socio-economic and environmental objectives were achieved through project delivery.


Watermeyer, R, Larkin, D, Kee A and Thumbiran I. (2009) Delivering infrastructure at scale: eThekwini Water and Sanitation experience in a pilot project. Civil Engineering

Asbestos cement (AC) water mains replacement programme, eThekwini Municipality, South Africa

  • As well as upgrading the existing water distribution network, eThekwini municipality wanted to generate jobs and business opportunities within local communities
  • Trenches for the >2,800km replacement mains were hand dug, maximising job creation and increasing efficiency as damage to existing services was minimised. 12,000 unskilled labourers per annum were employed on the project. In addition, other project requirements such as security guards, plant and material were sourced from local companies
  • Four large mainstream contractors worked on the project. Each of them mentored four smaller emerging sub-contractors. Thus 16 small contracting businesses received training in crucial areas of business management, such as financial planning, human resource development and sustainability to empower them to carry out the maintenance of the upgraded networks
  • Community liaison officers recruited from the community facilitate communication and build relationships between the community and project stakeholders

Use a standard project delivery process and plan to achieve some 'quick wins'

Benefits of a standard project delivery process

  • It enables programme/portfolio level thinking and learning – if every project follows the same standard process, then delivery ‘patterns’ will emerge (if the right data is collected) and these patterns can be used to drive improved performance or to inform the next programme or other similar programmes
  • It will help to drive efficiency – the routine becomes familiar, appropriate ‘division of labour’ is possible and stakeholders/decision makers can have managed or planned interventions etc
  • New policies and practices can be embedded as ‘business as usual’ into project delivery. E.g. to drive consideration of quality, safety and sustainability
  • It helps to drive consistency across multiple organisations – programmes usually involve many organisations in delivery (clients, designers, multiple contractors and specialists). A standard workflow helps to drive consistency and good practice across all the parties and enables communication, training and collaboration

Generating ‘quick wins’
For a programme to be successful, it is important to achieve visible improvements in performance early in the programme in order to build credibility, engage stakeholders and to gain their support and buy. This builds the necessary momentum required to sustain efforts over the long haul.
A good short term win has at least four characteristics:

  • It is relatively cheap and easy, and can be quickly implemented in an attempt to secure community support
  • It is visible; large numbers of people can see for themselves whether the result is real or ‘hype’
  • It is unambiguous; there can be little argument over the call
  • It is clearly related to the change effort

Quick performance improvements undermine the efforts of cynics. The more cynics and resisters, the more important are quick wins.

Further reading:

Kotter, J.P., Leading Change, HBS Press
OGC , Programmes & Projects, Policy to Delivery 2010