Many business elements, including technology, must come together and contribute to generate the strategic outcomes that organizations need. This means many projects (or program) are needed to discover, design and implement those elements. Wherever multiple projects are involved, synergy becomes a useful goal. Synergy is about executing projects in such a way that they will together eventually generate business outcomes greater than the sum of the outcomes from their individual performances.
In the year 2000, Accenture had 2,100 applications, according to The End of Competitive Advantage, by Rita Gunther McGrath. It’s fair to imagine that the firm would have had multiple projects happening around that time. From Accenture’s experience, and from the experiences of many enterprises, we know the importance of program synergy. In today’s digital tech era, when many folks other than the CIO start IT projects, it’s even more important to ensure program synergy.
The right project every time
There are at least three categories of reasons why we want to ensure program synergy.
First, we want to ensure that the project under discussion will “do no harm.” We should avoid causing disruption to existing business processes and technologies. We may also want to avoid repeating functionality that already exists in traditional or “digital” form. If we don’t avoid these mistakes, the result could be poor decision-making besides other business problems.
Second, we want to discover new opportunities. Can we add missed functionality that aligns with strategic objectives? Is there an existing business process or tech that is best re-imagined? Should we retire some applications (and thus avoid a separate technology rationalization project)?
Third, we want efficient program management. Can we combine projects? Should we advance or postpone a planned project?
Overall, the above help us to make sure that we work on the right project, every time.
Let’s start by defining the scope of program as comprising tech projects as well as business process design projects. These projects include those that are: (a) ongoing (b) planned (c) recently completed.
Program synergy is an input to strategy translation, which by the way is a set of discovery and design tasks that help produce an architecture having strategic potential.
There are three activities that help ensure program synergy.
- Collect information about each project: list of high-level functionality, business outcomes (if any) the project delivered or is expected to deliver, and schedules.
- Examine the information, looking for the three categories of synergy opportunities listed in the previous section.
- Make decisions about project scope and about any changes required to other ongoing or planned projects.
In today’s digital era, the major difference in the way program synergy should be done is in the new focus on getting everything to collectively generate targeted strategic outcomes.