Aurorah Cheney


Masters in Major Programme Management




Financial Services


2017 - 19

By Aurorah Cheney

Direct from the Oxford MPM Conference 2018

It’s an exceptionally cold morning here in Oxford, however I have made my way to a very warm Oxford Said Business school. Here it’s bustling with conference goers – professionals and scholars from around the world and across many sectors. They are here to dive into the 2018 Major Programme Management Annual Conference. I am looking forward to a full agenda of wonderful speakers. Equally,  I am looking forward to engaging in dialogue with my peers, which is a most cherished tradition of Oxford University.

This mornings presentations have commenced with the use of technology to solve problems. For me, working in technology and marketing, where innovation is king and is necessary for organisational survival, I am interested in understanding how we can bring technology to other sectors such as infrastructure and agriculture.

Our first speaker is Sir David Higgins. He has an inspiring CV, having worked on mega projects such as Heathrow Terminal 5 and UK’s High speed rail (HS2). David rightfully points out the following: If we are using technology to solve problems, whose problems are we solving?

In the case of HS2 one of the benefits the British government are citing is that the populations outside of London will have the ability to get to London more quickly. However, sentiments from public stakeholders have not aligned with this assumption. Many passengers have stated that they don’t care about getting from Birmingham to London 20 minutes faster – it’s not worth the investment. Instead having a seat and wi-fi is a must (and a rarity these days!).

This reflection begs the question, is the HS2 programme really delivering the benefits that the mass population needs? Perhaps not, perhaps the need for a high speed rail has moved on. It’s important that realistic benefits are outlined from the outset. Leaders should be hugely critical of the benefits before commencing mega projects

Dr Atif Ansar, scholar and professor of Oxford provided examples of major programmes that ‘got it right’.  Countries such as Singapore and the UAE provide amazing examples of how expansion programmes, if done correctly, can transform cities and countries GDP. The trick is you must get it right!

Sadly the stark reality is that most mega projects have a poor track record of delivery. In my IT industry, 1 in 5 projects fail with devastating organisational effects (with failure rates even higher in other industries) therefore it is vital that businesses and governments work to get the delivery and benefits right from the outset. They must ensure appropriate contingencies and exit strategy to allow organisations to close programmes or pivot according to market demands. Maintaining flexibility ensures that organisational transformation is successful and will not be devastating.

Ansar stated that our ambition as delivery professionals should be to have ‘happy major programmes’. But how do we get there? How do we ensure that our deliveries are on time, on budget, every time? We must take our inspiration from leaders in the industries.

For me, I take inspiration from technical leaders such as Amazon, Facebook and Google. These innovators are moving from bespoke to modular, they are leveraging on digital, automated and dev ops strategies (beyond agile techniques). These are hugely successful for them, propelling them far beyond other competing organisations. For now I will look to emulate some of these techniques within my own programmes where possible.  I will look to study and innovate to spring my deliveries forward to successful delivery.

I will continue my dialogue within this professional space, today at this MMPM conference and everyday as an individual who aspires to becoming best in my field. To this end, I am looking forward to what the rest of this day has in store.

Oxford Major Programme Management Conference 2018
Technology and Major Programmes: Mastering Scaling



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