Category Archives: Magnificent Seven

Seven Deadly Sins – Business Case Management

Continuing our series of blogs: Seven Deadly Sins that lead to regular and highly predictable failure on a range of topics.

Today we are focusing on Business Case Management, an organisational ritual that doesn’t seem to stem the tide of failure, despite the enormous amounts of time spent preparing them.

  1.  Failing to maintain the business case. Many failures only come to light late on in delivery because most organisations do not track ongoing viability within the project or programme, or evolving changes in the environment
  2. Thinking that project success is about Time/Cost/Scope – without including benefits and value, the time/cost/scope trilogy can be misleading for programmes in particular
  3. Forgetting that you have to deliver the change, not just get it past the approval committee. So much effort goes into gaining approval, it can come as quite a shock when it has to move from a document into delivery.
  4. Starting with assumptions on what the solution should be blinds you to the best options. So many projects and programmes go wrong because the solution was decided before the business case work started, the business case then becomes the justification for a way of doing it rather than a genuine options appraisal.
  5. Failing to fully engage stakeholders of the full impact of the business case upon them, consequently on the way through the approvals process it is ambushed or once it goes into delivery, unexpected costs begin to emerge.
  6. Hiding the full costs of the initiative will always lead to trouble. The costs of change are invariably underestimated in a business case in the hope that some unsuspecting party will pick up the bill.
  7. Failing to adequately apply risk rating to the costs or the benefits. Without risk rating, both sides of the justification increases the risk of failure, organisations are increasingly applying a risk mitigation to the costs, but few are applying a risk factor to the benefits. Either side can move up or down.

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Magnificent Seven – Risk Management

Risk management is one of those strange things that we know we should do it, but when we do, it doesn’t seem that interesting.  We have conducted numerous gateway reviews, health checks and maturity assessments and invariably organizations seem to be just going through the motions, we have termed the phrase “risk watching” rather than managing.

One Programme Director, when considering the MSP® Risk Management Strategy, concluding that whatever he did, risks seemed to happen so their strategy would be not to manage risks but manage them all as issues, pragmatic at least.

So here are our Magnificent Seven for Risk Management:

  1. The approach aligns with objectives of the initiative – if it is high risk then much more attention should be given to managing them, this can be achieved by putting it at the top of the agenda
  2. Focus on the threats and understand what could trigger them, far too many programmes and projects focus on the consequences, for example, stakeholder resistance can be the result of poor communications, so it is the impact or effect of the threat of failing to communicate effectively.
  3. Engage stakeholders in the process of identifying and managing risks, normally business operations will understand the risks much better than project staff so should be fully involved
  4. Focus on the aggregating effect of risk, a wise man once said the worst thing that happened to risk was the risk register, as it hides the relationship between individual risks.
  5. Clear and simple guidance that is provided in the context of the organisations vocabulary and culture, don’t overcomplicate guidance with jargon.
  6. Informs decision making through the availability of current information and that lessons are being learned and shared.
  7. Innovate in the way risk management information is presented to a programme or project board, avoid laying a large risk register in front of them, keep it simple and they will stay engaged, they don’t want to the initiative to fail, if they are disengaged when discussing risk then rethink the approach – basically worrying about what might go wrong is never going to be fun
MSP® is a [registered] trade marks of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

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Magnificent Seven – Planning

Planning is a crucial aspect of programme and project management. Though time consuming, it remains the case that if you fail to prepare then you prepare to fail.

Here is our magnificent seven question checklist for planning.

  1. Do we know what is required?
  2. Is it clear what we have to create?
  3. Are the resources capable and available?
  4. Is there clarity about how the sequence of products fit together?
  5. How have the estimates been achieved?
  6. Do we understand the dependencies?
  7. Is the ‘golden thread’ in place?

For a taster of our planning principles i-learning Click here

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Magnificent Seven – Stakeholder Communications

The Magnificent Seven is a series of hot tips for improving the way you do an aspect of programme and project management.

Here is our magnificent seven question checklist for stakeholder communications.

1. Include communication at the outset of a project
2. Create a simple, clear, and concise headline message about what the project is going to achieve
3. Identify and segment the target audience and understand the likely impact on them, adjust your message accordingly
4. Use a staged approach to maintain interest and not overload the audience – take them through the sales cycle
5. The quickest communication methods (i.e email) are often the least effective
6. Include the most senior stakeholder – they can prove to be a strong ally in putting across the importance of the project
7. Welcome questions and comments and value feedback, always acknowledge and respond to it.

For a taster of our stakeholder management i-learning Click here

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What the Academy can offer you

FACT 1 – In 2011 the UK National Audit Office (NAO) reported that lack of programme and project management skills was one of the major concerns for senior managers.

FACT 2 – Over 250,000 people worldwide are qualified in PRINCE2® and over 50,000 in Managing Successful Programmes MSP®, but when we undertake maturity assessments and assurance reviews, we find organisations don’t actually use the fundamental concepts or processes, basically people are gaining qualifications on subject areas they don’t use.

FACT 3 – Our skills and capability assessments have also highlighted some other alarming statistics, one of which is that 23% of people involved in transformation programmes and projects have no formal qualifications.

If you are interested in more about why organisations fail to extract better value from the training market, why not read our article and paper at delivering better value from training. If you are interested in a broader perspective and wish to fully support your programme and project managers then an Academy model may be right for your organisation, an overview of the key characteristics is provided below.

How we improve your performance through training:

  1. Corporate Development Programmes – that provide targeted development to improve organisational and individual performance in both the processes and leadership of change (including talent programmes for developing critical communities).
  2. Competency Framework – that can be adapted for your organisation to help target your training (aligned to the APM Body of Knowledge).
  3. Competency and Capability Assessment – the process and survey that can profile the current organisation to target your training more effectively.
  4. Short Courses – a range of off the shelf, customisable topic and role related courses specifically targeted at improving performance. A number have associated vocational qualifications from C4CM.
  5. I-Learning Courses – we have all the main APM Group qualification courses and a range of topic specific courses that focus on application of the concepts, for example planning. The courses are modularised into over 200 “Knowledge Nuggets”. Which are short sharp sessions covering a specific topic or technique.
  6. Accredited Qualifications – we can offer the full range of APM, APM Group and C4CM qualifications in face to face events. Result statistics from the APMG exam institute show our average pass rate across all our products and qualification levels is a 97% success rate over the past year
  7. Align Framework – which provides a portfolio, programme and project framework which provides a self-help knowledge base and just in time guidance for teams. For more information on the Align Framework, click here.
  8. Community of Practice – which will enable personal development and networking and organisational learning and improvement.

If you are interested contact us at or 01275 848099

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Survival Guide to project planning is finished! Are you interested?

Great news, we have finished another book.

In the summer we launched (in partnership with the TSO) the MSP® Survival Guide for Business Change Managers. We wrote that book because nearly all our assurance, gateway and maturity reviews were highlighting that this was still the problem areas for many programmes. At a project level, nearly every organisation struggles with planning. Qualified project managers with PRINCE2® and APMP will have only had around 1 day of training specifically on project planning management techniques and when to use them, so it is hardly surprising we get it wrong so often.

This book started life as a project planning framework for a client, but as we got into it, we realised that the root causes of planning failure ran very deep, in fact, many are cultural. We stopped digging at that point and decided instead to turn it into a book that takes you on a project journey, applying planning steps and techniques from requirements definition through to project controls and closure. We explain the techniques and give you worked examples as an illustration.

The audience for this publication is newly qualified and medium experienced project managers looking for a practical guide to improve their planning.

At this point the book is in final draft and we need 6 reviewers to be part of the TSO review process. We are looking for 6 newly qualified or experienced project managers to give us feedback on the content and usefulness.

If you are interested, please drop an email to, and copy in our project manager.

For a taster, here is our article – The Golden Thread of Project Planning

If you can’t wait for the publication of the book, we already have much of the content covered in our our Planning Principles I-Learning course. For more details follow this link

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5 key principles of MoP – Latte experience

This  vodcast (Latter experience) from our partners at CCL in Brisbane, Australia and our Registered Consultant Elissa Farrow describe the 5 key principles of MoP

Management of Portfolios 5 key principles with Elissa Farrow –


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