The importance of Development Programme management

Posted: 25th March 2024 Alexandra Hirst, Senior Development Consultant

As a sector keenly attuned to political and economic upheaval, the last 4 years have been extremely challenging for housing professionals. Navigating the choppy waters of interest rates, legislative shifts, and organisational change has left those committed to housing development in uncertain territory. Nonetheless, Altair has seen organisations across the country working extremely hard to continue to meet the desperate need for new, good quality affordable homes.

However, we do sometimes see a disconnect between strategic decision makers, and operational teams working on day-to-day delivery. With the pace of recent change and the constantly shifting development environment, it is hardly surprising that it’s a challenge for senior staff across the sector to ensure that operational development teams can fully understand and implement the direction leaders are trying to set. But for organisations who want to continue to deliver on their development commitments, there is a positive opportunity to tackle these issues head on in the form of a Development Programme function.

Aims and Objectives

A successful Development Programme function is a vital specialist and facilitative tool. It is a nexus that sits between strategic senior staff and the operational teams managing projects on the ground. In occupying this role it can translate the programme owner’s overarching objectives and strategies into practicable directions for operational staff. Simultaneously, it will also feedback progress, alongside operational opportunities and limitations to best evolve the programme’s strategic aims and goals.

The Development Programme team can achieve these objectives by ensuring there is a homogeneous approach to the projects being managed within a Housing Development Programme. They will create a common language across the management of individual projects – especially through governance and standard setting, training, and implementing the rigour of uniform and streamlined reporting.

It is only with the benefit of the Development Programme team’s input in these areas that the wider Development team can both a) retain focus on the ultimate strategic objective(s) set for their programme and b) understand the role their operational delivery plays in achieving these ambitions. Simultaneously, through the mediation of the Development Programme function, programme owners have assurance that the information they receive allows them to make accurate, agile, and adroit decisions for the health and success of the programme.

The Specialist Critical Friend

The Development Programme function can only successfully occupy this intermediary role by being both within and without the broader Development team. By this we mean that they have to be removed from the day-to-day intricacies of the projects being run, but intimately aware of them and invested in their successful outcomes. Being set apart allows the Development Programme team to apply a lens of greater objectivity to the performance of the programme, which influences the way strategic decision-makers can monitor and manage the function to best achieve its goals.

However, to achieve this level of perception whilst not being involved in managing the delivery of individual projects, Altair believe that the Development Programme team have to be true housing development specialists. This is something often missing, even in organisations which already have Development Programme functions. The team need to understand the sector, the finances, the construction terminology, the governance, and the politics. In doing so, and in holding the position of ‘expert critical friend’, the Development Programme team is therefore perfectly placed to blend consistency of approach with deploying specific and specialist support to operational staff as required. This, we believe, is fundamental to achieving consistent rigour and assurance for successful housing development programmes.

Why do high performing organisations need a Development Programme function?

The importance of an effective Development Programme function is vital to the successful delivery of new housing across the sector. However, even leading developing organisations can either be unaware of the fundamental importance of such a team, or are not exploiting the extent of the facilitative, directional, and specialist role their Development Programme teams can and should play. Without this function, leaders leave themselves exposed to inconsistencies of governance, inadequate financial management, and unreliable risk perception. Ultimately, programme owners leave their organisations badly exposed without the assurance that skilled Development Programme function brings.

The cost, risk profile, and political importance of programmes developing new housing in our sector are uniquely high. Hence Altair’s vital message; any organisation that is committed to delivering a housing development programme must recognise the value of investing in a specialist Development Programme team, and the risk of going without.

Altair can help your organisation achieve the Development Programme assurance it needs. We work with clients to understand their specific concerns and aims, craft bespoke solutions to bring out the best of existing Development Programme teams or set up new teams, putting them on a path to ensure the programme’s success. Contact us today to find out more:

Alex Hirst, Senior Development Consultant

Alex Neate, Project Director



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