Strategic Program Management

Key to “giga” Program Delivery



By Bob Prieto

Jupiter, Florida, USA



Across many markets we are seeing dramatic growth in the scale and complexity of capital construction programs. Like all programs, these consist of a series of discrete but closely coupled projects that when taken in their entirety enable an owner to meet a set of well-defined strategic objectives.  And just as we saw a set of non-linear scaling effects come into play as we scaled up from programs with total installed cost in the 100’s of millions to the low single digit billion range (so called mega programs) so too are we seeing a new set of non-linear scaling effects come into play as we scale up to programs in the tens of billions. I have referred to this new scale of programs as “giga” programs to highlight the differences from current day mega programs.

“Giga” programs bring new challenges in many regards but like mega programs the two principle vectors are those with respect to the management of a step change in scale and a more exponential change in complexity as the number of interfaces and opportunities for impact grows in a decidedly non-linear way. But “giga” programs also bring new opportunities, with the principal ones being associated with the dramatically increased leverage these programs afford an owner.

Strategic Program Management is about understanding the differences between “giga” and “mega” programs and more importantly critically understanding the core elements of successful program delivery and how they may change and how they must relate to each other in the delivery of “giga” programs. Most importantly, “giga” programs require the owner and his program manager to re-examine their roles and together make the changes in focus, people, processes and systems required to achieve success in the delivery of a “giga” program.

To illustrate some of the challenges and opportunities present in “giga” programs, some “stories” from the strategy phase work done on several “giga” programs are captured below.

Story #1 – Sweat the Small Stuff – Details Matter

In developing a project execution strategy for a large, global private client we reviewed current design and construction practices as part of our familiarization process for development of a delivery strategy for a new “giga” program. The existing work as well as the new program is sited in a remote, costly, labor constrained and environmentally harsh setting.

During observations we repeatedly passed one operation as we traveled back and forth to different projects within the current “mega” program. This operation involved a two-man crew bolting up a large hopper. Over the course of the day we would see one of the men walking a kilometer down the road to a warehouse to retrieve additional nuts, bolts and replacement tools. It became evident that what was taking place was less than optimal so we stopped to watch the operation.


To read entire paper, click here

Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally published in PM World Today in July 2009.  It is republished here with the author’s permission.

How to cite this paper: Prieto, R. (2009). Strategic Program Management: Key to “giga” Program Delivery, originally published in PM World Today, July. Republished as Second Edition, PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue IX, September 2020.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/pmwj97-Sep2020-Prieto-strategic-program-management-key-to-giga-program-delivery-2nd-ed.pdf



About the Author

Bob Prieto

Chairman & CEO
Strategic Program Management LLC
Jupiter, Florida, USA


 Bob Prieto is a senior executive effective in shaping and executing business strategy and a recognized leader within the infrastructure, engineering and construction industries. Currently Bob heads his own management consulting practice, Strategic Program Management LLC. He previously served as a senior vice president of Fluor, one of the largest engineering and construction companies in the world. He focuses on the development and delivery of large, complex projects worldwide and consults with owners across all market sectors in the development of programmatic delivery strategies. He is author of nine books including “Strategic Program Management”, “The Giga Factor: Program Management in the Engineering and Construction Industry”, “Application of Life Cycle Analysis in the Capital Assets Industry”, “Capital Efficiency: Pull All the Levers” and, most recently, “Theory of Management of Large Complex Projects” published by the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) as well as over 700 other papers and presentations.

Bob is an Independent Member of the Shareholder Committee of Mott MacDonald. He is a member of the ASCE Industry Leaders Council, National Academy of Construction, a Fellow of the Construction Management Association of America and member of several university departmental and campus advisory boards. Bob served until 2006 as a U.S. presidential appointee to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Advisory Council (ABAC), working with U.S. and Asia-Pacific business leaders to shape the framework for trade and economic growth. He had previously served as both as Chairman of the Engineering and Construction Governors of the World Economic Forum and co-chair of the infrastructure task force formed after September 11th by the New York City Chamber of Commerce. Previously, he served as Chairman at Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) and a non-executive director of Cardno (ASX)

Bob can be contacted at rpstrategic@comcast.net.

To view other works by Bob Prieto, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/bob-prieto/