A bank is driven by competition, by regulation and by technology. Other banks are trying to increase market share with innovative products, smaller margins. A large bank will have layers of infrastructure - mainframes, maybe Unix and/or NT, client/server installations, LANs, WANs, maybe an Intranet, PCs for analysis at head office and branches. The various banking products go through continuous cycles of updating, migration and maintenance.
The maintenance cost on aging infrastructure becomes unsupportable, or there is just no-one who understands it anymore. The greatest pressure is on bank costs, so products and systems that rely on a large branch network or low cost but inflexible transaction processing have to be stripped out.
A bank can just wallow about responding to market pressures, or it has a strategy of where it wants to be two years out, ten years out. The strategy gives a direction, but comes at a cost of implementation, and needs to be flexible, given how rapidly the industry is changing. A strategy has a dynamic, when it will be achieved, and at what cost. This dynamic is easily represented in the program of projects using Orion.
Mix all those things together, stir constantly and bring to the boil once per year, and you have a recipe for Program Management in a large bank.
A regulatory change - do we hack what we have, or take the opportunity to redevelop the product. We could justify redevelopment of a cluster of products, but is it strategic?
We need a new platform to handle the transaction load - can we ditch the old iron, or will we need it for those legacy systems that aren't worth migrating.
Everyone says their project is strategic, but how do we combine the individual steps to see if they all lead in the same direction at the same rate.
We have all these projects running, and our strategy just changed. Which projects do we kill?
If we outsource, will we abdicate our Program Management role, and would we then respond fast enough to market changes - some responsibilities we can't outsource.
The bank has projects ranging from the very small, to the very large infrastructure overhaul. It is difficult to maintain a consistent stance when faced with projects encompassing such a large range.
The effectiveness of Program Management is a good measure of the health of the organisation - seizing opportunities, preparing for the unavoidable, while avoiding the pitfalls and short term bandaid solutions (or using them if they will allow a slightly delayed long term solution).