Program management is the process of managing several related projects, often with the intention of improving an organisation’s performance. In practice & in its aims it is closely related to systems engineering, industrial engineering, change management & business transformation.(Wikipedia)
Program management is a sort of mysterious discipline, for many reasons. Some of them being
- it usually exists in companies that have complex processes/projects to manage the business
- there is an overlap between activities in program management vis-a-vis project & change management
- lack of prominent certifications, courses & study material
- project managers, founders, executives tend to manage programs without realising they are doing so
Variety of sources provide their own definitions of program vs project management. Thus, it is hard to draw a line in the sand & say, ‘This is where project management differs from program management’. At times, program management is also equated with portfolio management.
Need for Program Management
Programs are executed when the goals are so large scale, that a single project cannot help achieve them.
Agile adoption is on the rise. This just adds sprints & releases to the long list of interdependencies. If all the projects managed to produce deliverables within the cost, timeline & budget. But their dependencies are not satisfied, chances of the overall success are bleak. For example, consider a new product launch exercise. Many functions – Product, Marketing, Customer support etc are involved. But if even one of them went out of sync with others, the product launch as a whole takes hit.
Responsibility of aligning projects with organisational strategies rests on the program manager. Project managers ensure that they deliver project/s they are looking after within the scope, budget & timelines.
Vital Differences between Program & Project Management
|Program Management||Project Management|
|Executed For||Program Outcome, often aligns with the organisation wide priorities||Project Outcome, often aligns with program priorities|
|Deals with||Business Strategies||Project Requirements|
|Responsible For||Better Return on Investment, Process improvements etc||On time, In scope, Within Budget Delivery|
|Reporting authority, if any||Program Governance Office||Project Management Office|
|Supporting Tools||Balanced Scorecard, OKRs||Agile, Waterfall|
Responsibilities of a Program Manager
- Organise & streamline for efficient delivery of projects that are cross-dependent
- Lead, Guide, Evaluate project managers
- Manage strategic changes & resources
- Mitigate cross project risks
- Program level reporting
Frameworks for Program Management
Program management is a vast discipline & involves co-ordination among lots of moving parts in an organisation. Naturally, there are a number of frameworks to support/encourage best-practices in program management. A few of them are listed below:
Connecting Program Objectives with Organisational Goals
Managing programs is an intricate task. It requires thorough understanding of macro as well micro factors. Factors that are capable of influencing achievement of company goals. Balanced scorecard, Objectives & Key Results are just a couple of methodologies. They help connect program objectives with organisation goals. Specifically in OKRs, program goals can be set as team or individual objectives. Metric of success/failure then fall into place as corresponding key results.