Program Management – Doing The RIGHT Projects

Chunks of change - Traditionally, organisations make their projects too big. Dividing projects into smaller pieces makes success more likely and implementation easier. Look at any one of your longer running projects, say over a six-month duration. Critically review it to decide if you could have implemented it in smaller pieces. What was the minimum that was needed to be done? Look at projects you are starting off now. Can these be divided into more digestible pieces?

Directing a ‘program’ of projects is a key senior management task, as it is this ‘bundle’ of projects that will take you from where you are now to your, hopefully, better future.

Program management is the process of managing several related projects, often with the intention of improving an organization's performance and to obtain benefits and control not available from managing them individualy. Typically a program is broken down into projects that reflect the organization's structure. Programs are normally designed to deliver the organization's strategy. Program management also emphasizes the coordinating and prioritizing of resources across projects, managing links between the projects and the overall costs and risks of the program. Program management may provide a layer above the management of projects and focuses on selecting the best group of projects, defining them in terms of their objectives and providing an environment where projects can be run successfully.

The Program Manager has oversight of the purpose and status of all projects in a Program and can use this oversight to support project-level activity to ensure the overall program goals are likely to be met, possibly by providing a decision-making capacity that cannot be achieved at project level or by providing the Project Manager with a program perspective when required, or as a sounding board for ideas and approaches to solving project issues that have program impacts. Typically in a program there is a need to identify and manage cross-project dependencies and often the Project Management Office may not have sufficient insight of the risk, issues, requirements, design or solution to be able to usefully manage these. The Program manager may be well placed to provide this insight by actively seeking out such information from the Project Managers although in large and/or complex projects, a specific role may be required. However this insight arises, the Program Manager needs this in order to be comfortable that the overall program goals are achievable. Program managers should not micromanage, but should leave project management to the project managers.

Organization may establish the Program management office as an operation center that not only governs and supports projects from initiation to completion, but also plays an important role in improving an organization’s project management capabilities. The ideal model for the program management office will greatly depend on the need of the organization and its ability to support it.