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Thursday, 23 February 2012

Program Management

Program Management is the discipline of managing a group of interdependent projects. In management’s hierarchical structure, program management comes between project management and project portfolio management.

Program Management vs. Project Management:
While some businesses use the terms synonymously, a program is not the same as a project. In a book about the practical application of program management in business, several industry leaders define the difference between program and project by examining the duties of the manager.
They explain that “a program manager’s job… requires management of the interdependent issues across the multitude of projects… In contrast, a project manager is responsible for the scope of work within his or her project only.” In other words, a project is a specific one-time input, whereas a program works with that input (and the inputs of other projects) to deliver a larger business objective.

The examples for programs are:
1) A university wanted to build admissions web sites for all of their departments. They realized that all of the sites would be feeding into the same registration interface and decided to manage all of them together in order to save time.

2) A company wanted to switch from a paper-based Human Resources group to a software-based one.
They spent some time looking into the best software packages for the job, and decided to manage all of the HR functions together since they needed the same people to help with all of the work.

3)Project Management would be the equivalent of managing how to build a pizza with the right ingredients, the correct amount of ingredients, in the right order, how long to cook it and at what temp, and who it is for, and the box it goes in.
Portfolio Management would be the equivalent of managing how to build everything having to do with a large order of pizzas, pasta dishes, etc for that order or all the orders placed and fulfilled that day.
Program Management would be the equivalent of running the restaurant. This would include the building of the restaurant, the contracts with the builders, dealing with the all the vendors, suppliers, trucks, delivery personnel, all the other personnel, lighting, ovens, tables... you get the picture. Program Management is about running the business in totality at a worldwide company like IBM or DELL.

Program Management Cycle:
Generally, each program has an annual plan specifying its objectives, schedule, roles and responsibilities and financial details.
 Based on this information and the available budget, management reviews the annual plans for all programs and their alignment with the priorities of the Centre and the needs of the recipient country or organization and provides the approval. 
Within the programs, every project, is supposed to have a "Project Plan," which includes not only project identification information, but also the project objectives end-of-project strategy, identify potential problems, risks, schedule and cost.

The Program Management plan:
The program management plan created to maintain the project information’s,  Deliverables, Goals, Vision, Responsibilities, Cost, Schedule, Resource, Risk and Contract management.

 What is the role of Program Manager:
Depending upon the organization and the structure that it operates under, the role of the Program Manager can be varied.
•    Ensure that the Program delivers the outcomes needed; on time and within budget.
•    Administrative to ensure that team is working towards the goal of the program
•    Tracking the progress against plan
•    Ability to change direction or influence the eventual outcome or direction
•    Track, control and report on progress
•    Use of ‘Soft Skills’ to accomplish the goals
•    Ensure to adhere to the budget, schedule and quality aspects

Some Common Misconceptions about Program Management:
Programs are not simply ‘large projects’: Though a program manager should have mature project management skills to be able to influence performance of component projects they are not managing these projects – rather resolving inter-project priorities, dependencies and risks.
Good project managers make good program managers: Not necessarily. Project managers need to focus mostly on hard objectives – on time, on budget, delivering scope with required quality. Program managers need to focus on organizational priorities and objectives and may need to alter courses of action such as cancelling projects that are on track, based on a change in strategy.
Programs succeed if component projects succeed: History shows that even when projects are deemed successful – the benefits they were intended to generate do not materialize – which is the purpose of a program. As benefit generation goes beyond the deadline of a project, often a program’s life extends beyond the life of component projects into the empire of business operations.

Best Practices:
  • Plan projects to support the programme
  • Deliver on time and on budget
  • Define responsibilities and lines of communication
  • Break down initiatives into clearly defined projects and offer a framework for handling them
  • Involve interested stakeholders
  • Manage risk and ensure the programme responds to change
  • Audit and maintain quality
  • Develop a clear view of the programme's aims and identify its benefits
  • Define the programme and show how it will affect and change the organisation
  • Create a strong framework for monitoring and coordinating the various projects within the programme
  • Ensure the programme moves forward
  • Manage the impact of the programme on the organisation
  • Close the programme, ensuring it has achieved its ends and its successes are acknowledged


  1. Hi Sathees,

    Very insightful approach towards Program Management. Hope my boss would have read it last year to set my KRA :)

  2. Fine info, a lot of thanks towards the author. It can be puzzling to me now, but in basic, the usefulness and importance is overwhelming. Very very much thanks once more and great luck!

  3. Great post. I hope you write more good stuff like this article.

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  4. As per the PMBOK Guide 4th Edition, “A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.” and the project management is the “application of knowledge, skill, tool, and technique to project activities to meet the project requirements.”


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  6. practical application of program management in business, several industry leaders define the difference between program and project by examining the duties of the manager. popular project management software

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