According to PMBOK Guide – Fifth Edition, program management is ‘a group of related projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits and control not available from managing them individually. Programs may include elements of related work outside scope of the discrete projects in the program.’
AXELOS defines program management as: ‘the action of carrying out the coordinated organization, direction and implementation of a dossier of projects and transformation activities (i.e. the program) to achieve outcomes and realize benefits of strategic importance to the business.’
From these two definitions, it can be inferred that program management refers to a series of related, ongoing projects within an organization. Together, these related projects become one big program.
For example, imagine a company is about to launch a product in the summer, and a series of projects are happening simultaneously in different areas of the company such as engineering, sales, marketing and distribution. To manage all those projects in an effective manner which meets the business objective is known as program management. Organizations will have a team in place – Program Management Office, or PMO to manage the overall program.
It may not always be a new product launch for it to be a program; a newly acquired company which is being integrated into the existing enterprise set up will also constitute a program. For example, if the previous organization had its own projects, then integrating disparate customer data, training new employees, managing the new brand in terms of marketing, incorporating both the HR systems and more, will all be many projects, which in turn will be one big program.
Benefits of Program Management Approach
Gives a Comprehensive View:
Program management is specifically designed to give a more comprehensive view of the organization’s activities. Program offices or PMOs generally run multiple projects that may span across the entire organization, covering different locations. The program managers will be able to compare project requests and activities to ensure that projects or assets do not conflict with one another and that there is no duplication of effort.
Helps to Achieve Strategic Goals:
Program managers will be able to evaluate major activities of the organization to ensure they are working towards achieving strategic business goals. Just because a project can be done does not mean the end result will add value to the organization. Many issues,such as project governance and risk, can be managed more successfully as the program team or the PMO coordinates efforts and has an overall view of processes and progress that might not be visible for individual project managers.
Every time a project is initiated in your organization, the project leader has to outline the process, the rules and the modes of communication. With the help of PMO, those processes are defined for all projects in advance and it is ensured they remain consistent from one project to another. This helps the project teams, as they do not have to waste time in conducting meetings to discuss how everything is going to work. Hence, this results in fewer communication blunders within a project.
Greater Cost Savings:
The PMO evaluates all new requests and groups them to ensure efficient use of resources through project prioritization and integration. This means that one project effort could be initiated that satisfies the needs or requests of more than one functional group. For example, a project can be taken up by the organization to create a program that would send emails about daily status reports to respective managers in marketing, sales, finance and operations. Without a PMO, this single project would have been four separate projects with four separate developers and four separate budgets.
Helps in Transition Management:
Program management helps in smooth transition from existing to future business operations by clear identification of roles and responsibilities. It prepares the organization towards migrating to new ways of functioning.
As a practice and skill area, program management is growing in popularity due to its wide acceptance from both public and private sector organizations across the globe. With program management,change can be managed effectively, senior management can take the right decisions, and all related projects are completed on time and within the allocated budget.
Do share your views on how program management methodology has helped your organization in its business endeavors.