More often than not, a lot of organizations confuse program management with project management. Though they are related to one another, there is a stark difference between the two. This article discusses what exactly program management is, the key factors involved, and the steps in a program management plan in detail.
What is a Program?
A single project is a set of tasks that are used to deliver a product or a service to the end-user. It involves various tools and processes and a number of team members for execution, and the project manager is considered to be the leader and the one responsible for all the activities that are related to the execution of the project.
When it comes to a group of projects that are all related to each other, it becomes a program. A project then becomes a part of the bigger picture, which is the program. The projects are combined to deliver either a group of services that are all related to each other or a single consolidated service or product. The program manager is responsible for all the projects involved in this package.
What is Program Management?
Managing a group of projects or a program in a way that the final delivery is aligned with the strategic goals of the business is known as program management. It involves working on multiple projects that are all relevant to each other in a consolidated manner. It is a group effort of delivering multiple projects under one single threshold.
For example, if an organization is involved in launching a new brand, this can be considered to be a program because it will have multiple projects involved in the process. If it is a clothing brand, then launching a website, an application, physical collaterals for branding purposes such as business cards, packaging, marketing, and more, will all come under this program. These are all individual projects that involve different teams to meet different objectives so that the main strategic goal of launching the clothing brand can be achieved. The deliverables are all different, but they are all related to each other and equally important for the success of the overall program.
Program management involves working with different teams that are executing different projects for the same program at the same time. It means all the project managers will work together with the program manager to make sure each project is completed with the highest quality and it is done so on time.
Now that you are clear of what is program management, let us explore its key factors.
Key Factors of Program Management
Program management is a complex process that can take up a significant amount of time and it requires a continuous dedicated effort from all the teams involved in execution and delivery. Mentioned below are some of the key factors involved in effective program management:
Align the strategic goals with resources being deployed
The program manager needs to make the strategic goals abundantly clear to the teams involved in the program. Each project will have a separate list of goals, requirements, tasks, and deliveries they are in charge of, which means there will be a separate list of resources required as well. All of the resources required from all of the projects need to be discussed before the resource allocation takes place. This will ensure that the projects are aligned with the main strategic goals of the program and work together to achieve it.
Make sure there is active communication throughout the program’s lifespan
Organizations need to use the tools and applications they have in place for their project and program management to effectively communicate with one another. Since there are a number of related projects involved, there are high chances of miscommunication taking place.
Poor communication can cost large enterprises more than $62 million in a year overall, which is a hefty price to pay. The easiest way to resolve this problem is to communicate frequently and in detail. All the teams working on all the projects as well as the stakeholders involved need to be aware of the program’s progress on a regular basis. Daily and weekly updates to track progress are key. Lack of communication on any changes made can result in failure of delivery of a project which can impact the entire program.
Set all goals and expectations before beginning the program
The requirements from each project and a clear-cut set of goals and timelines need to be set before starting the projects or program. This ensures everyone responsible is fully aware of their roles and their deadlines and they can then work on creating a timeline for each project accordingly. This will ensure the timely delivery of all the projects as well, which is key to successful program management.
Create accountability with all the project managers and team managers
Every project manager on board and all their respective team members need to have full ownership and accountability of their tasks. The program management process spans over a long period of time, which means the only way it will be successful is if everyone is accountable for their tasks and delivers them on time. Empowering the program managers to empower all project managers who will then empower their teams will yield desirable results.
Make sure the project teams do not change during their lifespan
To make sure all the processes go on time and are of the same high quality, the team needs to remain the same. Training new project managers or team members will cause delays in delivery, which can lead to program failure. To avoid this, it is advisable to keep the project teams the same during the lifecycle of the project.
The Importance of Program Management
Program management is extremely important to help businesses achieve their strategic goals. It helps with streamlining their processes in a way that saves resources as well as improves overall workflow and efficiency. Usually, companies invest in project management software to help them with the same. A recent study concluded that project management software is responsible for saving 498 hours every year for every employee. This can be crucial in ensuring the success of the projects.
Program management is also required to make sure that each individual project that is completed is completely aligned with the strategic goals of the project. Program management also helps mitigate risks because it provides an overview of all the ongoing projects, and thereby increasing the chances of overall success.
Program Management Lifecycle
The program management lifecycle can be divided into five main stages, which are the formulation stage, organization stage, deployment stage, appraisal stage, and finally, the dissolution stage. They are discussed in more detail below:
- The Formulation step is where the program’s expectations are discussed and the outline of all the objectives that need to be met are made with the stakeholders
- The Organization step involves creating a thorough outline of all the timelines, deliverables, and resources involved for the duration of the program. This stage is iterative and keeps changing with the first step as the requirements keep changing
- The third stage is the Deployment stage where all the deliveries are worked upon and the program managers and project managers work together to complete their projects on time. If the program is Agile, the deployment stage also becomes iterative with each stage lasting for about two to three weeks
- The fourth stage is the Appraisal stage where every iteration is sent for review to all the stakeholders and all the changes that need to be made are discussed. This is the evaluation and approval stage
- The final stage is the Dissolution stage, where the program has completed its lifecycle and all the closing processes have been implemented. Here measures to monitor the program are put in place as well
Program management is a complex process which involves all the project managers to work alongside each other and with the program manager in complete harmony. Program management is necessary to execute successful projects regularly and maintain a high standard of quality for any business. Certifications in program management and project management are available for qualified professionals to upskill themselves and improve their knowledge and expertise.
Some of the popular project management certification courses that individuals and enterprise team members can take up are: