Program management

Program management or programme management is the process of managing several related projects, often with the intention of improving an organization's performance.

The view is that a program is nothing more than either a large project or a set (or portfolio) of projects. On this second view, the point of having a program is to exploit economies of scale and to reduce coordination costs and risks. The project manager's job is to ensure that their project succeeds. The programme manager, on the other hand, may not care about individual projects, but is concerned with the aggregate result or end-state. For example, in a financial institution a programme may include one project that is designed to take advantage of a rising market, and another to protect against the downside of a falling market. These projects are opposites with respect to their success conditions, but they fit together in the same programme.

According to the view that programs deliver outcomes but projects deliver outputs, program management is concerned with doing the right projects, whereas project management is about doing projects right. And also according to this view, successful projects deliver on time, to budget and to specification, whereas successful programmes deliver long term improvements to an organization. Improvements are usually identified through benefits. An organization should select the group of programs that most take it towards its strategic aims whilst remaining within its capacity to deliver the changes. On the other hand, the view that programs are simply large projects or a set of projects allows that a program may need to deliver tangible benefits quickly.

Consider the following set of projects:

  • design of the new product - this delivers a design specification,
  • modifications to the production line or factory - delivers a manufacturing capability,
  • marketing - delivers advertisements, brochures and pamphlets,
  • staff training - delivers staff trained to sell and support the new product.

One view has it that these are different projects within a program. But in practice they can just as well be managed as sub-projects within a single project. Which approach to choose? Programme and project management are both practical disciplines, and the answer to such a question must be "whatever works." What works depends very much on the nature of the organization in which the project or program is run. Typically a program is broken down into projects that reflect the organization's structure. The design project will be run by the design team, the factory will manage the modifications to the production line, and so on. Organizational structure and organizational culture are key factors in how to structure a program.

Many programs are concerned with delivering a capability to change. Only when that capability is transferred to the line management and utilized by the host organization will the benefits actually be delivered. On this view, a program team cannot, on their own, deliver benefits. Benefits can only be delivered through the utilization of a new capability.

Program management also emphasises 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. Program managers should not micromanage, but should leave project management to the project managers.

Source: Wikipedia

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