Program management is the coordinated oversight of an interrelated group of projects. The purpose of project management is to create strategic benefits that are transformational in nature.
Program management typically ranges across departments or business units and translates strategic objectives into measurable business outcomes.
Program Management in IT
Program Management offers a unique benefit for information technology and other programs where the interdependencies among projects have significant technical and management dimensions. Most discussions of Program Management to date have focused exclusively on the management dimensions (cost, schedule, risk and quality). For technology-intensive programs, however, the technical dimensions are also critical and often have management consequences.
IT projects have a high rate of failure, and the root of the problem is the tension between conventional Project Management principles and the nature of IT projects. To cite just one example (Standish Group, 2013), less than 40 percent of IT projects surveyed were considered successful—the rest were “challenged” or outright failures.
A consistent characteristic of failed IT projects is their inability to deliver the expected value to the sponsoring business or organization. Whether due to cost overruns, schedule delays, ineffective project management, poor stakeholder engagement or the loss of alignment with strategic concerns, IT projects have an unfortunate tendency to deliver outputs that don’t meet organizational expectations.
Help for Project Managers
Program Managers provide Project Managers with strategic guidance that a Project Manager might not be able to see when focused on just a single IT project. Program Managers also help other teams across the organization.
Program Management and Developers
How does program management help developers? Program Managers have an organization-wide view. They monitor the requirements and progress of not just one strategic initiative but all of them. As such, they can help protect the development team from being overloaded with work or from unreasonable deadlines.
Program Management and Product Management
A Program Manager can set realistic expectations for Product Managers during product development. Program Managers can show the broader organizational context of their available development resources. Also, if a development team completes another initiative sooner than expected or hires more people than planned, a Program Manager can alert a Product Manager that new resources might be available to speed the development of their products.
Program Management and Teams
Due to their strategic eye on all of the major initiatives across the company, Program Managers serve as valuable communication hubs for cross-functional teams.
During the product development process, the Program Managers will know the right time to strategically bring together the marketing, sales and product teams to discuss the best way to handle the launch. Often they’re first to know when a company budget issue might affect several departments working on the same program.
Program Managers can bring those teams together as soon as possible to discuss budget setbacks and help all individuals and teams make better decisions.
Finally, Program Managers focus on the strategic questions of “how?” and “when?” to help improve the decision-making processes for everyone that works on each of the interconnected projects.