is the process of managing
multiple ongoing inter-dependent projects
. An example would be that of designing, manufacturing and providing support infrastructure
for an automobile manufacturer. This requires hundreds, or even thousands, of separate projects. In an organization or enterprise, Program Management also reflects the emphasis on coordinating and prioritizing resources across projects, departments, and entities to ensure that resource contention is managed from a global focus.
The UK government, through the Office of Government Commerce, has invested heavily in program management (or programme management as it is known in the UK). In Europe, the term normally refers to multiple change projects: projects that are designed to deliver benefits to the host organization.
Program management provides a layer above project management focusing on selecting the best group of programs, defining them in terms of their constituent projects and providing an infrastructure where projects can be run successfully but leaving project management to the project management community.
Program management responsibilities can vary. For instance, manufacturing program management responsibilities will be much different than program management responsibilities for a pharmaceutical trial and data collection program.
Key factors in program management
- Governance: The structure, process, and procedure to control operations and changes to performance objectives.
- Standards: Define the performance architecture.
- Alignment: The program must support higher level vision, goals and objectives.
- Assurance: Verify and validate the program, ensuring adherence to standards and alignment with the vision.
- Management: Ensure there are regular reviews, there is accountability, and that management of projects, stakeholders and suppliers is in place.
- Integration: Optimize performance across the program value chain, functionally and technically.
- Finances: Tracking of finances is an important part of Program management and basic costs together with wider costs of administering the program are all tracked.
- Infrastructure: Allocation of resources influences the cost and success of the program. Infrastructure might cover offices, version control, and IT.
- Planning: Develop the plan bringing together the information on projects, resources, timescales, monitoring and control.
- Improvement: Continuously assess performance; research and develop new capabilities; and systemically apply learning and knowledge to the program.
Differences from Project management
A program (in business) is different from a project, in that:
- A project is unique and is of definite duration. A program is ongoing and implemented within a business to consistently achieve certain results for the business.
- Program Management includes activity to manage a business program and may include management of projects to step-wise improve program performance levels. The common definition of Program Management as the management of multiple projects is seen as short-sighted to the project management discipline.
- In the course of achieving required results, business programs will normally understand related business constraints and determine the processes required to achieve results based on resources allocated. Improvement of processes is a continuous operation that very much contrasts a program from a project.
- At the lowest level project managers co-ordinate individual projects. They are overseen by the Program Manager who accounts to the Program Sponsor (or board).