Technological advancements and breakthrough innovations have brought about a paradigm shift in the business landscape. Gaining a competitive edge against the counterparts, staying one step ahead in the curve by strategic positioning, and having unique differentiating product/service portfolios have become the need of the hour. And, carefully crafted, cutting-edge programs that align with the strategic goals are essential for organizations in today’s context not only to survive the competition but also strive.
Considering the need to stay ahead of the competition, organizations have to undertake a multitude of programs whose success is immensely crucial for them. Here comes the role of program management. While organizations might have an in-house team of program management professionals to take care of the important aspects, at times, it may become daunting. Juggling between multiple programs, and keeping a tab on underlying individual projects, allocating resources optimally, and ensuring delivery timelines are met may become overwhelming. And, third-party service providers offering program management services, consultations, and robust tools/platforms are here to address the challenges.
In this guide, we will be covering all you need to know about program management, especially, if you belong to the C-suite in your organization.
What is Program Management?
Program management is quite a vast concept, and thus, has different definitions and implications depending on the sources. If we go by the definition from the Program Management Institute (PMI), project management is regarded as the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to meet the ultimate goal of the program. And, a program is ideally known to consist of several clearly outlined sets of projects to achieve the organizational strategic objective.
Program management is considered to be strategic, comprehensive, and outcome-oriented in nature. Thus, it is deemed crucial for controlling the strategic, financial, and operational risks of major endeavors of an organization as well as the overall success, and growth.
As we have already discussed, a program consists of an array of projects that may operate in an individual, segregated manner that are managed by respective project managers. So, a program manager has to collaborate with the individual project managers to ensure to achieve the desired outcomes of the intended program. That said, program management is not limited to only managing multiple projects; it goes much deeper than that.
With a strong focus on strategic planning, continuous improvement, and value realization, a robust program management endeavor ensures that the individual projects are better aligned with the ultimate organizational objectives, leverage allocated resources optimally, and ensure task completions within the set timeline.
What Are the Benefits of Program Management?
The business landscape is rapidly evolving and efficient program management is key to sustain the competition and emerge successfully. And, a robust program management solution is essential to achieve the same.
Here are some of the key benefits of project management that reinstate its significance.
Project Interdependency Management
Each and every project within a given program is crucial for the overall execution and success of the program. And, as we know, all the projects are planned and executed to complete the ultimate program goals, it is not uncommon for certain projects to have interdependencies. Successful program management aims to ensure that such interdependencies are clearly outlined and necessary measures are taken to ensure hassle-free, and seamless execution.
For instance, if your program is to garner greater awareness about a newly launched product, projects may fall into the categories of developing a product awareness program, social media marketing, email marketing, customer engagement programs, curated content development for advertisement, and promotional purposes, etc. Social media marketing can’t be achieved without creating compelling content first. And, this is a perfect example of project dependencies. A robust program management software will ensure that such dependencies are taken care of. For example, the content is created well in advance for the social media marketing campaign to be launched on time.
The program manager has the responsibility to identify the connections between projects and planned deliveries and foster a mutually beneficial task delivery system so that there is no scope of mismanagement, delays, cost-inefficiencies, etc.
Introduction of Flexibility and Adaptability
In today’s business environment where change is the only constant, organizations must have a backup plan ready. It is not uncommon for them to come face to face with adversities from their internal point of view as well as from their counterparts. For instance, the organization might have a truly cutting-edge program planned and being executed. However, they might discover that their counterparts have already launched or are planning to launch similar programs or solutions for the same target audience base. At such a juncture, the introduction of flexibility such as tweaking the program and underlying project plans and adapting the execution accordingly plays a pivotal role. And, this is achieved through a robust strategy and an enterprise program management solution.
Improved Resource Management
To an organization, a resource may mean the number of employees it is dedicating for a program and its host of projects, the time they are investing in, and other tangible, and intangible resources. And, optimum resource allocation, management, and utilization become a top-notch priority for them. A program management software is proven to assist organizations in this resource planning and utilization endeavor. The program manager has to judiciously allocate resources to each of the projects based on the project size, scope, complexity, and expected outcome. He/she/they may choose to allocate resources in a cross-functional manner if the situation demands it.
Now let’s get to know a little more about the person who successfully steers program management.
Who is a Program Manager?
A program manager is considered as a professional with strategic project management acumen whose responsibilities include overseeing, and coordinating the various projects and related tasks, and resources planned under the wide program umbrella.
A program manager is expected to collaborate closely with the individual project managers during the initiation, planning, execution, and delivery phases to ensure the holistic success of the designated program.
Some of the key responsibilities of a project manager include:
- Defining appropriate program controls pertaining to processes, procedures, analytics, and reporting, etc. to succinctly manage the program
- Managing the entire budget for the designated program and allocating the budget for the individual projects too
- Daily management of project-related activities
- Anticipating potential risks and challenges throughout the program lifecycle and curating necessary solutions for the same
- Optimal utilization of resources
- Ensuring project-level and thus overall program delivery on-time
While these are some of the key responsibilities, program managers must stay in the know and are ready for ad hoc tasks that may come their way.
What is the Process of Program Management?
Program management being comprehensive and strategic in nature is a vast concept. And, the process is highly complex and elaborate as well.
The lifecycle of a program includes phases such as
- Project Definition – Defining project, its scope, size, ultimate goals, etc.
- Identifying, allocating, and managing resources
- Overall program management
- Successful completion
Intrigued to learn more about the nuances of each of these phases in a program management lifecycle? Let’s get you started!
Initiation – This is the phase wherein the C-suite employees or the senior management in an organization decide to pursue a new objective and thus plan to develop a new program to achieve the same. Once the set of goals and objectives are identified, they may browse through the existing programs to see if there is a scope of merger or augmentation or else they may go ahead with the new program launch.
Project Definition – At this juncture, the program is officially defined and documented by the respective team. All of the stakeholders concerned with the program unite to collaboratively reinstate the significance of the program and document the various strategies that will be leveraged to make the program a booming success.
The ‘Program Definition Document’ that precisely is a guide to help the various teams involved in the program development process is orchestrated to complete their work in an easy, efficient, and hassle-free manner.
Resource Allocation – Each program is uniquely developed to meet the desired goal and the underlying projects may need a specific set of resources be it in terms of manpower, time, cost, or technical resources. It may include the infrastructure and process-related entities too. At this stage, the program manager is responsible for identifying the necessary resources, and judiciously allocating them to individual projects. And, his/her/their responsibility just does not stop there. They have to manage the resources throughout the program lifecycle and accommodate any changes anticipated or not.
Program Management – This is a crucial and probably the longest phase in the entire program management regimen. During the phase, the actual execution happens. The individual tasks form the backbone of the program’s success and thus must be carefully administered and executed by the designated professionals. Cost optimization and adhering to timelines take precedence over the rest at this phase.
Completion – This marks the successful completion of the program. All the executions are completed, and the observations are documented to help the future programs in the organization.
To brush up, let’s take a look at some of the key program management terminologies.
Some Key Program Management Terminologies
Here is a list of key program management terminologies that you must be aware of.
- Program: It is a group of several projects that must be executed simultaneously to achieve the strategic objective of the organization.
- Program Management: It is the application of program management skills, techniques, and tools to plan, execute and control programs in an optimal manner.
- Milestone: These are the indicators that mark the beginning or end of a phase in an individual project, usually around related deliverables. These are essential to track the progress.
- Stakeholder: Anyone with a vested interest in the project or program.
- Baseline: This is used to measure performance by capturing the schedule, cost, and scope of a project plan. Then actual progress can be compared against this.
- Triple Constraint: Three areas that impact any project or program, being time, scope, and cost.
- Program Governance: Includes a host of actions that are taken to monitor and control the success of a program at every stage of its life cycle. Meetings, reporting, risk management, change management are some of the key elements of program governance.
- Program Plan: It is the set of documents that are developed to guide the program execution and monitoring.
- Program Management Framework: This encompasses every component, participant/stakeholder, process, tool, and methodology required for a program.
- Program Portfolio: It is a group of programs and related activities that can be executed collectively to meet strategic goals and business objectives. Program portfolio management can be described as the actions taken by management to successfully handle program portfolios.
- Program Life Cycle: Comprises stages such as formation, organization, deployment, appraisal, and dissolution.
- Foundation Stage: Iterative process that defines the program’s expected benefits by analyzing the expectations of stakeholders.
- Roadmap: It is the Gantt chart timeline that gathers all the projects in a program and charts them together down to the task level.
- Risk Management: It is defined as a way to identify potential issues that can arise in a program and have a plan in place to reduce their impact if they do occur.
What is a Program Management Tool?
A program management software forms the backbone of any robust program and is a deciding factor of its success. There are several project management tools like Smartsheet, Leankit, and MS Project, either standalone or integrated with each other for maximum transparency and communication between the projects within a program.
A program management tool intends to allow the program managers to plan, organize and manage their resources across an array of projects. It also helps in controlling the scheduling of multiple projects and their related costs, budget, resource allocation among others.
Some of the key features to watch out for in a program management tool include:
- Gantt Charts
- Centralized dashboards
- Cost tracking
- Time management
- Team management
- Kanban boards
How Ignatiuz Can Help to Streamline Your Program Management
Ignatiuz has been instrumental in assisting organizations in their growth journey with tech-enabled tools, technologies, products, and solutions. It aims at helping organizations in their efforts with a robust program management tool with robust features, and capabilities such as:
- A central document management system
- Ready to use templates so that program managers can get on with the execution and may concentrate on other core tasks
- Tools for effective collaboration within the organization and between cross-functional teams
- Automating routine, and redundant tasks to enhance the efficacy of the entire program
- Data-driven insights for the successful planning and execution of the program
- Real-time reporting
As we have already covered, the program consists of several projects, organizations can leverage Ignatiuz’s project management tools such as Smart Sheets, MS Excel and Lean Kit, etc.
Smartsheet is an award-winning, cloud-based project management, work automation, and collaboration solution partnered with Ignatiuz that aims at managing work and projects with exceptional speed to business value, thus providing PM support at all times.
Organizations can define or enhance their PMO strategy, roadmap, and processes – develop their portfolio and project management standards, methodology, processes, best practices, and templates based on their unique organizational culture and PMO structure.
Some of the key benefits of Smartsheet are:
- Allows project management teams to collaborate in an easy, quick, and hassle-free manner
- Business process automation
- Real-time project management visibility in a 360-degree manner
- Secure deployment
- Easy, and seamless integration
- Address delays in the project onboarding process
- Avoid the time, and cost inefficiencies associated with project management
- Marketing campaign streamlining
This project management tool offers Instant status updates for everyone – anytime, anywhere. By offering a shared understanding of who’s working on what, this tool helps to ensure streamlined and centralized communications for all stakeholders.
Interested to discover more about program management and the best tools/solutions. Do connect with the experts at Ignatiuz right away!