If you are familiar with project management you have probably come across program management as well. A program is a collection of related projects, and sometimes business as usual work too, all aligned to a common objective. It’s a way of organizing related work into one common stream so that you can track and manage similar projects together.
It’s really effective and it makes management’s life easier too! It’s virtually impossible to keep on top of 250 projects, but 30 programs? That’s a different story.
Here are 5 more benefits of running a group of related projects as a program instead of as unconnected activities.
1. It’s Easier to Share Resources
First, resources can be shared more effectively when a program structure is in place because the program manager can ensure individuals and the budget are deployed in areas that make the most difference.
For example, the program manager may putt more resource on one project, to the detriment of another, if overall this will help the company achieve its goals more quickly. People working on the project that is slowed down will understand why that is happening and how it helps achieve the bigger picture. They’ll know that eventually their work will pick up again, and they might even be able to get involved in the project that needs extra hands right now.
It’s the same with budget. When there is a need for one critical project to take a bit more of the funding pot, you can look across the program and see if there is any slack or contingency in other projects that would be more usefully deployed elsewhere.
Also, when you’ve got one pool of resources it’s easier to share lessons learned between everyone, helping everyone up their game.
2. It’s Easier to Manage Conflict
The second benefit is more to do with the interpersonal skills in the team. Conflict between individuals and entire projects can be more easily identified and managed within a program structure because there are clear lines of hierarchy and an overall structure for governance. This ensures someone is on hand to make decisions about project priorities (and prioritization is often the cause of conflict).
The program manager can sort out conflict because that’s part of their job. If they can’t resolve it themselves, there is an onward escalation point in the portfolio manager or the program sponsor too. The very fact that there is someone looking at this can resolve some conflicts before they really take hold.
3. There’s More Visibility of Risk
The third advantage to using a program management structure is that there is better visibility of risk. Risk management can be coordinated and managed in a structured way. This is even more so the case when you have a program office who can help maintain logs and action plans on behalf of the program manager.
To give you an example of why visibility at program level is worth it, risk responses can be shared between projects, so it should cost less to put your mitigation and management plans in place. Project teams can work together so that they don’t duplicate work mitigating the same risk.
Project teams can still identify risks as they do today, but they’ll escalate the relevant program-level ones to the program manager who can assess and track the overall risk profile for the entire program of work. Not sure why risk management is worth your time? Check out our guide to the importance of risk management.
4. It’s Easier to Manage Interdependencies
Sometimes a project relies on another. For example, one project might deliver something that another project needs before it can start. These projects are often infrastructure-related or enabling projects but they are just as important as the projects that come afterwards.
When one project depends on another project, you’ve got a project interdependency. A huge benefit of the program management structure is that they can be better managed when someone has the big picture.
The program manager can ensure that projects start and finish at the optimum times and that outputs from one naturally feed into the start of others when they are required.
Project managers will identify where their project leans on another and flag these to the program manager and the project office, if you have one. The dependencies can be logged, tracked and tasks put in place to ensure that the work happens as you expect so that teams aren’t sitting around waiting for someone else to finish their work before they can start.
5. You Can Choose The Best Projects
Finally – and this isn’t last on the list because it is the least important – you can make sure that the best and most relevant projects can be chosen in a program and that they are all aligned to helping the organization meet its end goal.
By picking and prioritizing the right and most cost-effective projects, you know that the teams’ efforts are being spent on what is going to really deliver the objectives.
If a project is not going to help meet the overall program goals, then it’s easy enough to see this and take steps to do something about it, either by bringing it back on track, moving it into another program or closing it down.
Program management is a skill, but it is one that brings a huge benefit to organizations that take the time to invest it in and set it up properly. Getting the structure right is a bit of a culture change but it’s not actually that hard to do if you spend a little time on it.
Train up some of your experienced business change or project managers and start benefitting from a program management structure. They can learn more about how to successfully manage programs with the KnowledgeHut instructor-led PgMP® course