A Program Manager is responsible for managing multiple interrelated projects and ensuring that - taken together - they produce specific business outcomes and benefits for an organization.
The title "Program Manager" is not very common. Organizations have Project Managers, Product Managers, General Managers. But "Program Manager" is rare. This is because often executives and middle managers play the role of Program Manager even if they don't have the title.
WHAT IS A PROGRAM? HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM A PROJECT?
A program has 3 main characteristics:
According to the PMI PgMP standard, a program is a collection of interrelated components. Components can be sub-programs, projects, or other activities. Often these are components that span many functions, for example marketing, sales, engineering, design, finance.
When these components are managed together under a program, they deliver value and benefits beyond the individual projects themselves (think: 1 + 1 + 1 > 3).
The main difference between a Program and a Project is that projects create deliverables, whereas programs create benefits. A benefit is an outcome of actions and behaviours that provides utility to stakeholders. Benefits may or may not be cost effective, the important thing is that they provide utility to stakeholders.
The deliverables of a project are usually tangible: easily recognized and validated. The benefits of a program could be tangible (e.g. a specific product, process or result) or intangible (e.g. improved morale, better capabilities).
EXAMPLES OF PROGRAMS
Programs can come in many different forms. Here are some examples:
PGMP CERTIFICATION - IS IT WORTH IT?
Whereas the PMI PMP designation is very popular in industry today, PgMP (Program Management Professional) designation is still very niche with less than 5,000 certified PgMPs worldwide.
If you are preparing for the PgMP Exam, you need to review all your PMP learnings, and understand the new concepts that are foundational for a Program Manager.
Program Management Professional (PgMP) Free Online Tests:
Simplilearn PgMP Exam Prep Practice Test (170 questions)
ITExams Program Management Professional v1.0 (PgMP) (455 questions)
PMOAdvisory PgMP Practice Exam (10 questions)
certlibrary Program Management Professional v1.0 (15 questions)
ProcessExam PMI PgMP Certification Exam Sample Questions (10 questions)
OTHER DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PROGRAMS AND PROJECTS
PMI also distinguishes projects from programs along 3 dimensions:
HOW ARE PROGRAMS DIFFERENT FROM PORTFOLIOS?
Programs are also different from portfolios. A portfolio is a strategic collection of components that meets some business objectives. Programs have a definite timeframe, portfolios are not initiated with a time frame in mind. A program can be long and the duration may not even be known upfront, but they are by nature temporary.
Portfolio managers are typically directly involved in strategic decision making, whereas Program Managers will advise and provide input into strategy but will be mostly focused on turning strategy into reality by delivering business outcomes and benefits
RESPONSIBILITIES OF A PROGRAM MANAGER
A Program Manager's responsibilities include:
A Program Manager is not focused on managing project managers and making sure they do their jobs. Program Managers should focus on the benefits that are expected from the program and the risks to achieving those benefits, rather than on individual projects or specific aspects of the Scope, Cost, and Time equation for the program.
Typically the program manager's biggest challenge in a matrix organization where different leads are reporting to different functional heads is COMMUNICATION. This will likely lead to issues while managing the integrations and interfaces across projects, where communication is most essential. In a matrix organization, the most important Program Management skill is therefore influencing without authority, getting others to contribute even if they are not your direct reports.
PROGRAM LIFECYCLE MANAGEMENT
PgMP's methodology is summarized by the excellent graphic below from the PMI standard (see webinar Everything About PgMP). Since one of the main responsibilities of a Program Manager (that distinguishes them from a Project Manager) is the delivery of benefits, a lot of the focus is on Program Benefits Management, which is made up of 5 sub-parts: Benefits Identification, Benefits Analysis and Planning, Benefits Delivery, Benefits Transition, and Benefits Sustainment.
PROGRAM DEFINITION PHASE
Program Definition starts once you have a Business Case that helps establish the high-level goals of the program. It's also crucial to have a Sponsor who can provide resources and champion the program within the organization. Without the firm backing of the sponsor, even the best articulated business cases backed by the best resources can fail to take off.
The sequence of program definition:
One key tool in PgMP for business cases is SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). For an established company looking to significantly increase its sales, for example, start with a SWOT analysis to understand what opportunities can be identified and how the organization can be positioned to take advantage of them. You can also review sales data, explore new markets, talk to marketing, etc. however the first thing to do is the SWOT to understand the situation.
If a company is looking to exit some businesses that it's in, we say it's looking to rationalize the portfolio. It would start by undertaking a review of the portfolio and the competitive positioning of the company to begin to shape a business case.
Other types of company strategies include backward integration, forward integration, and concentric diversification. These can prompt business cases that require programs to be formed to deliver.
PROGRAM VISION AND MISSION
The program vision describes the future state of the program. It acts as a constant reminder of the objectives and its intended benefits. The mission statement describes the purpose of the program and states the reason that the program exists.
Before a program can be chartered, the business case and program mandate must be approved by company leadership.
The purpose of a Program Charter is to formally authorize the program and secure senior management buy-in to apply resources to it.
The Program Charter can be used to:
On the last point, the Program Manager is responsible for ensuring that the program maintains alignment with the organization's strategy when creating the charter, and on an ongoing basis. Even if a new proposed program makes business sense, it needs to be validated with the program board to ensure that it's aligned with the latest strategy of the company. If program board can't make a strategic decision because they are undecided or split, the program sponsor decides.
If management agrees to your program charter and proposes to fund the program in increments at the completion of each milestone, this is called step funding.
The Program Roadmap may look similar to a project schedule, however the roadmap actually only outlines major program events for the purposes of planning and the development of more detailed schedules. The program roadmap also gives an indication of the pace at which benefits are realized and serves as a basis for transition and integration of new capabilities.
The program roadmap can be a valuable tool for effective governance of the program. it can be used to show stakeholders how benefits are delivered within major stages or milestones; however, it may or may not include the component details, their durations, and contributions to benefits.
To determine the roadmap of program, planning must be done face-to-face with stakeholders e.g. brainstorming.
When trying to implement a major change that is likely to meet resistance, start with a pilot group and demonstrate success to the wider organization, rather than a communication campaign or top-down push to get all departments to change at once. Roadmaps should often allow for such a pilot phase.
The Governance Plan is about how the program will be administered and governed. It includes:
The Governance Board is not a consensus committee. If the Governance Board can provide a recommendation, but the program sponsor normally has veto power. Members of the Governance Board are important stakeholders. Regular meetings with the board can confirm stakeholder satisfaction with current performance.
INITIATING COMPONENTS WITHIN A PROGRAM
Each component of the program (e.g. project or other activity) also needs a project charter. The Program Manager is highly involved in initiating each new component of the program. The PgM's primary concern is that each component initiated contributes to the benefits that the program is expected to deliver.
The sponsor authorizes a new component of the program and funds it. The Executives authorize the sponsor and the program board.
Program Architecture establishes the correlation between the components and how they contribute to the benefits. The program architecture defines the structure of the components by identifying the relationships among the components and the rules that govern their inclusion.
PROGRAM MANAGEMENT PLAN
The Program Management Plan is a high-level plan that represents the baseline agreement between the program and its stakeholders about what the program will deliver. It defines how and when the goals of the program will be pursued in each program component.It provides guidance and direction to individual project management plans but does not necessarily contain all the project management plans as subsidiaries.
The program management plan has sub-plans such as Benefits Management Plan, Governance Plan, and Stakeholder Engagement Plan. The program Financial Management Plan documents funding schedules, initial budgets, contract payments and financial metrics.
The program manager identifies benefits, plans for them and ensures that the program takes steps to realize, monitor and transition the benefits.
Benefits Identification: Determine benefits, evaluate benefits, and set up metrics to measure benefits.
The Program Benefits Statement defines the benefits the program will create for the organization once the program has been completed.
The Benefits Register provides the list of planned benefits and target dates and milestones for benefits achievement. Together with the Financial Management Plan, this can provide the information necessary for due diligence. It can include KPIs and thresholds for measuring benefit achievement.
During benefits delivery, a PgM will be
This activity should all should be with a view to making sure that the benefits are indeed being realized.
The Program Transition Plan defines how you'll transfer the benefits of the program to the operations of your organization. The Program Transition Phase is to address the transfer of benefits into organizational operations. This may involve transfer of resources, assets, and other benefits.
The Work Authorization System helps to ensure that only the planned and essential work is being performed at any given point in time. During budget cuts, it allows the PgM to exercise better control over the expenses of the program.
The Information Management System is a centralized reporting system to capture information on program work, risks, changes, benefits management, and other aspects of the program, and supports the PgM's communication to stakeholders. It is to make sure that the information required by the stakeholders is being made available to them in time, and in the format and medium that they prefer to receive it.
PROGRAM OFFICE, PROGRAM MANAGEMENT OFFICE
The Program Management Office is a company-wide center of excellence for program management in an organization. It provides guidance and mentorship to the program managers in an organization. It also maintains guidelines, best practices, templates and historical information for an organization. Along with the Governance Board, the Program Management Office can get into decision making or authorization.
When a new PgM starts planning, the best place to start is to refer to historical records (PMI places a lot of emphasis on this) and seek guidance from the Program Management Office.
The Program Office is different, it is an administrative support to program managers and program management teams.
CHANGE MANAGEMENT AND INTEGRATION MANAGEMENT
According to this post, there will be ~12-15 questions relating to Program Change Management and Program Integration Management on the PgMP exam. To answer these questions correctly, remember the following steps in sequence:
Project-level change management focuses on preserving the ability to fulfill requirements, whereas program-level change management focuses on preserving the ability to deliver benefits.
In addition, since the PgM is very focused on interdependencies, if there is a project-level CR, assuming all processes are followed by the PM, a PgM's biggest concern should always be about the impact of the change on other components.
The Program Scope Management Plan determines how the scope of the overall program will be managed. It does not contain the actual scope of the program. Rather, it explains how the scope of the overall program will be managed.
PWBS (program work breakdown structure) is a "deliverables-based" breakup of the program into smaller manageable units. It contains work packages contained within all the components of the program. It does not contain all the detailed work packages of every component, it only goes up to a level of granularity that the program manager wants to manage at. The PWBS does not contain the description of the program packages.
The preparation of the PWBS should ideally involve the project managers and program team, because it creates buy-in from the team.
Once the program scope statement has been finalized, the distribution of work among various components has been determined, and the program WBS has been created, then you move on to schedule, cost, and resource requirements and the implications on risk and quality.
During Validate Scope, the PgM should provide oversight and guidance about the scope. The program manager should ensure that the deliverables produced by the projects can contribute to the creation of benefits for the customers of the program. The key words here are "oversight and guidance" and "creation of benefits". The program manager will let the projects determine the way the activities are conducted, but focus more on providing guidance and ensuring that the benefits are realized. During final acceptance tests for the projects, the PgM makes sure that the deliverables enable the program to deliver the intended benefits.
SCHEDULE AND COST
Program Managers need to be experts at Schedule Management and Cost Management methodologies of PMP. Expect many questions on the PgMP exam that would be similar to the PMP exam, especially related to earned value management.
Earned Value Management measures the utilization of budget against the actual work done and provides a holistic view to the program manager. EVM reports are helpful for the program manager to keep tabs on the budget utilization and progress. Earned value for overall program is the sum of EV of all projects.
The PgMP exam will ask questions related to budget cuts mid-program. For example, when undergoing a significant budget cut, the PgM can use the zero-base budgeting technique where each item of budget has to be justified from scratch.
On Schedule Management, the PgMP exam will ask questions related to interdependencies between projects. For example, if Project A depends on Project B, it is an EXTERNAL dependency for Project A, etc. The PgM and PMs will work together to develop the critical path of the overall program.
The program's role in quality is to determine common policies and standards that can be applicable to multiple components. For example: adherence to a specific ISO standard. Quality is not simply delegating to the project managers to determine quality standards for each of their projects. The program also sets up governance frameworks around quality that apply to some or all components.
As the Program Manager is highly involved in interdependencies, the program-level quality plan focuses on integration of components. For example, the PgM will get involved if an integration test between the outputs of 2 projects failed. If both project managers say that it is not their fault, the PgM could lead them through an Ishiwaka diagram to understand the root cause.
The PgM is also very involved in the transition to operations as it ties closely to the delivery of benefits. Just before transitioning any component deliverables/benefits to operations, if there are issues (e.g. last minute major defect, operations staff have not been adequately trained), the PgM, in consultation with the project managers and Program Board, would decide whether hold off on the transition so as not to pass on low quality to customers.
The PgM must also be an expert in all PMP quality techniques and processes. In particular:
In HR resource planning, the Program Manager plays most attention to Resource Levelling. One of the ways in which program managers provide additional benefits and control is by ensuring that the resources are shared and their utilization across projects is optimized (especially critical resources). Project managers, in turn, make sure that the resources with the right skill set are available at the right time for their project.
To help support resource levelling, resources that are shared by multiple projects can be managed at the program level, whereas dedicated resources can be managed by projects. The PgM ensures optimal utilization, assignment and prioritization of shared resources.
The PgM also spends time on Resource Control: determining when resources, such as leased equipment, are no longer needed so that you may release the resources to save time, money, and utilization of resources within the program.
Once all component teams are in place, the PgM focuses on promoting integrity in all interactions. Other things like reward and recognition, mentoring, role modelling, etc. are done by the project managers on their respective projects.
RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES
Risk Identification on a program should ideally involve everybody associated with a program, or the broadest set of stakeholders that is realistic. It follows a similar approach to PMP Risk Identification (e.g. techniques like Delphi).
Opportunities: since the Program Manager is responsible for delivering benefits inline with the business case and organizational strategy, the PgMP exam emphasizes the handling of positive risks (opportunities) as much as risks with a negative impact. When it comes to opportunities, the PgM could:
Program-level risk management vs. project-level risk management:
PROCUREMENT, COMMUNICATION AND STAKEHOLDER MANAGEMENT
The PgMP exam will ask many of the same types of questions related to Procurement Management, Communication Management, and Stakeholder Management as the PMP exam. In particular, there are likely to be a lot of questions about procurement.
The sequence of closing:
When a project in the program is completed, the Program Customer needs to sign the certificate of completion. When the whole program has completed its final deliverable and you are completing the final program closure processes, the Program Customer must sign the certificate of program closure.
When determining the lessons learned for the overall program: attendees should include the program manager, project managers, a PMO representative, and other selected stakeholders. The PMO can be a NEUTRAL FACILITATOR. Don't have all stakeholders and team members at the lesson learned session, it should only be a subset (representative sample) of those stakeholders.