What is Program Management Principles & Tutorial? Defined, Explained, & Explored
Last updated on 08th Jul 2020, Blog, Tutorials
Program management or programme management is the process of managing several related projects, often with the intention of improving an organization’s performance. In practice and in its aims, program management is often closely related to systems engineering, industrial engineering, change management, and business transformation. In the defense sector, it is the dominant approach to managing very large projects. Because major defense programs entail working with contractors, it is often called acquisition management, indicating that the government buyer acquires goods and services by means of contractors.
The program manager has oversight of the purpose and status of the projects in a program and can use this oversight to support project-level activity to ensure the program goals are met by providing a decision-making capacity that cannot be achieved at project level or by providing the project manager with a program perspective when required, or as a sounding board for ideas and approaches to solving project issues that have program impacts. The program manager may be well placed to provide this insight by actively seeking out such information from the project managers although in large and/or complex projects, a specific role may be required. However this insight arises, the program manager needs this in order to be comfortable that the overall program goals are achievable.
Key aspects of programme management
- Governance – defining the programme roles and responsibilities as well as the processes and metrics to assess its progress
- Management – planning the projects and the overall programme, ensuring that regular reviews are undertaken and that stakeholders are engaged
- Financial management – costs of managing the programme need to be tracked and controls need to be put in place
- Infrastructure – creating the right work environment to support the programme Planning – developing a programme plan based on the specific projects, resources, timescales and controls for the overall programme.
The Programme Office
The programme is supported by a Programme Office (PO) which monitors the progress of benefits realization against the plan, gathers information for benefits reviews, produces performance reports as defined by the programme manager and maintains benefits information under change controls and audit trails of change. The PO also provides or locates resources that can assist with the design of the programme blueprint, facilitates impact assessments of change on the blueprint and maintains configuration control of the blueprint. The Programme Office is also a centre of excellence and assists with the correct implementation of the programme’s principles, governance themes and transformational flow.
The programme office may serve a single programme or several programmes, depending on the size or capabilities of an organization.
Programme management roles
A Senior Responsible Owner (SRO), or programme sponsor, is responsible for ensuring the programme achieves the business case and delivers benefits to the organization and that there is commitment at senior level within the organization.
The programme manager manages the programme on a day-to-day basis and coordinates its projects.
Finally, business change managers are responsible for the programme realizing the stated benefits through effective transition of the programme capabilities into the desired business outcomes and benefits. This will also transition the programme into business as usual.
Approaches to programme management
A programme management framework can offer a governance structure and provide process models, documentation templates and guidelines for adapting it to the specific programme. AXELOS’ Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) is an open framework that can be tailored, but a business may develop its own programme management approach. However, it is important that there is consistency between the methods for managing a programme and the projects it includes.
Programme manager responsibilities
The programme manager plans the programme and allocates resources across its projects. They are responsible for defining the governance, managing the budget and appointing the programme team. The programme manager manages the programme’s risks and the dependencies between projects as well as overall progress, resolving any issues. The programme manager also needs to liaise with the business change managers affected by the programme. On larger programmes, a programme manager may be supported by a risk manager, benefits manager or communications manager and a programme office.
Programme manager skills
Programme managers need strong leadership, communication and interpersonal skills. They need to manage the programme team, so knowledge of programme and project management frameworks as well as procurement, budgeting and resource allocation procedures is beneficial. They should also be able to advise their project teams and to anticipate and solve any problems.
How to become a programme manager
AXELOS has a range of programme management resources including case studies and white papers focusing on using MSP and other complementary methods.
You can use our Career Path tool to see how the role of programme manager would enable you to advance your career and what skills you would need to succeed.
You can also learn more about programme management training with our MSP certifications and use our sample papers to test your programme management knowledge.
How can it be used?
Programme Management can be used in organisations in a number of ways, which will include the following:
- To co-ordinate the management of a portfolio of projects that change organisations to achieve benefits that are of strategic importance.
- To bring related projects together in order to manage their inter-dependencies. It enables a strategic view to be taken over a set of projects, aligning and co-ordinating them within a programme of business change in support of specific business strategies.
- To provide the framework for implementing business strategies and initiatives, or large scale change, and help to organise, manage, accommodate and control these changes.
- The creation of a structured framework for defining and implementing change within an organisation. The programme management framework covers organisation, processes, outputs and ways of thinking that focus on delivering new capabilities and benefits.
- The programme management programme selects or commissions projects, providing the overall co-ordination, control and integration of the projects’ delivery.
Programme Management includes the process of managing benefits from their initial identification and definition through to the eventual realisation and achievement of measurable improvements. The driver for a programme management programme is normally the ongoing viability and relevance of the programme’s business case and the justification of benefit against costs.
The information that will be obtained is normally analysed in a Programme Support Office that will enable the Programme Manager to:
- Identify, resource or prioritise conflicts as new projects are added to the programme by reviewing both existing and new project plans for conflicts of resource or timescales. Identify, manage and authorise requests for change after ensuring that an assessment of the impact of that change on other projects within the Programme takes place.
- Manage the critical path within the Programme by monitoring the critical deliverables within the programme’s projects and supporting the achievement of those milestones by the project managers.
- Review regular project reports and act to resolve or escalate any concerns expressed by the project managers.
- Wherever possible identify or forecast potential problems with milestone delivery.
- Monitor over and under spend of various project budgets in conjunction with milestone achievement in order to avert potential problems.
- Ensure the project managers compliance with the best practices of project management and the project practices of the organisation.
- Ensure that a review of the project risk takes place. Remain aware of the need to assess the continuing validity and/or priority of any project.
Enroll in Program Management Training from Industry Experts
- Instructor-led Sessions
- Real-life Case Studies
Advantages & Disadvantages
The major benefits of Programme Management when applied in a multiple project environment are:
- Comprehensive and clear overview of all the active projects
- Early identification (and consequent escalation and resolution) of issues
- Change authorisation together with impact assessment and control
- Early identification and/or forecasting of resource conflicts
- All project records held in one central repository
- Consistency of approach, management and reporting
- Clear responsibility for the function
- Cross fertilisation of ideas – the Programme Support Office becomes a central pool for information, which may include ideas on improved project management and methodology.
Probably the main disadvantage of Programme Management is that it could become too bureaucratic and impose too many constraints on the project process. Rather than assisting the process it could be seen as merely placing a series of hurdles in the way of effective change and associated project management.
Roles, Responsibilities, and Skills
A program, regardless of its structure, purpose, or outcome will entail a project or a number of projects (or a mix of projects and other programs). That is to say, projects by default are present in every program and as such, certain project management roles must be present within every program. Such roles include the project manager, customer, senior user, planning coordinator, etc. In this paper, we will concentrate on the major roles within a program that differ from those of project management; primarily, we address what is referred to as the program board by Managing Successful Programs (OGC, 2007).
The sponsor is the most senior member of the program organization. Often in large programs, there is more than one sponsor or sponsoring group. The sponsor has some crucial responsibilities, some of which are often ignored to the detriment of the program. Ironically, seniority is often the reason they are ignored.
Responsibilities of the sponsor
- Authorizing the program on the basis of its mandate and business case;
- Appointing the senior responsible owner (SRO) to represent the interest of the sponsor;
- Approving and authorizing the funding for the program;
- Resolving cross-program issues and strategic issues with senior stakeholders;
- Approving the program’s progress against the organizational strategy and objectives;
- Demonstrating “visible” support to the program and its management team;
- “Leading by example” the transformational change brought about by the program; and
- Confirming successful delivery and signs-of at the program closure.
Skills and attributes of the sponsor
By virtue of his or her position, the sponsor is a very senior member of the organization. He or she should have a clear vision of the strategy, very strong entrepreneurial skills, high credibility in the organization, and a deep knowledge of the business.
The Senior Responsible Owner (SRO)
The SRO is often the sponsor or a member of the sponsoring group. He or she is appointed by the sponsors to represent them in the program organization and is ultimately responsible for foreseeing that the program meets its overall objectives. The SRO must be empowered to make decisions on behalf of the sponsors.
Responsibilities of the SRO
- Guarding the viability of the vision and the business case;
- Getting the money from the sponsors;
- Leading the program to its successful completion;
- Managing key “strategic” risks;
- Maintaining strategic alignment between the program and the organization; and
- Interfacing with the senior stakeholders.
Skills and attributes of the SRO
Just like the sponsor, the SRO is a senior member of the organization. He or she must possess strong leadership skills and be able to make critical decisions. The SRO should be able to retain focus over the strategic objectives of the program.
The Program Manager
The program manager can be thought of as a “super” project manager. His or her role is mainly operational since this person is responsible for planning and governance and for overseeing the successful delivery of the program’s output/product. That is, the new capability.
Although knowledge of the business is important, there is more stress on his or her program management skills. The program manager must have practical experience of having been a project manger for large and complex initiatives.
Responsibilities of the program manager
- Daily program management throughout the program life cycle;
- Defining the program governance (controls);
- Planning the overall program and monitoring the progress;
- Managing the program’s budget;
- Managing risks and issues and taking corrective measurements;
- Coordinating the projects and their interdependencies;
- Managing and utilizing resources across projects;
- Managing stakeholders’ communication;
- Aligning the deliverables (outputs) to the program’s “outcome” with the aid of the business change manager; and
- Managing the main program documentations such as the program initiation document.
Skills and attributes of the program manager
The program manager must have strong practical experience in project management, which was gained through managing large and complex projects. He or she must have the following:
- Good knowledge and handling of project and program management methodology and techniques;
- Good understanding of the wider objectives of the program;
- Ability to work positively with the wide range of individuals involved in program management;
- Strong leadership and management skills;
- Good knowledge of budgeting and resource allocation procedures; and
- The ability to find innovative ways to resolve problems.
The Business Change Manager (BCM)
One of the fundamental differences between program management and project management lies in the management and realization of the benefits. That is, the clear and measurable added value brought about by the integration and utilization of the newly delivered capability.
Whereas project management deals with outputs (products or deliverables), program management deals with outcomes, the final result brought about through the utilization of such outputs.
The role of the BCM is that of planning and managing the realization of the benefits through the integration of the new capability within the business practices. The BCM is a strong member of the “business,” and although knowledge of program management is very helpful, the higher emphasis is on his or her knowledge of the business processes and the organization’s strategic objectives.
Where there may be more than one business area impacted by the program, a BCM for each of these areas should be appointed, one of which will act as the senior BCM.
Responsibilities of the business change manager
- Defining the benefits that will realize the strategic objectives of the program;
- Developing the benefit realization plan;
- Maintaining overall focus on benefit realization;
- Defining and tracking the key performance indicators for benefit realization;
- Managing “business continuity” during the change;
- Advising the program manager on whether the outputs and outcomes will lead to the realization of the benefits;
- Preparing affected business areas for transition to the new way of working. Potentially implementing new business processes; and
- Optimizing the timing of the release of new deliverables into business operations.
Skills and attributes of the business change manager
The BCM must have a strong background and ongoing operational responsibilities in the relevant business areas affected by the program. He or she should have a good understanding of the management structure, politics, and culture of the organization, and possess good change management skills and enough experience to manage very complex situations while maintaining focus on the program’s objectives. The BCM should also have good negotiation skills, interpersonal skills, chaos management skills, and prioritization skills.
The Program Management Office (PMO)
The program management office has similar functions to the project management office but on a larger scale, higher level, and a wider perspective.
The PMO can vary from one person acting as “program support” to a large team of individuals and can have more than one location if the program is scattered nationally or globally. It can be setup to support a specific program or be a permanent structure supporting all the organization’s programs, in which case, it is integrated with the organization’s permanent project management office. The PMO has a manager responsible for its functions: the program office manager.
Responsibilities of the program management office
- Setting up tools and standards for managing the program;
- Planning, tracking, and reporting on outputs and outcomes;
- Information and logistics management;
- Financial planning and tracking ;
- Risk and Issue tracking;
- Cross-project interdependency management;
- Setting quality control standards and tracking implementation;
- Setting and tracking change control procedures;
- Developing stakeholders’ map, defining the interest of each group; and
- Planning and executing communication plans to stakeholders.
Additional roles that a permanent PMO can have
- Strategic overview and reporting on all programs to senior management;
- In-house consultancy to projects and programs;
- Providing training to projects and programs management teams; and
- Auditing and health checks on projects and programs.
Get On-Demand Program Management Training Course & Become JOB READYWeekday / Weekend BatchesSee Batch Details
Skills and attributes of the program office manager (POM)
The skills required for the role of the program office manager are very different from those of the program manager. The program manager role is a hands-on role and requires strong leadership and people skills. On the other hand, the POM’s role is a hands-off role requiring strong management discipline and communication skills. The POM’s role is a supporting role to the program and its management team.
Seven Principles of Programme Management Principles
- Principle 1: The first principle is remaining aligned with corporate strategy. This means that at no point of time, the program should deviate from the organization’s strategy.
- Principle 2: The next principle is leading change, which emphasizes that change should be led effectively.
- Principle 3: The third principle is envisioning a better future and communicating the same. This means that we need to share the future aimed at the program.
- Principle 4: The fourth principle is focusing on benefits and threats to them. This ensures that all benefits are realized and threats to them are managed.
- Principle 5: The fifth principle is adding value, which means that the program should add value to the organization.
- Principle 6: The sixth principle is designing and delivering a coherent capability. This principle focuses on delivering a capability that is useful and in sync with the program objectives.
- Principle 7: The last principle is learning from experience, which tells us not to repeat the mistakes that might affect the success of the program. We will now discuss these principles in detail.
Program management is a distinct discipline from project management, and although most project management roles are present in programs (since programs contain projects), there are roles within program management that hold distinct responsibilities and as such require particular skills that differ from their counterparts in projects. Whereas project management deals with outputs (products or deliverables), program management deals with outcomes, the final result brought about through the utilization of such outputs. This constitutes the largest distinction between the two disciplines and is mostly visible in the role of the business change manager.
When selecting the program board and team, one must be aware of the skills needed for the particular roles within that program. Although some skills can be learned, others will be harder to learn or acquire for someone who does not already possess them