Program management

What is a program?

VPAF's PMO supports PMI’s definition of a program: “A group of related projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits and control not available from managing them individually.”

A program will meet the following BEC criteria:

  • Benefits: contain a set of measurable, unique strategic benefits and objectives that are realized, managed, and reported throughout the program and that could not have been realized by managing the components of the program separately
  • Ends: has a start and end date, based on components, dependencies, and benefit realization within the program
  • Components: includes multiple components comprised of projects and initiatives, each of which are planned and controlled to collectively contribute towards the program’s strategic benefits and objectives

What is a benefit?  How does it differ from goals, objectives, and deliverables?

"A measurable improvement resulting from an outcome which contributes towards one or more organizational objectives"  (2011 Edition of Managing Successful Programmes)

Benefit: Answers "How will the program support the business?"

Benefits provide the justification for executing or justifying the program. They clarify "what's in it for me?" Benefits are achieved through the delivery of goals and objectives.

Goal: Answers "What will the program do to support the business benefit?"

Goals are much broader and longer term.  A goal does not have a set of actions associated with it.  A goal can be thought of as a vision for a program.

Objective: Answers "What are the specific program results?  What is the program specifically trying to achieve?"

Objectives are more in depth, shorter term, and provide a series of blueprints or actions to support what the program is trying to achieve (goals and benefits). Objectives are tangible and measurable and must be SMART (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, time-related).

Deliverable: Answers "What item(s) is the program expected to provide?"

Deliverables are the expected items to be delivered by the team(s).  A program objective should be achieved through the deliverable(s) of the program.

What is program management?

Program management (PgM) achieves successful delivery of multiple strategic benefits associated with an overall organizational change by managing a set of components that are comprised of various sized initiatives and projects through a methodology that progresses the program through a program management life cycle. The program ensures collaboration amongst component teams to maximize program benefit realization.

What is our program management methodology?

Program management methodology for managing programs consists of 3 life cycle phases.

  1. Program definition: formation, preparation, and initiation of the program by defining the program's vision, components, benefits, scope, roles & responsibilities, and authorizing the program to begin
  2. Program benefit delivery: establishes and executes plan for how the scope and benefits will be realized with program components (projects & initiatives), when components and benefits will be completed and realized, and who will be responsible
  3. Program closure: finalize and transition all component activities, complete all deliverable(s), measure success and benefit realization, and formally close the program
Program Life Cycle diagram shows the 3 cycle phases as described above

Diagram adapted from International Institute of Learning's program management life cycle, and PMI's "The Standard for Program Management" Figure 2-2: Program Life Cycle and Program Benefits Management

Program management techniques control and coordinate component priorities and dependencies in order to:

  • Manage benefits and ensure early benefit delivery
  • Identify the shortest path to deliver results
  • Achieve the program’s vision and ensure it is sustainable
  • Remain aligned with strategy
  • Manage organizational change
  • ensure program success (program satisfies the needs and benefits)

Projects within a program are managed independently, according to the project management methodology, by project managers to realize a benefit or deliverable for the program as a whole. The projects report into the program during the iterative program benefit delivery phase to ensure they remain aligned with the program’s vision, benefits, timeline, and priorities.