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Program Management: Methodology & Best Practices

Instructor: Jagina McIntyre

Jagina has conducted professional training in communications and analytics for 12 plus years, with a a degree from Kent State University in Journalism and Communications.

Welcome to the world of program management, where similar projects are managed together to fulfill a larger goal. Program management successfully bridges the gap between projects within an organization.

Project Management vs. Program Management

Program management is the process of overseeing multiple projects that are related or have similar outcomes and goals. It is considered to be a step up from project management, as program managers typically have lengthy experience as a project manager. A program manager may also require additional certifications. A project manager usually manages one short term project at a time and has no employees reporting to them, while a program manager is required to have additional leadership skills and an overall knowledge of the company's finances and long term business goals. Unlike project managers, a program manager will often have a team of project managers and administrative functions, such as a financial bookkeeper, reporting to them.

Many times, program management is associated with complex software development, but can include any set of projects that improve a company's performance. Imagine you are stranded on an island with a group of people. The mainland is within eye shot distance, but the group is divided on which is the best way to reach the mainland. It has been determined that there should be a short-term and long-term solution. The group is split into two teams. One team has selected to build a boat, and the other team will build a bridge. A program manager is the type of person that is selected to oversee both projects.

Management and Governance

There are several key requirements of a program manager, including management of the multiple projects within a program. This includes the governance, or the management of the project managers, as well as assigning roles to various members of the organization. For example, imagine the two teams on the island. In most situations, two different project managers would be selected to manage each of the two projects. These project managers would be required to meet with the program manger regularly to provide updates on the progress of each project. This communication allows for the shared resources between each project to be allocated as needed.

Finances and Infrastructure

Program managers are required to have a working knowledge of the financial status of all projects within a program. Program managers report how the program is balancing to the company's overall budget. As part of this reporting process, a program manager must also allocate the use of infrastructure resources, such as software programmers needed on multiple projects. Imagine that there are only 10 people on the island who have the experience in construction, and they are needed on both projects. The program manager would facilitate the way these construction workers operate between the two projects.

Planning

Project managers use a program plan to show progress being made in an overall program. Each project will have its own plan that may not roll up nicely into one precise program plan. Program plan summaries will often be illustrated in the form of a visual timeline or Gantt chart. The document will contain more detailed information about changes to the program, the people involved in the project (or organizational management), the budget and testing. Program plans work best when agile or flexible. The planning process requires constant communication within the organization.

As the island teams each plan their projects, the program manger meets with the project managers to create a visual timeline. The timeline is a great way to explain the course the program will take and assist both teams in understanding how each team will be impacted by the other team, especially when shared resources are being utilized. For example if there is only one saw for cutting trees, the project plan may call for the wood to be placed in one common pile. This will ensure that no team is monopolizing that resource.

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