Program Management: Process, Metrics & Tools

Instructor: Harshawardhan Mestri-Balasaheb

Harshawardhan has a Master's degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering and works at a Fortune 500 company on business transformation initiatives.

In this lesson, we will define program management and discuss the basic process, standard metrics and relevant tools that can be used to implement solutions with the help of a program management office (PMO) framework.

Program Management

While many people use 'project' and 'program' interchangeably, they are different. A project is a temporary undertaking to deliver a solution, product or service. A program, in contrast, is a collection of such projects. The key difference is that a project might or might not be a part of a program, but a program will always comprise projects.

Now that we've defined a program, let's look at program management, which is a collection of projects combined to achieve common goals or objectives of an organization. Program management also addresses and manages interdependencies between the projects that affect the overall outcome of the program.

Example: Construction of an apartment complex is an example of a program, whereas it contains several projects like planning and zoning, securing permits, laying foundation, pipelines, electric wiring, masonry, etc. These projects run collectively to accomplish the program objective of erecting an apartment complex.

Visual Representation of Program
Program Management visual representation

Program Management Process

The program management process depends on the methodology an organization chooses to follow. Some examples of these include Six Sigma, new product development (NPD) or systems development life cycle (SDLC), Agile or Scrum, Waterfall (traditional). For a foundational understanding we shall consider the Waterfall (traditional) methodology and its underlying process.

Visual Depiction of Waterfall Method
Waterfall methodology depiction with Gantt chart

This process derives it name from its appearance. Imagine a waterfall falling off multiple cliffs of a mountain. Treat each of those waterfalls as a 'phase' in the program. Thus the program can be divided into various phases - Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitor and Track, Control, Close.

Program Management Process with Various Phases
PM Process

Once we have established the process, let's look at how we intend to manage or govern this process. This is done via program governance.

Program Governance

The key purpose of program governance is to monitor the health and performance of the program. Typically program managers or business leaders set up a program management office (PMO) that enables them to govern the program with the help of metrics and tools.

Hence, a PMO is a framework that ensures a program and its underlying projects are strategically aligned to meet the overall program objectives by following policies and procedures set forth by the PMO. It also defines the integration of projects and identifies interdependencies between projects by integrating them in a program schedule or plan. Suitable metrics are identified and reports are developed with approval from stakeholders, and finally a toolbox is put in place with tools that will be used to implement the program process.

PMO Framework for Program Governance
PMO framework

Let's review the PMO framework and its components. We'll again consider the program of building an apartment complex as an example.

Policies/Objectives, Procedures and Strategic Alignment

A program manager or PMO defines policies, which are usually derived from the mission statement. Additionally, procedures are established to ensure guidance in attaining or adhering to the policies. This ensures strategic alignment of all projects or teams to meet the overall program policy or objectives.

Example: The program policy or objective can be building a green apartment complex with sustainable or renewable energy. The procedures set forth help to identify environmentally friendly building materials or solar energy for lighting systems. We will be in strategic alignment with the program by ensuring we pick the right vendors, products and resources for all the projects that meet this policy or objective.

Integration and Interdependency Management

In this phase, we determine the links between several projects that will be launched simultaneously or consecutively and how to integrate them and manage the dependencies between them.

Example: Laying the foundation for the building is dependent on securing a building permit or license from the government. Since we cannot proceed and lay a foundation without securing a permit they are interdependent and have to be linked or integrated.

Metrics and Reporting Development

Metrics, simply put, are the eyes and ears of our program. They help us monitor critical components of the program.

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