Benefits of Program Management

Benefits of Program Management

Organisations face an ever-growing need to manage complex projects and initiatives effectively, especially with the rising remote work trend. 

This is where program management principles and training come into play. It involves strategically coordinating a group of related projects to achieve a common goal or outcome. It’s a system with a structured approach to planning, executing, and monitoring multiple projects, ensuring that all projects align with the organisation’s overall objectives.

Back in the early 2000s, most corporate managerial positions mandated training or certification. Although a lot of fully remote startups are growing, most startups need to have the traditional practice of putting their managers through training. Consequently, program management is required by companies now more than ever. 

Businesses today undertake projects that span multiple departments, involve diverse teams with specialised skills, and require significant investments of time, resources, and technology. As such, the strategic benefits have only become increasingly important due to the rising complexity of projects. 

Difference Between Program Management vs Project Management

The terms “program management” and “project management” are often used interchangeably, but they represent distinct disciplines with different scopes and objectives. 

Although both involve planning, executing, and controlling tasks to achieve specific outcomes, a program management office is a broader position. 

Project management focuses on completing one project to another with clearly defined deliverables, timelines, and budgets. In contrast, program managers manage a whole portfolio of interrelated projects, each contributing to a broader strategic objective. Program managers oversee the overall strategy, ensuring that individual projects align with the overall program goals and that dependencies between projects are managed effectively.

Key Differences Between Program and Project Management:

Program ManagementProject Management
ScopeBroad, encompassing multiple interconnected projectsNarrow, focused on a single project
ObjectiveStrategic, achieving a long-term organisational goalTactical, delivering specific project deliverables
FocusAligning projects with overall strategyPlanning, executing, and controlling individual employees or teams
TimelineLong-term, spanning many projectsFixed, with defined start and end dates
Success CriteriaAchievement of strategic brand goalsSuccessful completion of project deliverables within defined scope, budget, and timeline

In essence, program management provides the overarching framework for managing projects and ensuring they work together to achieve a common purpose. On the other hand, project managers focus on the day-to-day execution of individual projects, ensuring that they meet their specific objectives and contribute to the overall program’s success.

What Does a Program Manager Do?

Program managers must work closely with senior management, also called project managers, to coordinate organisational objectives into actionable project initiatives. They identify and prioritise projects that contribute to the organisation’s long-term vision and ensure that project resources are allocated effectively to achieve the desired strategic outcomes.

Here are some examples of how program management changed a brand’s entire strategy successfully:

  • Lysol transformed from a disinfectant into a household name for health, cleanliness, and wellness
  • Netflix’s program strategy of moving from renting DVDs to becoming a streaming platform
  • Tesla’s strategy of making electric sports cars first so they can target the rich while sparing no expense on the car’s technology

These are all examples of companies that had to shift from short-term goals into long-term changes. These companies had a vision, and with the use of program management, they aligned all their products to become the household names they are today. 

The Strategic Benefits of Program Management

There are 4 key benefits of program management, and they’re all crucial for startups who are starting to get serious about pushing their company to the mainstream. 

Better Resource Management

All kinds of companies benefit from better resource management. 

If you’re a small company, every penny and work hour counts. If you’re a big company, then better resource management will save you millions per year. Optimising resource allocation across separate projects and ensuring that resources are utilised efficiently and effectively are key program management responsibilities. 

Because program managers understand everything that’s happening within a broad scope of the business, they can easily find conflicting areas that can be improved. These key areas and tasks can be categorised by:

  1. Resource Identification and Assessment: Program managers conduct a thorough resource planning process to determine the specific skills, equipment, and materials required for each project within the program. Aspects like identifying the unique needs of each project and assessing the availability of the necessary resources.
  2. Resource Allocation Planning: Program managers develop a comprehensive resource allocation plan that considers the availability of resources, the timelines of each project, and the interdependencies between projects. The strategy outlines how the available resources will be distributed among the various projects to ensure they are used efficiently and effectively.
  3. Resource Utilisation Monitoring and Optimisation: Program managers continuously monitor resource utilisation across projects, identifying potential conflicts or redundancies and adjusting the allocation plan as needed. Ongoing monitoring ensures that resources are used effectively and that potential issues are addressed promptly to minimise disruptions.
  4. Resource Conflict and Redundancy Management: Program managers proactively address resource conflicts by identifying alternative resources, negotiating priorities, and reallocating resources as needed to minimise disruptions. An example would be identifying instances where similar projects require the same resources and developing strategies to resolve these conflicts without hindering project progress.

Program management centralises plans, allocations, and monitoring of resources. It guarantees that all working and moving parts of the company are focused and aimed towards the company’s goals. Identifying and utilising resources more effectively across related projects to ensure there are no duplicate processes reduces conflicts early on to prevent delays.

Improved Risk Management

Although the financial risk is much lower with remote teams, not being able to see your employees’ progress becomes a more significant risk. Delays and problems you can’t physically see come out of nowhere and cause massive delays, sometimes completely derailing projects from their deadlines. 

A program manager’s job is to look at all the company’s crucial roles and ensure that everything has a backup plan. Program managers must effectively manage these risks, ensuring they’re identified and mitigated as soon as possible. While employee availability is unpredictable, this can usually be handled by the senior project manager. What is outside a project manager’s scope are tasks that are waiting for or need approval from another business section. 

For example:

  • The design team working on a product must communicate with the manufacturer, sales, and marketing team. Ensuring that the communication between all 4 parties is understood and consistent is critical for a product launch.
  • The web development team has a big week ahead, but the in-house IT department needs to perform a significant security update mid-week.
  • Cultural clashes between employees, teams, and entire departments can happen, and an impartial middle-man (the program manager) is essential when identifying and resolving these conflicts.

A business has hundreds of risks, but the biggest ones always affect several departments at once. Here’s how a program manager finds, resolves, and monitors risks:

  1. Risk Identification: The first step involves identifying potential risks affecting the program’s objectives. Program managers typically have brainstorming sessions, workshops, and reviews of project documentation for this. They gather input from various stakeholders, including project managers, subject matter experts, and employees.
  2. Risk Assessment: Once risks have been identified, they are evaluated regarding their likelihood and impact. Likelihood refers to the probability of the hazard occurring, while effects refers to the severity of its consequences. Program managers use risk assessment matrices or other tools to categorise risks based on their likelihood and impact, allowing them to prioritise mitigation efforts.
  3. Risk Mitigation: For each identified risk, program managers develop strategies to mitigate its potential impact. Mitigation strategies can involve implementing preventive measures, acquiring insurance, establishing contingency plans, or modifying project plans to avoid or reduce the risk’s impact. The choice of mitigation strategy depends on the nature of the risk, its likelihood, and its potential consequences.
  4. Risk Monitoring: Risk management is an ongoing process, and risks must be continuously monitored throughout the program lifecycle. Program managers regularly review risk assessments, update mitigation plans as needed, and track the effectiveness of risk mitigation efforts.

At the end of the day, program managers are responsible for the efficiency and flow of the entire program that’s being run. Whether it’s an entire initiative involving several departments or the whole company of a small startup with brand-new departments. Risks are the biggest problems for upcoming companies because of their lack of experience and the lack of an emergency fund when problems happen and costs rise.

Facilitating Organisational Change

Organisational change is an inevitable part of business evolution as companies adapt to new technologies, market trends, and competitive landscapes. However, implementing change effectively can be challenging, often requiring careful planning, stakeholder engagement, and ongoing monitoring. 

Program management is pivotal in facilitating organisational change by providing a structured framework for managing the transition from the current state to the desired future state. Program managers also have the best understanding of cross-cultural interactions between departments and employees. For companies with employees worldwide, fostering a global environment is extremely important.

The program manager acts as a bridge between shareholders and employees. Beyond communicating change, program managers encourage employee engagement and ensure that everyone adjust healthily. Organisational change is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and evaluation. Program managers track the progress of change initiatives, measure their effectiveness in achieving desired outcomes, and identify areas for improvement or adaptation. A data-driven approach ensures that the change process will remain on track and deliver benefits to the program as a whole.

Program managers play a crucial role in minimising disruptions to business operations during organisational change. They carefully plan and execute change initiatives to ensure minimal downtime, maintain critical processes, and adapt to changing circumstances. Organisational change often impacts employees directly, requiring them to adapt to new technologies, processes, or working methods. Program managers support affected employees by offering training, resources, and guidance to help them embrace the change and develop new skills.  

Better Performance Measurement and Metrics

Program management establishes and tracks key performance indicators (KPIs) across multiple projects. These metrics guide decision-making and improve processes and goals for the entire team. KPIs are a quantifiable assessment of project and program performance, allowing program managers to clearly measure progress towards program objectives.  Making it easier to identify areas for improvement.

Selecting Relevant KPIs

The selection of appropriate KPIs is crucial for effective program management. KPIs should be aligned with program objectives, measurable, and relevant to key stakeholders. Program managers often consider the following factors when selecting KPIs:

  • Purpose of the KPI: Clearly defined KPIs should align with the specific objectives of the program or project.
  • Measurability: KPIs should be quantifiable and have a clear data source.
  • Relevance to Stakeholders: KPIs should be relevant to the interests and concerns of key stakeholders.
  • Actionability: KPIs should provide insights that can be used to make informed decisions and improve performance.

Several common KPIs are used in program management to measure performance across different projects and dimensions. These include:

  • Project completion rate: The percentage of projects completed on time and within budget.
  • Scope adherence: The extent to which projects deliver the planned scope of deliverables.
  • Cost performance: The ratio of actual project costs to budgeted costs.
  • Quality performance: The number of defects or rework required to meet quality standards.
  • Customer satisfaction: The level of satisfaction expressed by customers or users of the program’s deliverables.

Program managers establish a regular reporting cadence to track KPIs and identify any performance gaps. This involves collecting data from various sources, such as project management software, customer feedback surveys, and cost-tracking systems. By analysing KPI trends, program managers can identify projects that are falling behind schedule, exceeding budgets, or failing to meet quality standards.

Metrics provide valuable insights that guide decision-making throughout the program lifecycle. By establishing clear performance metrics, tracking them consistently, and using them to inform decision-making, program managers can adopt a data-driven approach to program management. 

A data-driven approach leads to improved accountability, enhanced decision-making, and greater project success.

Benefits of Program Management
Program Management

Challenges in Program Management

One of the most common challenges program managers face is resource constraints. There are several situations where a lack of resources is the precise problem:

  • Limited personnel: Not having enough skilled personnel to staff projects effectively can lead to delays, decreased quality, and increased stress for existing staff.
  • Need for more budget: A tight budget can restrict the ability to acquire necessary resources, such as equipment, software, or travel, hindering project progress and outcomes.
  • Competing priorities: Multiple projects vying for the same resources can create conflicts and inefficiencies, making it challenging to allocate resources effectively.

Program management isn’t a magical fix for any company. But it is a great place to start identifying problems and finding company-wide solutions. Program managers can: 

  • Conduct thorough resource planning early in the program lifecycle to anticipate resource needs and identify potential conflicts.
  • Utilise skill-based resource management tools to match project requirements with the skills and availability of existing personnel.
  • Explore creative solutions such as temporary staffing, outsourcing, or cross-training to augment resource availability without breaking the budget.

There are a lot of challenges in program management, and most of them can be hyper-specific to that company. That’s why proper training and certification is crucial for leaders and managers. Program managers need a thorough understanding of the basics and principles of conducting thorough research, interviews, and assessment of problems.

Conclusion: Why Program Management Training is Crucial

Adopting program management practices is essential for organisations and companies to thrive in the modern workspace. Althris, a leading provider of project management training and certifications, empowers individuals and organisations to master the art of program management, enabling them to deliver exceptional results and achieve their strategic goals.

Althris offers a comprehensive suite of program management courses and online training programs designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to excel in this critical field. Our expert-led training sessions provide in-depth coverage of program management methodologies, tools, and best practices, enabling you to effectively manage complex projects and deliver exceptional value to your organisation.

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