Importance of Program Management

How a Program Manager Improves Organizational Performance

“Wait, who was supposed to do that?”

“Weren’t you?”

“I thought it was him.”

“I thought it was her.”

“Well I thought it was done already!”

When trying to successfully execute a complex program (a system of projects aimed at accomplishing a singular goal within an organization), this type of conversation can be all too familiar and can take a program from on-schedule and on-budget to the opposite end of the spectrum very quickly.

Program managers can help prevent examples like this from occurring. The program manager is responsible for working directly with the core project management teams to assemble a master project schedule. He or she is responsible for ensuring accountability for all team members and for driving the project to completion. Part of this duty is to develop a list of potential obstacles that could impede operations such as resource requirements, inventory obstacles, budget constraints, cash flow issues, scheduling conflicts, workforce safety, labor relations and insurance requirements. This aspect of the program manager’s role is critical. The identification of gaps, which may not have been considered by the individual project managers can quickly bring the implementation to a halt.

Next, program managers are essential in coordinating implementation efforts. They will manage daily project activities and general conditions, enforce safety programs, coordinate labor relations, implement time and cost control systems, approve progress payments and administer contract changes.

Finally, project start-up and closeout is conducted under the watchful eye of the program manager. Systems validation of punch lists, testing, employees training and demonstration of contract requirements all occur at the project go-live. When it is time to close out the project the program manager must administer project closeout with the various vendors involved.

Program management provides a comprehensive view of the entire program. The program manager’s responsibility is to have knowledge of all the projects and to make sure that various project’s goals do not interfere with one another. This means that the program manager will have a 360 degree view of the program and be sure that the projects are working in concert to achieve a singular goal.

Program managers oversee the activities with a bird’s eye view. They are able to look at them from the perspective of the entire organization. There should be an understanding that projects should not be completed just for the sake of it. This allows for a more efficient use of time and resources. Program management allows for the ability to process project requests from an organizational standpoint and to make sure that projects are getting the proper returns. This leads to lower costs overall.

Key Aspects of Program Management

  • Governance – Managing the structure, process, and procedure to control operations and changes to performance objectives. Governance must include a set of metrics to indicate the health and progress of the program in the most vital areas.
  • Alignment – The program must support a higher-level vision, goals and objectives.
  • Assurance – Verifying and validating the program, ensuring adherence to standards and alignment with the vision.
  • Management – Ensuring there are regular reviews, there is accountability, and that management of projects, stakeholders and suppliers is in place.
  • Integration – Ensuring that component parts fit together properly to make the intended whole. Optimize performance across the program value chain, functionality and technically.
  • Finances – Tracking basic costs together with wider costs of administering the program
  • Infrastructure – Allocating resources influences the cost and success of the program. Infrastructure might cover offices, version control and IT.
  • Planning – Developing the plan bringing together the information on projects, resources, timescales, monitoring and control.
  • Improvement – Continuously assessing performance; research and develop new capabilities; and systematically apply learning and knowledge to the program.

Program management is the glue that binds design projects together. Discover the essential traits program managers should possess and the steps necessary for effective program management.

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