Introduction to Program Management

How to Prepare for the PMP Exam Day

We are okay with projects – those temporary endeavours producing unique products, services or results. Once we have identified our deliverables, set the budget and devised a schedule (as well as planning all the other aspects of the project), we Project Management Professionals (PMPs)® are well placed to guide any project to success.

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The Challenge of Multiple Projects

But what happens when a single project will not be enough? For instance, suppose we have a nationwide chain of retail outlets and we want to refurbish them to reflect our new corporate identity? Is this overall effort a project, or should we consider each outlet a project in its own right? According to the definition of a project, each of the refurbished outlets would represent a deliverable, one that can be tested and measured in some way. You might argue that the rebranding exercise will be the same for all outlets, but that would be to ignore different-sized outlets, with different internal layouts – each site having its own unique aspects.

The Case for Independent Management

But if each outlet job is a project in itself, does it make sense to manage each independently? The simple answer is yes and no. Yes it makes sense for a project manager to be employed for each site – ensuring that the rebranding work is designed to suit that particular site, organizing delivery of materials to the premises and getting the workers on-site when they are needed. However, there is a great deal of commonality between these projects – much of the materials will be the same, suggesting potential economies of scale through bulk buying. Using the same refurbishment teams could help too – allowing lessons learned on one site to be applied on others. Of course, a major concern, at the corporate level is that these refurbishments reflect the new corporate image correctly.

The Concept of Program Management

In this example, the refurbishment projects would benefit from being managed in a coordinated way. In other words, the organization should consider the overall task as a program, comprising many projects. The word “benefit” is important when you think of programs. While a project produces a tangible product, service or result, a program delivers benefits that support the organization’s strategic goals and objectives.

Aligning the Program with Strategic Goals

For a company to rebrand is an acknowledgement that the existing brand is not resonating with the customer base. Or maybe the company finds itself in a maturing marketplace and wants to diversify into areas where it has no prior experience – the image that worked in the established market might not attract attention in the new one. The goal of the rebranding is not to produce a specific product, service or result, but to support other projects that will generate new products, services or results that can now reach a wider market. Measuring the success of the rebranding program will involve assessing tangible benefits – such as increased footfall in the outlets and higher sales – as well as intangible ones – such as mentions in the press or social media. All of this reflects on how the company is perceived – its brand image as it were.

Coordinated Management and Quality Assurance

For a program manager, the component projects are placed in a larger context. For instance, while it might be a good idea to use the same team for each refurbishment job, a nationwide upgrade could take years. Here the program manager may opt for a compromise and use different teams, each working in a particular region. Selecting local workers may have an added benefit of supporting local employment and generating goodwill. While the outlets are being upgraded, the program manager needs to consider the retail staff. With their workplaces closed, they can be trained in the new products the company is planning to offer. This facilitates the transition of the refurbishment projects back into day-to-day operations.
The program manager also sets the standard for overall quality on the program. Each refurbishment project will be subject to quality audits – remember Perform Quality Assurance from your PMP® exam days? – so that correct materials are being used and the overall layouts conform with the corporate message. A common purchasing strategy will not only reap the benefit of economies of scale but will also ensure consistent quality throughout.

Ensuring Alignment and Adaptability

During all this, the program manager must ensure that the program remains aligned with the overall corporate goals. A change of CEO, or a merger or acquisition could see a program become redundant overnight. A responsive program manager can save such a program by being willing to adapt it to the new business realities. Many project managers have had the experience of their project being terminated for no good reason. This can happen when it no longer supports the overall vision. Effective program managers will explain what is happening in advance and allow the project manager an opportunity to suggest how that project could be realigned.

Embrace Program Management with Velopi

Velopi is currently developing courses in program management, up to and including PgMP® (Program Management Professional) certification. If this is an area that is of interest to you, then please get in touch – your requirements will help us to align our strategy correctly.

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