In my last post, I used The Lord of the Rings to help explain the difference between a program and a project. And I also revealed the magical prize of a well-managed program: synergy.
Let's discuss an example in Taiwan: The country has been pursuing a series of e-government initiatives for some time, including an "e-Business" smart card.
Users insert the card into a reader, which then provides access to more than 30 different online government services. The options include business information, marketing and tax databases, tax return calculation, patent applications -- to name a few.
Business people no longer have to go to government offices, spend time telephoning officials or advisers, or print, collect or post physical documents.
The bottom-line savings are substantial. Over one year, a single business might save US$100. Multiply that by 5 million businesses, and the cost savings are around US$500 million. More importantly, it means businesses have access to information and their government whenever they want it.
This is the "synergy" I'm talking about.
But why does such an initiative have to be run as a program, instead of as multiple projects that need coordination?
In this case, more than 30 projects across different application areas are involved and they share a group of IT and telecom resources. With the need to exchange resources, and communicate both vertically and horizontally, a higher level of governance is needed.
Program managers and project managers have different focuses and see things differently. Program managers are primarily concerned with the coordination among projects, while project managers are primarily concerned with the management of their own projects. But working together, they can create that magical synergy.