Program management refers to the process of integrated governance of several related projects to achieve an aggregate result that cannot be delivered by conducting these projects separately.
It may not seem like it, but you can learn a lot about the synergy available through effective program management from The Lord of the Rings.
In the novels and films, the characters of Gandalf, Theoden and Aragorn inspire and command others to be courageous and achieve great feats. Even before a battle starts, these mythical leaders inspire confidence in their men, carefully positioning them in accordance with their skills. Each man has tasks for each stage of the upcoming battle. But they are only effective when coordinated with an understanding of their individual strengths and weaknesses, and knowledge of how they can be used to support and protect each other.
Under a wise leader -- acting as a program manager -- the power of these warriors can be multiplied when coordinated properly. This synergy ensures that every battle they engage in, and every war they fight, victory is at hand. Yet if badly coordinated, the strength and courage of these bands of cavalry, archers, spearmen or swordsmen -- the leader's resources -- is wasted, despite whatever heroic skills they possess individually.
Program management is mainly concerned with managing stakeholders, which in the case of an entire program is a larger, more diverse and more complicated group of than is involved in an individual project. Their interests are different, sometimes contradictory, and their individual impacts -- whether big or small, for good or bad -- may be very significant to the success or failure of the entire program.
The daunting scale of such programs are often not fantasy -- but may appear to demand wizards and heroes to manage them, let alone manage them so that a proper synergy takes place from the different projects involved.
What kind of projects can be managed through a program?
Projects with a common outcome, that can create collective capability and share the same resources
Projects that have the same tasks, that serve the same customer
Projects where their risks can be reduced when managed together