Project Management

Program Management: More than Just a Portfolio of Related Projects

Michael R. Wood is a Business Process Improvement & IT Strategist Independent Consultant. He is creator of the business process-improvement methodology called HELIX and founder of The Natural Intelligence Group, a strategy, process improvement and technology consulting company. He is also a CPA, has served as an Adjunct Professor in Pepperdine's Management MBA program, an Associate Professor at California Lutheran University, and on the boards of numerous professional organizations. Mr. Wood is a sought after presenter of HELIX workshops and seminars in both the U.S. and Europe.

When discussing the ins and outs of program management, you are likely to encounter a variety of opinions as to what program management is and how you go about performing the function and related processes. For many, program management is performed via a project-centric model--the planning, governance and oversight performed to ensure that a portfolio of linked/interrelated projects are properly prioritized, executed and completed as planned. PMI defines program management as follows:

“A Program is a group of related projects managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits and control NOT available from managing them individually. Programs may include elements of related work outside of the scope of the discreet projects in the program...Some projects within a program can deliver useful incremental benefits to the organization before the program itself has completed."

For others, program management is more related to events and processes that are imbedded or byproducts of ongoing operations. It is, for lack of a better term, process/event-centric. In this model, programs represent initiatives tightly aligned to the organization’s business strategy, stakeholder needs and business goals that are typically focused on leveraging core business functions, underlying processes and/or the organization’s culture.

Neither model is right or wrong, …

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"Managing senior programmers is like herding cats."

- D. Platt