What is a Program in Project Management

Last updated at: 29/03/2019 11:24 AM

What is a Program in Project Management

What is a Program in Project Management

The collection of related projects managed as a group to achieve high efficiency is called a program. Just as Project Management involves the coordination of individual tasks, program management is the coordination of related projects that are grouped together. This is always done when the benefits of managing the collection of projects outweigh managing projects as individual units. A program is also defined as,” a group of related projects which are managed in a coordinated manner in order to derive benefits that cannot be realized from managing such projects individually”, according to the Project Management Institute (PMI). Programs feature strategic business objectives which are dynamic and interdepartmental units. Strategic objectives are turned into gaugeable outcomes integrating the initiatives needed to influence the outcome in the expected by the Program management.

The personnel charged with managing a program is the program manager. The role of a program manager in one organization may differ from another, as some organizations reiterate the business aspects of the role. The focus is set on the technical aspect, underlining the actual management and technical qualifications needed by some organizations. Championing of the end to end execution of the cross-functional program is the duty of the program manager. The approach to the delivery of the set of the desired outcome is also shaped by the program managers. Some functions of the program manager among others are prioritizing and funding initiatives, ensuring adequate resource capacity and availability, defining a cross-organizational roadmap, managing interdependencies between projects, and ensuring that program goals are duly achieved


The Difference between a Project and a Program

A Program in Project Management is considered by many as being a project of high magnitude. A program comprises of a collection of projects with different timeframes whereas a single project has a defined duration. Programs and projects although closely related, actually differ having different characteristics and functions within an organization.

What is a Program in Project Management


Programs and Projects Differences

Their differences can be discussed under the following heading :

Structure: Projects are usually distinct with a deed that explicitly defines exactly what the scope and objectives are all about for the project. A program tends to have greater levels of uncertainty as well as possessing a bigger team which includes the project managers and all the project team members. Structurally, program teams are charged with coordinating and supervising the work on a number of projects


Duration:  Programs are definitely longer as they are set out to deliver more outcomes, while projects, on the other hand, will be shorter. Some programs do take several years for completion, thus split up into phases, but projects can not split like this because execution time is too short to be delivered in multiple phases.


Effort:  This significantly distinguishes projects from programs. A project can be said to represent a solitary effort. A team of personnel is formed, working towards a common goal. The program, on one hand, is a compendium of projects, together all the projects form a cohesive set of work. The projects serve to complement each other thus helping the overall program achieve its main objectives. Program managers assess everything for overlaps and dependencies between the projects and works in hand with the concerned project managers to ensure the smooth progression of the program. 


Benefits:  A project team works towards achieving certain outputs while a program team works towards delivering outcomes. That is, end results are technically different. The benefits of a program are abstractive while that of a project are perceptible. For instance, the results of a residential construction project will most certainly be a nice looking home whereas, that of a locality development construction will affect the policy or cultural setting of the area thereby changing the peoples’ way of life.



Similarities Between Projects and Programs

Characteristics similar to both program and projects are explained below:

Temporary in Nature: Projects and programs are both short term endeavors. In both, the teams are disbanded once the work is completed


They have business cases and aligned to strategic objectives: Both are business-oriented because they only work on activities with real value and which will be beneficial to the company or organization. Similarly, they only execute projects or programs whose objectives do not deviate from the organizations’.


They deliver change: Change, big or small, tends to accompany the result of both although their concepts remain the same. The program has a larger change of the two.

Program in project management can then be seen as advancing from executing a single project to a group of a related project.

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