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Do Organizations Need Program Manager?


Program Management is the next destination for many Project Managers. 

Many regards that Program Management or PgMP certification as an elite certification for Project Managers and the next step in the ladder. However, many project managers are not sure what constitutes PgMP or Program Management? The leadership in many organizations is not sure what value a PgMP certified professional can bring to the organization? Are the PgMP certification and Program Management techniques really going to make a difference? 

Let’s understand Program Management in a little more detail: 

The Program Management definition was kind of disputed among the many institutions such as PMI, Axelos, etc on what really constitutes Program Management and do we really need something other than Project Management.

Program Management is managing 2 or more related projects including operations sub-component, which can give enhanced benefits than managing them individually is what was agreed.

A consistent characteristic of failed projects is their inability to deliver the expected value to the sponsoring business or organization. Whether due to cost overruns, schedule delays, ineffective project management, poor stakeholder engagement, or the loss of alignment with strategic concerns, projects have an unfortunate tendency to deliver outputs that don’t meet organizational expectations.

Moreover, Projects are performance-based and very myopic in nature. That’s how they are designed and therefore, do not have the strategic focus which the organization requires. And in this whole bargain, the organization loses time and money, and more importantly, the direction to achieve the strategic goals. 

Program Management goes beyond Project Management. Whereas the Project Manager is typically given a typical authority to achieve the project objectives, the Program Manager is typical with less authority and achieves benefits aligning it with the organizational strategy. This helps the organization to achieve the goals in a more defined and structured way, which has its own benefits. Imagine that in any organization, there is a multitude of projects and every project is achieving its objectives but not aligning to the organizational strategic objectives or not giving the dividends which the organization wants. It does not help the purpose and it results in loos of staff morale, demotivation and higher spends to stay course among other usual things of loss of revenue and loss of time. 

I have summarized a few key differences between the skill-sets of Program Manager and Project Manager

The program manager is necessarily not a skilled or a proven project manager. The program manager complements the project manager and it may not be the case that a successful project manager gets transformed into a program manager. As you can see from the above table, the skills-sets are complementary and different for both program and project manager. 

The ideal Program Manager should demonstrate Leadership & strategic skills – he should be Business Savvy, i.e., has sufficient business experience, industry knowledge & competitive intelligence, can take unpopular decisions while maintaining trust among the team. Further, he should have excellent Communication Skills, where he can render external support and maintain the team & stakeholder balance in delivering the benefits. Essentially Program Management deals with ambiguity and uncertainty. While uncertainty deals with the likelihood of the occurrence happening or not, ambiguity deals with typically unknown things which cannot be planned well ahead.

The program manager should be orchestra conductor aka Zubin Mehta, leveraging project management skills, organizational strategy and business know how to deliver business value where the whole is significantly more powerful than the sum of its parts.

The key ingredients for a powerful orchestra are the rhythm and balancing the music – i.e., integration of sub-components i.e., various projects and operational elements. The other elements would be a clear roadmap – the exact symphony to be played during the period. The Program Manager will also track the milestones and schedules; continual assessment and adjustments of resources and funds; contract negotiations and centralized vendor management and consolidated program status reporting.

Essentially, the Program Manager becomes the essential link between the business strategy (Portfolio Manager) and the initiatives, i.e., projects. The Program Manager links the dots between organization strategy and projects. He/she exhibits a lot of soft skills to get the work done and is focused on the benefits or the Business Value generating out of the Program.

As the industries are becoming more mature, the focus is more on processes and corporate governance, things would be streamlined more, and Program Management – a systematic, strategic & scientific way of realizing the benefits will be more emphasized.

In fact, the pandemic has accelerated the new way of working which will be laden with uncertain and ambiguous situations, and here Program Management will be very valuable. 

Recently, one of the participants rolled for our PgMP certification programs  – He had not done his PMP certification but handling PMP managers in his team. Post discussion with our team, he realized that he works actually on Programs which is helping the organization realizing the benefits from the projects his team is working on. However, he was not happy with the way the current work was done and he learned the concepts of Program Management. He used some of the concepts such as Program Governance and Program Stakeholder concepts, he introduced the benefits register for his clients and he saw a marked difference in how the customers started responding to him. Further, there was a marked departure on how the senior management and his PMP certified team interacted with him, post his PgMP Training program with Prothoughts. 

In short, want to convey that there is a good potential scope on implementing or introduce the concepts and develop Programs – it may give you the cutting edge in your profession or bring benefits for your organization.

The current situation will only be worsened if we use the techniques of yesterday to manage complex situations. We need to change with time and focus on achieving value in a shorter time. That’s what Agility says and that’s what Program Management suggests. 

Program Management is strategic in nature and it is high time, that leadership and organizations understand the value of having the right Program Management to achieve their strategic goals. One of the limiting factors, in our experience, with organizations, is the lack of awareness about Program Management. It is true that Program Management is not as popular as Project Management, but it is the need of the hour. 

Prothoughts even do free awareness boot camps for corporates and the organization can benefit from these, in understanding how Program Management can really help organizations drive their strategic goals, and their projects and operations. 

It is becoming increasingly important that managing initiatives as programs that drive organizational strategy and at the same time, maintain execution excellence and realize benefits, is indeed an important capability for an effective organization. The changing dynamics of business today suggest that the Program Manager is a critical resource in the organization, isn’t it?

It is no brainer that an organization needs a Program Manager, and the quicker you adopt the Program Management techniques, the better you are, as an organization to effectively achieve what you have planned for. PgMP certification course from PMI® does help you to learn these techniques and help you apply them in your real-life workplace and organizations. 

Program Manager and Program Management is definitely what a mature organization should look forward to.  

For more details, please email at ashishsadekar@prothoughts.co.in or info@prothoughts.co.in

Your feedback/suggestions are what we would like to hear – keep in touch.

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