Glen Alleman has a post about program management, Managing Multiple Projects is Called Program Management which got me thinking. (I’ve written about program management in the past also: Program Management: Multiple Projects With Multiple Deliverables.)
But in the portfolio management book, I defined a few ways to think about your projects as programs:
- You, and two other colleagues are managing projects that have interdependencies. In fact, you don’t have a product unless all three of you release at the same time. That’s a program and you need to treat it as such.
- You are managing a bunch of checklist projects (you’ve done similar things in the past, and the risk is not in the project, the risk is in just finishing the work), but when you’ve done all of them, the company gains some sort of strategic advantage.
- You are phasing releases of a product. That is, you’re working on release 3.2, then 3.3, then 3.4, and eventually 4.0. A program manager can manage the interdependencies among the releases, and a project manager would manage each release.
It’s the strategic part of “we don’t have success unless we all have success” that makes these examples programs.
BTW, I disagree with the difference between project and program managers that Glen quotes from the PMI Portfolio Management Guide. The same table (with the addition of portfolio management) is in the PMI’s Standard for Portfolio Management. IMNHO, a useless book.
Great project managers act like program managers in the table Glen quoted. But it’s worth thinking about program management, collecting related projects or project-like activities to fulfill a common strategic goal.