This two-part paper was submitted for publication October 22, 2008, and is reprinted with permission.
It is copyright to J. LeRoy Ward and ESI International.
Published here March 2009.

Introduction | Program Management Challenges 
Essential Steps for Delivering Successful Programs - Steps 1-2
Steps 3-4 | Steps 5-6 | Steps 7-8 | Steps 9-10 | Delivering Program Success in Your Organization

Essential Steps for Delivering Successful Programs -
Steps 1 & 2

1.  Generate a Solid Business Case

To determine whether a program should be initiated and continued through to its conclusion, a business case is needed. An effective business case provides the required justification to commit the organization's resources (time, money and effort) towards a program's intended outcomes and benefits. In particular, it should reflect the most important strategic dimensions and clearly articulate how the program will address and support these dimensions. A successful business case must address the following questions:[1]

  • Why is the program important and what does it need to achieve?
  • What is the current state and why does it need to change?
  • What will the end state look like?

The answers to these questions will include a description of the anticipated outcomes and benefits. This information should then be weighed against estimates on what it will take to execute the program. Acquiring the right level and quality of data to satisfy the decision makers will often entail an iterative process. Multiple reviews and refinements of the business case should, of course, be expected.

2.  Establish the Right Program Organization

While programs will differ vastly in terms of team size, a number of crucial roles must exist to ensure proper governance (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Program Organization
Figure 1: Program Organization
  • Program sponsorship
    Success will depend heavily on the quality of the program's sponsors. Program sponsorship typically resides not with one person but within a governance board or steering committee headed by an executive sponsor. This group provides authority on program funding, purpose and direction.
  • Program manager
    The program manager or director manages the program plan on a day-to-day basis and defines the overall management process. He or she is responsible for the overall coordination and integration of the component projects and operations to ultimately meet program objectives.
  • Change manager
    The change manager should have significant input into the business case and prepares the organization for the change that the program will inevitably bring. He or she should be responsible for aligning stakeholders' understanding of program goals and managing customer expectations.
  • Risk manager
    A risk manager should be appointed to define and implement the risk management process. This may include overseeing risk identification, analysis and response within each of the component projects. However, the key risk function of this professional is a focus on overall program risk, which includes threats and opportunities that can influence the success of achieving the program's stated objectives and benefits.
  • Business analyst
    The business analyst specializes in requirements elicitation, analysis and documentation. He or she will coordinate requirements scope across projects, evaluate change requests and perform quality assurance to verify program deliverables.
  • Program office manager
    The program office manager sets standards for program and project management practices; provides administrative support in program planning, resourcing and communications; and consolidates project progress information in support of program performance analysis.
Program Management Challenges  Program Management Challenges

1. According to Wideman, 2008, there are six critical elements to an effective program or portfolio Business case, see Issacon iac1004c11 page 8) namely:
   1. The opportunity or problem to be solved
   2. The resulting deliverables
   3. The measurable benefits to be expected
   4. The level of predictability of the entire exercise (risks)
   5. An outline plan for development, deployment, and tracking
   6. Level of stakeholder or business unit commitment
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