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 3 & 4

3.  Build a Well-Defined Program Architecture

The program architecture is the road map for getting from the as-is to the to-be state. It provides an outline demonstrating how the projects within the program will deliver the required benefits. It should clearly:

  1. Define the projects within the program
  2. Ensure projects deliver benefits
  3. Define high-level dependencies

A benefits map see Figure 2 extends this architecture further by showing how strategic objectives will be met and providing a means for identifying and defining the boundaries of each project. Essentially, it defines the linkages between goals and benefits and provides some clarity on the emergent component projects, their deliverables and the major functions required to perform the program's work.

Figure 2: Benefits Map

Many programs suffer from a lack of proper alignment at a high level, which inevitably leads to friction and contention across project teams. Establishing a top-down approach to defining the program architecture early will ensure effective alignment among stakeholders and the implementation team.

4.  Manage Stakeholder Expectations

Stakeholders play a critical role in the success of any program. After all, they are the ones who ultimately decide whether a program is successful or no see Figure 3. Understanding the position stakeholders may take and how they exert their power are key precursors to forging a deep understanding of needs and concerns and ensuring the alignment of perspectives on key objectives.

Figure 3: Example of stakeholders
Figure 3: Example of stakeholders

Generally speaking, stakeholders want to see evidence that the program's benefits have been or will be achieved. Unfortunately, too many program managers neglect to relay this information sufficiently. He or she must ensure the capture and communication of benefits from the start.

Addressing stakeholder needs while remaining cognizant of the constraints of program boundaries requires dexterity and sensitivity. A fine balance must be sought between managing out-of-scope requirements and expectations and seeking support for the organizational change and its consequences. Effective program management demands many skills, including:

  • Strong negotiating skills
  • An ability to manage cross-functional conflict
  • A properly balanced approach to coping with multiple interests
Essential Steps for Delivering Successful Programs - Steps 1 & 2  Steps 1 & 2

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