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 5 & 6

5.  Adopt Integrated Program Planning

Because of the complexity of programs, program managers must adopt a highly integrated approach to planning to properly reflect deliverable, resource and external dependencies. To achieve a detailed program definition and execution schedule, a number of vital intermediate steps are needed to ensure reliability and scalability:

  • Define and verify scope roll up from projects to program
  • Identify and define all cross-project interfaces
  • Develop the integrated master schedule

Integrated planning begins with a program charter - which is more detailed than the business case and provides high-level program scope, objectives and constraints. The charter provides the foundation for scoping each of the component projects. The program manager should define boundaries for each project as unambiguously as possible to avoid gaps on the one hand and overlaps on the other.

The program manager or a member of his or her team must then develop a work breakdown structure (WBS) for each project to the lowest appropriate level of detail. Following that, project schedules should be examined for cross-project interfaces. These interdependencies must be fully defined, matched and linked to arrive at the detailed, integrated program master schedule.

6.  Use Scenario-Based Execution Simulation

With programs, scenario analysis techniques are key to evaluating possible program outcomes and maximizing credibility with sponsors and governance boards. Two primary methods I advocate are alternative execution strategy assessment and probabilistic forecasting and analysis.

Alternative execution strategy assessment reshapes the integrated master schedule to consider alternative execution approaches. Here, the WBS and schedules will likely need to be adjusted to assess a number of changes, such as alternative:

  • Technical approaches
  • Sourcing approaches
  • Program funding scenarios and related program scoping variations

Probabilistic forecasting and analysis provides extremely important answers to two fundamental questions that a program manager and steering committee will inevitably ask:

  • What is the most likely completion date?
  • How likely are we to finish by the target date?

Answering these questions honestly and realistically is a key step in the life of a program.

Essential Steps for Delivering Successful Programs - Steps 3 & 4  Steps 3 & 4

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