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 7 & 8

7.  Practice Systematic Risk Management

Effective program risk management involves a coordinated, holistic approach. For each project within a program, the program risk manager should direct and ensure:

  • Assessment of both program and project-level risks
  • Prioritization of all assessed risks
  • Definition of response strategies
  • Integration of all response strategies into the WBS
  • Allocation of risk reserves

Even though the program manager is focusing on the program level, he or she should not be afraid to conduct risk reviews on individual projects to ensure the project manager has been actively identifying and dealing with risk. In fact, good risk management should be considered key criteria for ongoing assessment. Also, it is important that all risk identification and analysis be performed in groups to avoid individual bias.

Once a list of risks has emerged, the program risk manager should prioritize the list to focus the development of response strategies on the most severe. Response strategies should then be incorporated into the integrated program master plan so they can be properly tracked. Finally, the program team can decide how to respond to risk by utilizing the risk reserves that should be included in the program budget.

8.  Implement the Right Control Processes

In 2008 Gartner predicted that three out of four successful $500,000 projects would be planned and tracked with project office support, while three out of four failed projects would not be ( The stakes are higher with programs because the consequences of missing targets are more severe and there's simply more things that can go wrong. Tough questions that need to be asked include:

  • Are project deliverables meeting requirements?
  • Are teams adhering to project schedules?
  • Are risks, issues and changes being properly identified and managed?
  • Are estimates proving reliable?

The program office should help update individual project plans and progress reports regularly to help aggregate the information at the program level. The impact of any risk, issue or change within a component project needs to be recognized as early as possible to prevent disruption at the program level. Think of it as a big family; good communication from the very beginning can prevent a lot of problems down the line.

Essential Steps for Delivering Successful Programs - Steps 5 & 6  Steps 5 & 6

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