Alan Harpham, Chairman of the APM Group, UK

An update of a paper originally presented at The 16th International Project Management Association's World Congress in Berlin, 2002.

Copyright Alan Harpham.
Published here March 2003.

PART 1 | How and Where | How does Program Management Fit
Program Management | Framework | Reflections
Business Change Manager | Key Processes | Accreditation | Conclusions

The Program Management Framework

Program management starts with the "Vision Statement", what Sir John Harvey Jones (previously CEO of ICI) describes as "a dream on the edge of reality". This is the leadership team's (or leader's) view of where the organization is going. A vision statement should therefore describe to the organization's internal and external customers the definition of what to expect from the organization in the future. As the MSP puts it, the organization's service levels "after its transformation". The vision statement is a statement to the stakeholders of the end-goal of all the organizations programs.

The MSP includes a document referred to as "The Blueprint". This sets out the structure and composition of the changed organization that, after delivery, should demonstrate the capabilities expressed in the vision statement. The blueprint is a detailed description of what the organization looks like in terms of its business processes, people, information systems and facilities, and its data. It is used to maintain the focus of the program on the delivery of the new capability.

One of the differences between myself and MSP is that the inference of MSP is that there is one program only. However, I believe there can be a number of programs coexisting in parallel, but not too many, perhaps somewhere between 5 and 20 as an absolute maximum. Each program should be the responsibility of a key executive or board member. These programs collectively make up the strategic plan designed to deliver the vision for the organization.

For me, the difficulty with the blueprint is that at the outset of the program it may be very hazy, especially for certain kinds of program such as R&D as described earlier by Sergio Pellegrinelli and Martin Davies. Nonetheless, trying to define the future by means of a blueprint is still a worthwhile endeavor. It is one of those rare things where thinking through the process may be even more important than the outcome!

A management organization structure with clearly defined key roles and responsibilities is just as important for programs as it is for projects. In the early days of program management, there were two ways of looking at the program structure and its roles. Figure 8a below introduces the Program Sponsor and the Project Sponsor.

Figure 8a. Introducing the program sponsor to project management

Figure 8a. Introducing the program sponsor to project management

Figure 8b raises the possibility of individual project sponsors, or the program manager becoming the sponsor for each project in the program.

Figure 8b. Introducing the program manager to program management

Figure 8b. Introducing the program manager to program management

Figure 8c consolidates the choices.

Figure 8c. Choices in program management roles and structure

Figure 8c. Choices in program management roles and structure

Originally in project management the project manager was accountable for delivering the project deliverables, or assets, to agreed time, cost and quality. The question of who was accountable for delivering the benefits was unclear between the project manager and the project sponsor.

When we overlay the prime roles of programs over projects, it can be seen that we could retain the project sponsor and manager route, with all the project sponsors reporting to the program sponsor, shown by the green arrows in Figure 8a. Or we might introduce a program manager, to whom all the project managers on the program report, as shown by the red arrows in Figure 8b. In effect, this person becomes the sponsor for each project in the program. Finally, we could retain all four roles and ensure a link between the program manager and the project sponsors as shown dotted in black in Figure 8c.

I do not believe that there is a right answer. Only that a structure together with the roles must be defined for each program. It is clear that the program sponsor is usually a senior member of the client organization, typically operating as an executive board member. This is one of the reasons why an organization can only handle a certain number of programs at any one time. The program sponsor is ultimately responsible and accountable for the program, the investment in it, and the delivery of the corporate goals and benefits. The MSP guide refers to the role of the program sponsor as "Program Director".

The Program Manager's role is responsible for setting up and running the program and coordinating the projects within the program. This is to ensure that the required projects' outputs are delivered efficiently and effectively.

What is Program Management?  What is Program Management?

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