The Meaning of "Program Management"
According to the PMBOK guide, program management is:
"A group of related projects, subprograms, and program activities managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually."
Again for comparison, the original 1987 Body of Knowledge is more informative. Program management is:
"The management of a related series of projects executed over a broad period of time, and which are designed to accomplish broad goals, to which the individual projects contribute."
Other definitions abound, depending on different corporate environments and the areas of project management application. True, that the first definition of program management here mentions "benefits", but these are benefits derived from the more efficient use of the resources required for doing the projects. Even though program management may be viewed as one step higher than project management, none of the definitions trespass on the organization's operational work of garnering the benefits arising from the resulting products.
As an aside here, one might well ask: "What about the work of creating the resulting product, i.e. the deliverable(s)?" In the project sense, this is the work of "technology management" and requires people who are competent working in the technology or technologies pertaining to the project. This extensive field is specifically excluded from the PMBOK guide. The PMBOK guide states:
"The PMBOK® Guide describes only the project management processes. Although product-oriented processes are outside the scope of this document, they should not be ignored by the project manager and project team. Project management processes and product-oriented processes overlap and interact throughout the life of the project."
In other words, management of the project and management of the technology are two different things that nevertheless proceed in lockstep. Unfortunately, this distinction is not always clearly understood by many project management practitioners.
Because most organizations contemplate running more than one project at a time, deployment of limited resources is an issue as suggested in our definition of a project earlier. These "resources" encompass both project management resources but also resources required for creating the product. Indeed, the latter situation is often the most contentious. Among other duties, program management, as in a "PMO", is often the best place to establish priorities and provide the necessary project governance.
5. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) Fifth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc., PA, USA, 2013, Glossary, p553
6. Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), Project Management Institute, Inc., PA, USA, 1987, Glossary, p21
7. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) Fifth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc., PA, USA, 2013, p48