Monday, January 25, 2010

Program manager vs Project manager in an organisation? Roles, Responsibilities and Opportunities


Projects are typically governed by a simple management structure. The project manager is responsible for day-to-day direction and a business sponsor is accountable for ensuring that the deliverables align with business strategy. Project Manager deals with planning, organizing, directing, and controlling of company resources for a relatively short-term objective. Project manager is concerned with the dynamic allocation, utilization, and direction of resources (both human and technical), with time, in relation to both individual efforts and product delivery schedule, and with costs, relating to both the acquisition and consumption of funding.It would be safe to say that without the direction project management provides, work would have to proceed via a series of negotiations, and it would not align with the goals,or needs of the enterprise.


Programs require a more complex governing structure because they involve fundamental business change and expenditures with significant bottom-line impact. In fact, in some instances their outcomes determine whether the business units or enterprise itself will survive as a viable entity. As per the IBM site definition, Program Manager role deals with five major aspects of program management:
  1. Governance: Defining roles and responsibilities, and providing oversight.Unlike most projects, programs usually have a steering committee or other group that represents diverse interests and provides executive-level oversight. As the program evolves, this governing body ensures that it continues to align with the enterprise's strategic direction and makes decisions that may eventually filter up to the board of directors. Defining the role and decision-making powers of the steering committee is a significant part of the program governance effort and should be done with an eye toward facilitating rapid decisions and promoting a clear, unified direction.
  2. Management: Planning and administering both projects and the overall program. So, what is program management in comparison to project management? Is it really the same management activities? If you think of management activities strictly as those we defined for project management, then the answer to the second question is "No," or maybe "Partly." At the project level, managers do still perform these activities, but the program manager/director addresses a different set of program goals or needs, which requires a different "bag of tricks" as well as a different view of what is happening and what needs to get done. And at the top of the hierarchy, the executive leaders who set goals and oversee the program certainly do not perform the same detailed activities as project managers.
  3. Financial management: Implementation of specific fiscal practices and controls.The financial aspect of a program includes the need to conform to internal (and sometimes external) policies and/or regulations for significant expenditures. It also includes development and use of program-specific procedures for making and reporting expenditures.Overall costs for programs are typically significantly greater than those for projects.Early in the program, you should plan and conduct a checkpoint review of the financial management apparatus and identify needs and requirements that are specific to the program. Implementing the program's financial practices may require nothing more than educating people about how to apply them. However, in some instances you may need to tailor and adopt policies, create new cost centers and/or a chart of accounts, and outline financial procedures and assign decision authority unique to the specific program
  4. Infrastructure: The program office, technology, and other factors in the work environment supporting the program effort. Infrastructure is a useful term to describe collections of roles, tools, and practices that organizations assemble and integrate in order to provide services and support for software development.Infrastructure and facilties management provides and enables all the project teams, involved in the program to be productive. A program infrastructure also includes both hardware -- for desktop and network devices for storage and communication -- and software, including desktop software and shared platforms with development tools, modeling software, planning tools, communication tools (email, Internet browser, virtual meeting /collaboration programs, telecommunications programs), and software for document retention and reproduction. An individual project, especially a pioneering effort, may introduce new tools or hardware partly in order to understand their capabilities and limitations. The project manager may become involved in technical support or infrastructure functions, to acquire, install, and/or "tune" the hardware and software. Typically, this will involve a small number of installations for a small number of IT staff. Periodic changes and/or additions to the development environment will affect larger numbers of IT staff, but these are typically defined and managed as separate projects.Program technical activities, in contrast, usually include large numbers of staff from a variety of sources (internal and external) and various technology backgrounds. As managers identify and staff component projects in the program, they must also specify, acquire, and install technology environments and tools for each project, which collectively form the program's technical infrastructure. This effort might encompass creating a new, remote development site or integrating two companies' technologies following a merger, for example.
  5. Planning: Activities that take place at multiple levels, with different goals. The program plan is not a traditional plan.
    For program planning, most managers will typically use a bottom-up approach that identifies and executes planning iterations for the program's individual component projects. First, each project manager constructs a plan that estimates and allocates resources required to deliver the project's products or results, using the same techniques and practices they would employ in planning a standalone project.
    Then, in the next planning iteration, managers identify connections and dependencies among the program's projects, and refine and rework their project plans to integrate them with others. Often this integration effort requires adjustments to the products planned for each project, the numbers and types of resources required, and -- naturally -- the schedule. The managers' ability to continuously manage and adjust to inter-project dependencies is a significant determinant of program success. This ability is also a major differentiator between the requirements of project planning and program planning
Once the individual project plans are integrated, it is time to initiate the program planning effort. What exactly is a program plan? American Heritage Dictionary defines a plan as "A scheme, program, or method worked out beforehand for the accomplishment of an objective: a plan of attack." But when we look at how we develop and use program plans, we discover that they do not fit neatly into this definition.

First of all, in contrast to the planning for the program's projects, the program plan typically is not developed through a series of iterations. Instead, the planning effort involves conducting a series of reviews of the individual project plans, and then creating a digest of their contents. During this process, conflicts between projects may become apparent and require resolution. A goal of the digest effort is to produce a concise, usable view of all program work, timeframes, and required results. A program plan describing 10,000 activities, for example, would not have these qualities.

You don't use the program plan to direct work and allocate resources. That is the purpose of the individual project plans. It may be helpful to think of the program plan as a seismograph that seeks to detect and measure the potential impact of any trembling in the ground underneath the program effort. As component projects proceed and individual project plans record completion percentages, expenditure of resources, and interim (or final) dates for work activities, the program plan integrates these measures and shows their collective impact. This enables managers to assess the program's progress against plan and detect potential problems. For example, if a client asks for additional functionality in a component that one project is building, that may delay the component's delivery to other projects and slow them down as well.

In short, the program plan's integrated representation of significant planned activities and results of individual projects, provides managers with a window into the cumulative work effort, direction and progress of the program. Managers use it to verify that the program is moving in the right direction to meet business goals, identify where unplanned changes may be occurring and assess their potential impact, and to model and test the impact of possible adjustments and corrections.

Summary: We have seen that programs require capabilities and resources that are not generally required in the project management space, and which correlate directly with the program's success.In general, program efforts have a larger scale and impact than most project efforts. The outcome of a program effort can have a significant impact upon business and product viability.

Program efforts, with their large staffs, typically develop greater momentum than standalone projects. This momentum helps programs accomplish major amounts of work (a good thing), but it can also make programs resistant to changes in direction. Lack of vision, changes in vision, and poor direction can lead a program to consume enormous amounts of money in relatively short time periods without providing real value or useful results.
Fortunately, applying sound techniques and practices specific to program management can enhance an effort's chances of success and reduce risk. For enterprise-scale work efforts, these practices can enable an organization to pursue its business strategy and remain competitive.

Salary and Compensation for Program Management as a career: Compensation for program managers varies, but in many cases, they receive a salary as well as a cash incentive for completing the project on time. This is a job where experience definitely allows an individual to command a higher salary. Sometimes, a program manager is promoted from within, but it is common for top management to look outside for new program managers with a specific skill set. Good engineers do not always make good program managers since they are too focused on the details of the project, not on the bigger picture!

Salary and Compensation for Program Management as a career:
Normally, companies require program managers to have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree. Rather than an engineering or technical degree, many companies are now looking for people with degrees in business management or even more specifically, program management. Often, a program manager will hold a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) or other high-level degree.Needless to say, hands on domain and technical knowledge, only helps you make effective decisions.

Academic qualifications and experience for a Program Manager: A good program manager must be extremely well organized, with the ability to multi-task and meet deadlines. He or she must be diplomatic, an effective negotiator and work well with others. The ability to lead is crucial, since the job is more about leadership than actually managing. A program manager must also work well under pressure.

Career Prospectives for Program Manager role: Certainly, the next decade will see an increase in the number of program managers required to staff an ever-growing number of high tech companies. This is a field that offers an excellent opportunity for future growth as well. You could gain work experience as program managers for individual product or service lines.If very ambitious, you could go on further to become high level system or business line program managers who control mutliple programs.You could also inturn working with the executive board for strategical program charter.

Playing a program manager role gives you value addition to get a new dimension and experience, which would be very useful when you start a business of your own. And that will be one of the important criteria when you to takeup a new role. 

Inputs and references from IBM "The Program Management Method", OGC:"Managing Successful Programmes", Deborah Kezsbom, et al.Dynamic Project Management.

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