While program management and project management are two different roles, there may come a time when a project starts to transition into a program. When this happens, it’s important to have an action plan in place to prepare for the next steps. To better understand how to prepare, we’re exploring project vs. program management:
Projects differ from programs in that they typically have a shorter duration and a smaller team of people working on them. Projects are clearly defined and work toward producing a tangible outcome. During the project, a team focuses on planning, creating, and producing deliverables. They follow a tighter schedule and have fewer stakeholders which make the project risk easier to supervise. Project managers deal more often with resource and task management, whereas program managers work more strategically with the deliverables from individual projects.
Most of the effort in a project is focused on a single goal. On the other hand, programs usually have larger teams working toward business delivery and strategic management for a longer period of time. Programs integrate multiple related projects into one unit, usually managed with the goal of achieving an overarching objective. This goal is usually some type of benefit for the organization. Programs are more business focused than projects and have a greater number of stakeholders, which makes the impacts of any failures much greater.
Making the Transition
If you’re acting as a project manager, but your projects are now turning toward a program, you must be prepared to make some changes to the way you’ve been leading the team. In one of their papers, the Project Management Institute recommends following 10 steps:
- Think business instead of delivery
- Think dependencies instead of schedule
- Think escalation instead of reporting
- Think strategy instead of scope
- Think conflict instead of crisis
- Think governance instead of teams
- Think transition instead of transfer
- Think challenge instead of salary
- Think relaxation instead of stress
- Think program triple constraints (benefit, customer, and cost)
When your project is making the transition from project to program, it’s critical to identify who the leaders will be. Program managers envision the long term goals of the entire program and set the completion dates of individual projects. Project managers focus on organizing and delegating the resources, budget, and assign specific tasks to the team members. After the leadership is organized, make the necessary changes to the new program’s timeline and clarify how the projects will fit into the program’s bigger picture.
After you’ve determined the leadership and followed the steps listed above, you’re ready to bring the program to life. If you’re looking for more project management advice, read our articles on adaptability in project management and how to manage vendor relationships.