Thursday, 12 September 2013

When a Project becomes a Program

A Project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.  This is the definition from the PMBoK guide from the PMI.  A project is not a permanent fixture, including resources, budgets and teams, it is only in place to produce the final product.  A project has a defined end and can be stopped, if the end is not going to be achieved or is no longer a business requirement.

A program is a set of related projects which are managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits not available from managing the Projects individually.  Programs will contain projects, but Projects may not necessarily be contained within a Program.

I have recently been the Project Manager on two large multi-million pound projects.  These projects have been so large that the Project became a Program.  The various work streams that broke the project into manageable deliverables, each became a project within themselves.  The example I will use in this article relates to a migration from Lotus Notes to Exchange.

The first deliverable of the project was a proof of concept.  This was a project to design, build, test and prove the migration strategy and conceptual design would be acceptable for the business.  The results of this proof of concept would then allow for the main project to be costed, designed and accepted by management.

The project became the second most important project for the company and it slowly started to include opportunities to upgrade various other technologies within the infrastructure; which included SAN, Backup, Monitoring, Anti-virus and many other technology refreshes.  In addition, many work streams were created to look at the individual factors that would deliver the final solutions to the company.  Each work stream, once investigation was complete, was turned into a project, for example, we ran a project to implement a new SAN, a project to look into the legal issues for all of our European users, a project to include all training, both technical and users, which also included the recruitment of the required new personnel.

Being a Project Manager of a large project, means that you have multiple work streams to manage and control within a single budget and project plan.  Managing the program of projects involves coordinating the different project managers, ensuring the costs remain in budget and the overall program is on track towards the target. 

The mindset of a program manager is similar to that of a project manager, however the scope of the management is broader, as the detailed planning can be accomplished by the individual Project Managers.  In terms of scope, the project manager has a narrow focus on the project, whereas the Program Manager has a wider focus with a broad level of control over all of the projects.  The Program Manager will have a more strategic view of the project delivery rather than the detailed milestone deliverable focus of the Project Manager.

Personally, I enjoy both roles.  The Project Manager role gives me a detailed focus on delivering a specific product, which allows me to see improvements are a micro level.  As a Program Manager, I get the high level view across the various projects to see multiple products improve a company process or procedure.  Both of these roles give satisfaction when starting from the early stages and seeing the it through to delivery.

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