Acting as a Program Manager

Executive Summary

The purpose of this article is to outlines serveral responsibilities and reccomendations on program management as part of the Colleaga Program Management Ecosystem Orchestrator Playbook. 

Program Management is a broader discipline than project management. It often involves strategic objectives that are transformational in nature and cross organizations.

Programs often need to manage groups of projects in a coordinated way to obtain benefits that cannot be realized by managing them invidually. Program Managers have responsibilities for:

  • Orchestrating a portfolio of projects across the lifecycle of investments
  • Performing project intake functions and managing demand
  • Prioritizing and funding initiatives
  • Defining cross organizational roadmaps
  • Ensuring resource capacity
  • Managing uncertainty
  • Managing interdependencies between projects;and
  • Ensuring that program level goals are achieved.

There are several approaches to program management, with different levels of compliance and tactical execution. Working in a very distributed, decentralized environment with few controls requires an enabling approach, as opposed to a controlling approach. The role of a program manager is to support project decision makers, analyze business cases and proposals for alignment with program goals and where risks are great, recommend or solicit remedies. It is a servant model of program management rather than a command role. It does not assume that the function is to build repeatable project processes, but rather that projects will all be different. It also assumes that the program manager has little control over project participants and will be most successful in a mentoring, enabling, educating, connecting role. 

Early success will depend on a few key performers in the program. The goal of the program management function is to support these key performers by sharing best practices and tools that have worked for others to expedite their work and to spread their knowledge to others trying to do the same things. Tools and methods that program managers can use include: 

  • Guides to services and tools that can help the projects.
  • Find out what exists in the ecosystem and how projects can leverage those capabilities to succeed.
  • Delegating mentors to help and act as liasons to other projects an teams.
  • Creating playbooks that projects can use as manuals
  • Explicitly sharing knowledge