Program management and PPM/Portfolio management: challenges and best practices

March 28, 2024

Less known than project or portfolio management, program management nevertheless has a vital role within a company. It supports the achievement of strategic objectives for the organization.

 

Before getting to that, however, you need to understand what it is. In this article, we offer you a guide to clarify what program management is and how it is strategic for your business.

1. Understand the difference between program management and project management

Often confused with project management, we were keen to redefine program management to avoid any risk of confusion. 

     A) Definition of “program”

Here is the definition proposed by the Project Management Institute (PMI):

     B) Concretely: what is program management?

Program management ultimately involves coordinating a set of interconnected projects . Their joint management brings advantages impossible to obtain otherwise, such as financial and human resources optimizations .

     C) Project management vs. program management

A project consists of a succession of tasks to achieve a defined objective. Project management is therefore about managing this scope.

Unlike the project, the program designates a set of projects linked to each other . Through optimization of resources and precise coordination, they must make it possible to achieve strategic objectives for the company.

Each project is generally managed by a project manager. When you're dealing with multiple project managers that need to be coordinated, it's a program.

     D) An example of a program: translation of lyrics at Deezer 

Let's take a concrete example. Music streaming company Deezer recently developed a lyric translation feature. This involved a division of tasks: 

  • Research to check intuitions about the relevance of this feature
  • Validation of the viability of the project from a legal point of view
  • Building partnerships with providers providing lyrics and translation
  • User experience overhaul 
  • Coordination of the launch with the product and marketing teams
  • Optimization identification
  • Analysis of user feedback 

 

Lastly, the development of this feature for displaying lyric translations can be seen as a program, made up of different projects. These are articulated to achieve strategic alignment for Deezer: 

  • Improving the user experience
  • Increased time spent on the application
  • Proof of innovation and a competitive advantage

2. Understand the difference between program management and project portfolio management

Let's imagine running a business like a collection of Russian dolls. 

The project is part of the program , itself part of the project portfolio . Here is a structure that should enlighten you:

 

  1. Mission and vision 
  2. Strategy
  3. Project portfolio
  4. Programs
  5. Projects 

The project portfolio may contain several programs or several projects , which are not necessarily interdependent on each other.

However, as with program management, managing a project portfolio involves moving toward a strategic direction for the business. This is not necessarily the case for a project. To learn more, check out our article on the basics of project portfolio management .

3. Why implement program management?

     A) Get the big picture

Implementing program management is a structuring action for the company. Indeed, program management offers an overview of projects and, above all, their interdependencies .

The coordination of financial and human resources makes it possible to align the objectives of each project with the overall strategy of the company. Program management sets up the structure necessary to coordinate , prioritize and manage project interdependencies , often cross-functional between departments.

     B) Optimize your resources

Having project governance in place goes a long way in simplifying resource allocation. This is also the case for program management.

  • Financial :

The global vision offered by program management helps you anticipate , allocate and adapt your budgets with complete transparency.

  • Human resources :

Evaluating the interdependencies between projects allows you to optimize the distribution of your collaborators. Your talents could thus evolve at the same time on several projects in your program.

This has several advantages: 

    • Improving satisfaction : this offers a transparent vision of the organization and of transversal opportunities, thus strengthening trust
    • Saving time : knowledge of the environments limits training times. This facilitates grouped actions and allows simultaneous progress on different projects.
    • Financial gain : training and recruitment expenses can be optimized and reduced

 

The Stafiz platform digitalizes your resource management and helps you achieve your various objectives:

=> If you prefer to be guided, discover our guide to effective resource management.

Our ebook on resource planning

White Book
The guide to implementing an effective resource planning approach

5 keys to reaching your resource planning goals.

Download the guide

 

     C) Improve control over risks and opportunities

Program management, by providing an overview, improves the management of risks and opportunities by allowing: 

  • To improve anticipation
  • To postpone deadlines when necessary
  • To identify possible opportunities
  • Manage conflicts that could impact the entire organization

 

As a program management tool, Stafiz offers features to help you manage risks and opportunities: 

  • Alerts to identify risks in forecasting
  • Complete dashboards to help you gain flexibility and agility: you can easily shift your resources in the event of risks or re-prioritize your projects
  • Synchronization with the work environment
  • Tracking purchase orders and invoices for better tracking

 

4. How to implement optimal program management?

     A) Check the compatibility of your structure with program management

If you intend to implement program management in your company, make sure your current structure can support such a methodology. Indeed, it requires numerous resources and is therefore aimed at organizations with a high level of maturity .

Guiding teams, structuring the organization and coordinating everything requires a high level of leadership and management .

Significant resources are necessary, from a financial and human point of view , to establish optimal transversality. Finally, well-established communications processes are essential.

     B) Define a clear strategy

Implementing effective program management involves strong coordination skills and the definition of a precise action plan.

  • Identify the objectives

The first step is therefore to define objectives and identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be used to assess their performance

  • Build a roadmap

The second step will require you to develop a roadmap composed of:

    • The list of projects belonging to the program
    • A calendar
    • The key stages
    • Strategic objectives to which the program responds

The roadmap is an excellent visual way to not only organize , but also effectively communicate your action plan within the organization. Knowledge is just as important as know-how.

  • Plan and execute

The continuation of the implementation of program management will include: 

    • Planning
    • Execution
    • The coordination
    • Control

The coordination of multiple projects and control will be involved throughout the program. To achieve this, use precise metrics that will help you evaluate a program's performance, effectiveness and profitability.

You will find several types of metrics, here are some of them: 

  • Financial metrics : total program cost, return on investment
  • Operational metrics : task completion rate, average cycle time
Up-to-date key performance indicators with a "landing" view

     C) Designate a program manager

Like the project manager for project management, the program manager's role is to coordinate the program. It is important to quickly designate this person responsible for the smooth running of the program, whose tasks are numerous:

  • Design roadmaps
  • Check that projects are consistent with the company's strategic vision
  • Track progress
  • Coordinate project managers
  • Organize resources
  • Manage and reduce risks
  • Analyze the success or failure of programs
  • Identify areas for improvement

     D) Use suitable software 

In project management, choosing a PPM (Portfolio Project Management) tool is crucial, as it facilitates the allocation and optimization of resources.

In program management, we will also use a dedicated tool. Stafiz is one of them, and allows you to support both the program manager and the management team at all phases of implementation.

Stafiz offers, among other things, the following functionalities: 

  • Resource management, within the different programs and across the company's different programs
  • Dependencies Management
  • Inter-team or entity invoicing to facilitate revenue recognition and accurately analyze company activities  
  • Post-completion project analysis to more precisely quantify projects and measure the effectiveness of program projects

 

Discover project management in Stafiz

 

Often implemented in large companies at a high maturity level , program management structures and maximizes productivity.

However, its difficulty in setting up can represent a hindrance, as it requires rigorous organization and precisely defined objectives to show real benefits.

However, a step-by-step progression , the appointment of a competent program manager and the use of efficient, multi-tasking software like Stafiz will help you implement optimal program management. This will allow you to optimize your resources to gain efficiency and achieve your strategic objectives more quickly.