Here are ten different ways that a program manager is different from a project manager.
- A Program Manager’s focus is on the delivery of programs, which are much larger and more complex than projects.
- A program manager has a strategic focus and understands how program delivery aligns with organization’s strategy.
- A program manager knows an organization’s relevant strategic initiatives and associated KPIs.
- A program manager defines the program’s benefits and how each of those benefits contributes to the overall strategy by meeting certain KPIs.
- A program manager institutes a program management framework that oversees the definition, execution, and monitoring of all constituent projects.
- A program manager participates in the formulation of the program’s business case and thus understands and appreciates the value that the program is intended to deliver to the organization.
- A program manager defines the constituent projects that together contribute to the delivery of the overall program benefits.
- A program manager institutes a strong governance framework that facilitates the monitoring and execution of the program and its benefits.
- A program manager constantly monitors and assesses the program and its projects to ensure continued alignment with strategy.
- A program manager constantly monitors and assesses the program and its projects to ensure delivery of the program’s overall value to the enterprise.
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Risk management in both projects and programs is about handling risks that includes risk management planning, risk identification and analysis, risk response planning, and risk monitoring and control. It involves keeping track of all risks in a risk register, and coming up with a program or project level approach and standards in handling risks and ensuring their resolution. In programs, while project level risks are handled at a project level, unresolved risks are escalated at a program level and even higher until their resolution.
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A risk register at a project and program level identifies all risks, categorizes them, and includes an approach for their resolution. Both the project and program manager actively monitor the risk register to ensure that negative risks don’t materialize to impact the success of the given project or program.
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This short video tutorial covers the essentials of how mature organizations select projects and programs that are aligned to an organization’s strategy.
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Every organization needs a strategy to be able to turn its vision into reality. This strategy is developed through a series of steps that involves strategic thinking and analysis of certain set of information. Most successful organizations usually have a strategic development process instituted that enables them to go through these steps. Although the strategic development process for each organization may vary slightly, the core dimensions that are addressed include the following:
- Market Analysis – This involves analyzing current market conditions in terms of demand, supply, market structure, and so on before an organization’s strategy can be formulated.
- Assessment of Customers and Audience – This involves getting an understanding of ones audience and potential customers in terms of their preferences, behaviors, etc.
- Products and Services – This dimension analyses the available products and services in the market from competitors, and analyzing ones product and services portfolio in that light to identify future opportunities.
- Competitive Analysis – Analysis of this dimension involves identifying your organization’s key competitors, their market positioning, and an assessment to compete with them in the marketplace.
- Assessment of Suppliers and partners – Every organization requires partners and suppliers to help it meet its goals and objectives. This dimension analyzes the market and ones suppliers and partners to assess an organization’s strengths and weaknesses in an effort to create future opportunities.
The above are some of the key dimensions that must be assessed in the strategy development process. For each of these dimensions, the organization should do a current assessment and based on the future trends, develop an appropriate strategy.
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In this post, we will review the interaction between the program and project teams and how a program manager interacts with the various project managers on the program team including defining the flow of information and communication between project teams and the overall program. Here are a few important guidelines.
- First, it’s important to realize that the program manager doesn’t directly manage the project teams. The program manager’s role is confined to ensure that the program stays focused on the delivery of the benefits, and that those benefits are aligned to the overall organization strategy. In that context, the program manager’s works closely with all the stakeholders and the program governance board and keeps expectations aligned. The program manager also maintains the overarching governance on the various program components.
- Managing of the projects is part of the project manager’s job. The program manager’s interaction with the project managers and their teams is at a level where the program manager is focused on the program level outcomes and benefits. So, this means focusing on the project outcomes translate into program benefits and integrate with the overall program’s outcomes and benefits. It’s the project manager’s task to focus on the lower level deliverables and to map those deliverables to the program level benefits.
- The program manager’s primary task is to know of the interdependencies between various projects and other program components. These program manager must identify and reconcile those interdependencies between projects to ensure smooth completion of projects as well as to ensure that the delivery of the overall program benefits aren’t impacted.
- The program manager’s task is to resolve issues that are escalated from projects to a program level, especially if those issues impact multiple projects across the program.
- The program manager must provide guidance to all the project managers on how he or she expects the flow of communication and other information to be between the projects and the program teams. For example, in this context, the program manager may define the communication of progress reports from the project teams, escalation of issues and risks, and so on.
- In defining the overall interaction between the program and the components and projects, the program management team preferably defines a mapping between the program governance processes and the project management processes. This mapping clarifies the overall interaction between the two teams.
In summary, part of the program manager’s task is to define this interaction between programs and projects during the early phases of the program, preferably during the program initiation phases to ensure that the expectations are set accordingly with the project managers. This interaction includes the flow of information and communication between project teams and the overall program.
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Program management maturity refers to the degree to which an organization engages in formalized methods and processes to select, prioritize, fund, initiate, and execute its programs. Better program management maturity allows the organization to select strategic programs that can deliver the maximum benefits for a positive and optimum ROI.
In general, achieving a higher degree of program management maturity provides the organization with the following benefits:
- Selected programs are aligned to an organization’s strategy
- A program’s benefits are analyzed more formally to ensure they bring the best value to the organization.
- If at anytime during a program’s execution, a program is no longer aligned to the organization’s strategy and is no longer considered to bring the value and benefits that are in the interest of the organization, it is considered for cancellation and closure. This can save the organization a lot in terms of cost and effort than situations where such programs continue to run like a runaway train and crash at the end wasting an organization’s time, capital, and resources.
- An organization more mature in its program management practices becomes better at estimating the cost and time and in delivering successful business outcomes.
- An organization with mature program management practices makes the best use of an organization’s resources in delivering value to the overall enterprise.
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A program roadmap includes all the key milestones and events that come during the program, especially as those milestones relate to delivery of program benefits along a timeline. Including those milestones on a roadmap is essential for many reasons. First, as the program is still at a high level stage of execution, listing the key milestones along with the benefits that will be realized gives executives and program sponsors a sense of the program’s direction. Second, the creation of the roadmap servers as the document to align with the organization’s overall strategy. Inclusion of milestones that are related to specific benefits maintains that view at that level. The creation of roadmap also serves as the basic guide for the program manager during the program execution phase and the program manager usually uses that to communicate to the executives in how far the program has progressed in terms of delivering the overall strategic goals and objectives of the program. The roadmap can also serve as the foundation to break the program into sub-components and projects based on the specific benefits that the will bring to the program.
Back to Program management concepts and terms
When establishing program governance for a newly established program, a program manager takes on the responsibility for establishing program governance that governs all aspects of the program. In this context, the program manager is responsible for the governance of the program. This includes governing all the components and projects of the program and issues related to their execution and successful delivery of each of their benefits that together contribute to the overall program benefits.
However, one element related to program governance that doesn’t get much attention is the definition of the interaction between the program governance board and the program itself. The program governance board goes by different names in different organizations including steering committee, board of directors, etc. The program governance board is needed to interact with the program for many reasons and unless those functions and processes are clearly defined, it can result in chaos after the program starts. Those elements of governance between the program governance board and the program include the following:
- Program initiation – This includes approving the program’s business case along with the final authorization and issuance of the program charter.
- Program funding – The program governance board has the complete financial responsibility of the initial funding and any funding related details and decisions after the initiation of the program.
- Program reviews – The program governance board should specify details related to the periodic program reviews.
- Program component and project initiation – The program governance board takes an active role before the initiation of the projects and components of the program and during their closure to ensure that they delivered the benefits that they were chartered to deliver.
- Formulating a detailed program governance plan – This plan includes processes such as those detailing the structure of the governance board and the overall structure, detailing the responsibilities of all parties within the governance structure, phase gate reviews, other reviews and their schedules, escalation processes, program level change management, defining the success criteria for program’s overall success, quality control and assurance standards, and reporting and control processes.
- Program acceptance criteria – The program governance board specifies the criteria related to the acceptance of the program’s various components and projects and their acceptance.
To conclude, when getting involved with a program, a program manager should ensure that not only those aspects of governance are defined that will enable him or her to control various projects and other components of the program but also to ensure defining and clarifying those aspects that pertain to the program interacting and reporting to the program governance board.
Almost every industry has consultants. These are professionals who clients turn to in their respective industries to help them resolve specific problems. This article will review the problems solved by consultants, steps to become a consultant, tips to succeed as a consultant, and the skills required to become a consultant.
Client Problems Solved by Consultants
Typical problems that consultants work on include the following:
- Assess business profitability and improve profit margins
- Assess business processes and help improve efficiencies
- Help with sales and marketing
- Establish a repeatable process for certain areas of the business (e.g. getting leads)
- Evaluate problems in certain areas of the business and identify root causes and provide recommendations for improvements
- Provide recommendations on new technology adoption and potential automation
Steps to Become a Consultant
Most consultants go through the following steps. However, if you are new to the field, you may find it difficult to go through all these steps. You should then also review the tips included at the end of this article to overcome any challenges associated with lack of experience and knowledge.
- Become a subject matter expert: This is the most obvious and most important step. This has to do with having the knowledge required to become a consultant. Without knowledge in your focus area, it would be difficult for your clients to trust you and to hire you. Developing subject matter expertise in your area takes time and patience. You must have enough knowledge to be able to resolve your client’s problems. People get subject matter knowledge through experience, formal education, self development, and the many other avenues.
- Get the Required Experience: This has to do with having the experience to give you the confidence to help you succeed. A consultant must have a portfolio of experience to show to their clients to be able to sell their services. Besides, the more experience you have resolving your client’s problems, the better you will be able to handle future clients.
- Establish your authority: If you have enough knowledge and experience to get started as a consultant, the next step is to establish the authority to help you become more visible in your area. In this digital era, this is not so difficult as you you can create a blog and host online events to write about or talk about topics related to your subject matter expertise. As you start doing this, it will further increase your knowledge and will also get your name out as a subject matter expert helping you in turn to get more client leads.
- Start establishing a network: One of the most important things that every consultant needs is a network of other related service providers. Solving a client’s problems many times requires much more than what you alone can offer. In such cases, you can take a lead in guiding your client to other service providers. If you can build your own network of service providers, they can refer to you for your expertise when they get clients.
- Establish a process to get leads: One of the most important things that you will need is to get leads. It’s important therefore that you establish a process, which guarantees you a steady number of leads regularly that you can follow-up with to earn more clients.
Tips to Succeed as a Consultant
- If you are starting your career or don’t have a lot of experience in the area of your expertise, you should consider joining a consulting firm that can help you with the process. For example, top consulting firms hire fresh graduates from universities for their abilities to do research and problem solving skills. This gives them the opportunity to get involved with client engagements and then gain the experience and knowledge that they will need to become independent consultants.
- You should develop a mindset of that of a consultant. Consultants have the mindset of thinking like their clients and providing solutions and answers to satisfy their client needs.
- You must know where your clients are going to come from. This is where knowing where your clients are can be very helpful. In the digital economy, you should explore various avenues of digital marketing to help you get leads.
Skills Required to Become a Top Notch Consultant
You should also look to learn skills that can help you succeed as a consultant. Here are some of the skills that you will need to become a successful consultant.
- Verbal communication skills
- Written communication skills
- Client management
- Ability to listen
- Influencing skills
- Negotiating skills
To learn more about how to become a consultant, sign-up below and get more information.