Author: Paramu Kurumathur

Program Management Tip 6 – Dot your I’s and cross your T’s – Understand the program commercials and contracts clearly

First of all, understand how and whence the funding for your program comes. Unlike a project, program funding normally is done on an ongoing basis (probably based on reaching of milestones) and you need to be aware of when you will have what funds in your hands. You also may need to be aware that sometimes your funding may come from different sources (organisations or departments). Once you are clear on this, you need to make sure that you have a handle on the money outflow or costs. Get a clear idea on this and then compare this with the benefits your program is delivering. This will help you articulate the RoI. Picture source: vectordesigndownload.com You need also to be aware of the fact that the funding may be made available in a foreign currency and that your budget planning may need to cater for foreign-exchange fluctuations. Make sure that you are familiar with the key clauses in the various contracts (with customer, with vendors, with sub-contractors etc.) within the program ambit. If there are any clauses that make you uncomfortable make sure you bring it to your boss’s attention and see if you can re-negotiate the clauses. Contracts between you and any of the stakeholders normally mention the scope of work, acceptance criteria, mutual responsibilities, escalation paths and guidelines on either side, penalty / incentive clauses. You would of...

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Program Management Tip 5 – Skating away on the thin ice of the new day – Keep your eye on the program risks

Identify the program risks and figure out ways to mitigate the risks. Learn to recognise symptoms that a risk scenario may be triggered. Picture source: cumbriacrack.com A program risk is an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs has a (normally) negative effect on at least one program objective. Risk Management is the systematic process by which you plan for identifying, analysing, monitoring and responding to program risks. Program risk management helps you make informed decisions regarding alternative approaches and the relative risks of each approach so that you increase the likelihood of success. As a result you can minimise adverse impacts to scope, cost and schedule and quality and maximize opportunities to achieve the program objectives with lower cost, shorter schedules, enhanced scope and higher quality. Ensure that you are clear on what is a risk to the whole program as opposed what is a risk to a component project. There is no point in your flapping around and wasting a lot of time trying to manage a risk that needs to be managed by a project manager (unless of course, the project manager comes to you for help). And how would you judge whether a risk is a program risk or a project risk? Is the risk affecting RoI or benefits delivery? Is it affecting organizational strategy delivery? Is it a risk based on market / environmental...

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Program Management Tip 4 – Use support structures and technologies to your advantage

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” Bill Gates Creating and maintaining a Program Management Office (PgMO) will help you achieve clear and consistent processes for the program and for all projects within the program in line with standard practice, methodology and the organization’s goals. The PgMO will support you in handling aspects around the management of the program from organizing to controlling the program through the life cycle of the program like initiation, planning, execution and closure. The PgMO can help you prepare for reviews by mining for and getting the right data to help you solidify your position and help you create reports demanded by the various stakeholders. The PgMO can also be used as a progress chaser to ensure actions from meetings are completed on time. Issues tracking towards closure and watching for risks can also be done by the PgMO. Many a program manager I know spend a lot of time on routine work which would better have been done by a PgMO. This would have freed up the program manager’s job for more productive strategic work. It saves a lot of time if you implement technologies for collaboration, reporting, reviews, tracking and monitoring. I do...

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Program Management Tip 3 – They hold all the stakes – Map them out

This is the most critical aspect of your job. Do this well and you are more than half-way to success. A stakeholder is a person, a group or an organisation that has an interest (stake) in your program. Stakeholders both affect the program and are affected by it. Examples of stakeholders are customers, funders, internal management, teams, governance structure, partners, vendors etc. You may already have a good idea of all your stakeholders and their expectations from the program. But it is always a good idea to sit back and make a list of all your stakeholders. It is important here to differentiate between stakeholders of the projects and sub-programs under your program and the stakeholders of your program. Of course, a stakeholder of a project within the ambit of your program is definitely a stakeholder of yours. But she is only an indirect stakeholder. This stakeholder will be dealt with, and her expectations managed by, the project manager under you. You should focus on your own stakeholders and not overly on the project stakeholders (unless there is an escalation to you) or you may spread yourselves too thin. Program stakeholders generally tend to be at a more senior level in the customer (or other) organisation and tend to be business leaders there. Also, program stakeholders tend be interested in long-term engagements. They also tend to be more geographically...

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Program Management Tip 2 – Don’t fail to see the forest for the trees – Understand the big picture

Picture source: hdwallsource.com Make an effort to understand how the program fits into the big picture of the customer. Normally programs are launched to implement or support the implementation of a strategic objective. Understand how your program ties to this objective. What is the time-frame and what are the outcomes? How does your project deliver benefits that can support the outcome of the objective? Knowing this will help you when you negotiate with your customer and other stakeholders. Changes and other initiatives coming in midway can be measured against the yardstick of the objective. Any changes and other initiatives that do not directly benefit the furtherance of the objective need not be considered within the current scope. Knowing the objective is also important for motivating the team. When the team sees the connection between the results of what they are doing and the outcomes of the objective, it gives an added impetus to their enthusiasm for the work. The Program Charter is the key document that you should have in a program. This will tell you what your authority is and what your responsibilities are and what is expected of you. It authorises you, on the authority of the Program Governance Board (PGB), to execute the program on its behalf. You can wave this in the faces of departments like admin, HR etc. to ensure that they provide the...

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