When I got my PMP certification more than a decade ago, program management was barely on the radar. It might have been because I work in the architectural-engineering-construction (AEC) industry, which s mostly a project-focused industry. Still, for whatever reason, program management was just not something we dealt with. And obtaining PMI’s PgMP (program management professional) certification was not nearly as common as setting for, and obtaining, the PMP. Currently, however, I see more and more program-related work across all industries. In fact, many of the larger AEC companies are now seeking to hire program managers.
Per PMI, program management is defined as applying knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to meet program requirements. And a program is a group of related projects managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually. In other words, if you can manage related projects in a concerted manner, which will lead to better results than if you manage them separately, then program management is the way to go. For example, if you have a series of projects that typically have the same sponsor and share resources, have tasks and success criteria related. It makes sense to bundle them up and work with each of the projects’ managers to achieve success for the sponsor and your organization.
Currently, program management is getting a lot of attention. The reasons are not only due to the benefits that program management brings but also that more and more projects are getting bundled up for convenience and/or efficiency. Some of the benefits of program management are as follows:
- Ease of achieving organizational goals across interrelated projects
- Effectively manage and share resources across projects. This is especially important since there is a shortage of project managers and other staff across most industries.
- The efficiency of addressing common risks across the various projects in the program
- Conflict management is easier since there is a clear hierarchy that leads up to the program manager and down through the project managers. Oftentimes, there is a conflict between projects as project teams compete for staff and other resources. In a program, the program manager can look at the whole picture and make the appropriate decisions.
- Project selection. In a program, careful consideration is given to choosing interrelated projects, which can further the organization’s goals and simplify their execution.
For the foreseeable future, I would recommend that all project managers improve their program management skills, which can be done through education courses, studying, and, whenever possible, integrating program management into our daily work. And, as the need arises, you might consider applying and setting for the PgMP exam. However, it is hard to determine where the need for program managers will end up over the next few years; having the skills necessary to run a program can only help when getting a new job or promotion since more and more companies are recognizing the benefits of program management as related to their organization’s strategic plans.