7 Essential Measures You Can Take to Improve Program Management
There are bound to be some surprises when it comes to managing parallel projects. Here are 7 essential measures you can take to improve program management.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
Program Management is a complex jumble of brilliant projects all maintained together to keep the affairs of a company in order — or any company for that matter. But handling multiple projects altogether can be quite challenging and may cause the company damage if not handled correctly. If it isn’t, that may result in:
- Quality issues.
- Overloading of employees.
- An unnecessary increase in costs.
- Inefficient scheduling.
These are troublesome issues, but the right environment is the key to help you and your team to improve program management and remedy these problems.
Common Challenges in Program Management?
Anyone who is or has been a part of the program environment at any time in their career would know that it is comprised of multiple projects. You have to work on different projects in the program management paradigm while using the same resource pool for all of them.
In addition to that, the functioning of the whole shebang is hindered by these circumstances of the multi-project environment as well:
- Precise project information is required.
- Some projects are interdependent.
- Projects are implemented in different departments.
- Project costs have to correspond to the budget.
- Report requirements become increasingly complex.
- Resources from different departments need to be coordinated.
- The projects’ priority and strategic contribution can change.
- The project environment becomes more and more international.
- Decisions have to be made in a short space of time.
Generic Definition of Program Management
As you have read earlier, program management is a procedure to manage all the projects in a parallel format while using the same resource arsenal. If you want to put it in other words, then program management can also be called multi-project management.
Why is there a need to do that? Because all of the projects are drinking from the same resource pool and we have to make sure that all the projects are coordinated and finished properly before they dry up the pool without any tangible results.
What Are the Problems and Their Causes in Program Management?
It is a known fact that when there are bound to be some surprises when it comes to managing parallel projects. Some of these problems are:
- Variations in quality.
- Resource conflicts.
- Cost increase.
The reasons being:
- Improper closure and documentation of projects.
- Wrong priorities for initiatives and projects.
- Wrong decisions in the case of resource conflicts.
- Unrealistic planning of delivery dates and efforts.
- Unprofessional management of the projects.
- Missing overview of all projects and resources.
If you are successful in eradicating these problems, or even reducing them to some extent, your projects will be deemed successful. To help you in that, here are 7 essential measures you can take to improve program management.
1. An Overview of All the Projects and Their Associated Resources Should Be Provided
To succeed in program management, you need to keep track of all of the projects parallelly. For that, you really need to have a centralized database. This will help you to produce the required reports for information regarding the project and also for more informed decisions in the future.
This overview will help us acquire the following information:
- Resource and cost charts.
- Risk matrix.
- Portfolio and pipeline overviews.
- Status reports.
2. Your Program Management Office Should Be Used for Standards, Methods, and Processes
If you really want to meet the criteria for keeping all of those projects afloat simultaneously, your projects should meet the standards set by the PMO. You also need to clarify the processes for planning the projects and updating them as necessary in the future.
As the path you choose or the decisions you make have an effect on all of the projects simultaneously, you should manage all of them at the same intervals. Also, you should always use the information that has been procured recently, otherwise, you won’t be able to make an informed decision.
This information is very important as it will let all of the project managers involved in the projects know what they have to do and when they have to do it. This is why it is highly recommended that they should get the required training and supervision before starting any project.
To gather and communicate all of this information, your Program Management Office plays a great role to keep this wheel turning simultaneously. The PMO also helps in improving the maturity level of project management. Some of these improvements are as follows:
- Introduction of a useful tool for resource, portfolio, and project management.
- Training project managers.
- Determining how projects are initiated.
- Establishing processes and methods.
- Coordinating resource requests.
- Supporting the roles involved.
- Ensuring reports are up to date, complete, and plausible.
Other benefits of an effective PMO are:
- The improved strategic direction of the projects.
- Reduction of resource conflicts.
- A decrease in project delays, costs, and effort overruns.
- Time savings due to routine and training.
- Improved profitability of customer projects.
3. Initiatives and Projects Should Be Prioritized Appropriately
Priorities should be appointed to all of the projects so that all of the project managers would know which project they should dedicate their attention to, first. This will help them to not get overwhelmed with a lot of projects at once. These priorities should be in line with the corporate strategy.
To make prioritization much easier, we would recommend that you make a decision matrix. What that will do is that it will help differentiate between all of the different project types and the operations. This project analysis design should be unique to every company.
Your prioritization should be quite independent of the project type but if you really need a suggestion regarding this, use the most resources for the most important projects.
4. Be Vigilant and Strategize Your Capacity Planning
What is strategizing your Capacity Planning? Well, it has one aim and that is the allocation of employees to their respective projects according to the skills they have. You will also need to ensure that all the resources are available at the right time to utilize them for the relevant projects.
If the project managers are not vigilant, they may face the following risks:
- Projects do not get finished on schedule because the resources are not allocated properly.
- The cost of the Project increases drastically, as you are not using enough appropriate resources and it takes more time to complete.
- Coordination efforts for resolving resource conflicts are significantly higher.
- Business opportunities cannot be exploited due to the unavailable skills that were not acquired on time.
- All of this can result in dissatisfied customers.
If everything goes well and the resource planning is performed with an excellent strategy, the following benefits are gained:
- You recognize resource bottlenecks in good time, and they are dealt with them quickly according to the corporate strategy.
- Reserving the most resources for the most important projects is ensured rather than the resources being used for low-priority projects.
- The overview of project assignments, resources, and operations, that was discussed above will keep the managers informed about overall resource usage.
- Program scheduling is improved because you will have complete information about all of the projects that are being done or any additions that are happening in the projects.
- Many resource conflicts are avoided.
5. Tactical Support Planning Should Be Optimally Supported
What exactly is tactical support planning? Well, it is the process of coordinating the team leader with the project manager. Project managers allocate the appropriate resources to the relevant projects.
When they do that, the project managers are keen to acquire the team members that they had in mind for the projects. The final say in the utilization of the resources is of the respective team leaders.
Resource Planning is a tiresome process for team leaders and project managers because of the following reasons:
- Absences due to illness tend to be unexpected.
- The efforts required for the projects might not be properly estimated.
- The interchangeability of the team members might not be as simple as initially assumed.
- Project scope and delivery dates might be altered.
To achieve success in the process of resource planning, the team leaders and the project managers need to follow these steps:
- Planning project assignments differ between line and matrix organizations.
- Planning should be considered complete when the operations, project assignments, and absences of all of the team members have been properly recorded.
- The team leaders should be the main entity in planning what’s best for the team members.
- Project availability is determined by looking at the capacity minus absences and operations.
6. Transparency of Cross-Project Dependencies Must be Properly Ensured
The committee that has to select all of the targets regarding program management does so at regular intervals. This includes orders in accordance with the milestones at the interfaces.
These orders are attached to the relevant projects and it’s the job of the project managers to successfully implement them.
7. Cost Tracking and Cross-Project Budget Planning Must Be Simplified
When the project commences and the tasks are performed, the controllers and the project managers are dependent on the data provided by the other party. This calls for the automation of this data transfer because both of the projects need that data quickly and an automatic transfer will make the tasks be performed more seamlessly.
Without this automation in place, the following things would be impossible to achieve:
- Quick distribution of remaining budgets between the projects.
- On-time Monthly billing.
This list isn’t conclusive right now. Possibly due to the fact that project management is a vast domain and things are always changing for the better. We will be adding more to it as weeks go by. If you have anything to share; comments, questions, or thoughts, let us know through the comments section below. You can also write to us at any time you want!
Published at DZone with permission of Steve Parker. See the original article here.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.