The Difference Between Project and Program Management
Every business often undertakes different projects and programs. These are the baseline of the business existence. The two terms are often used interchangeably. That’s because their scope typically crisscrosses as program management and project management disciplines on the whole.
An example of program management could be a long-term goal of making your multinational eco-friendly. Achieving this would require many shorter projects, such as marketing campaigns that promote new principles and issuing new company policies.
At their most intrinsic level, program management is uniquely different from project management.
To understand project management, you need to know what a project is. A project is a specific, singular undertaking aimed at delivering a certain outcome. Project management involves ensuring the project delivers tangible output within the specific budget and timeframe. The process leverages methods, skills, experience, and tools to meet its objective.
On the other hand, program management involves managing programs associated with business objectives of improving organizational performance. When we talk of a program, we are referring to multiple projects that are managed and delivered as a single unit/package. In this case, the program manager would oversee multiple projects that make up the program.
Program Management Best Practices 2022
#1: Achieve participation
Any program you undertake will not excel if you do not encourage participation. Program participation means bringing all stakeholders on board so that everyone feels to be part of the undertaking. The beneficiaries should be involved in the decision-making process to give them a sense of ownership.
#2: Get a consensus
The large size of a program makes it impossible to have just one point of view. Instead, you will likely encounter varying viewpoints from all the stakeholders. For that reason, you need to build consensus to be on the right path to success. Consensus building requires a good faith effort to satisfy stakeholder interests and achieve unanimous agreement.
One key way to achieve consensus in program management is to involve the right people and set expectations. Keenly evaluate who you are dealing with in the program and ensure those taking part have a solid understanding of your goals.
#3: Effective communication
Communication plays a critical role in program management. The lack of strong communication skills makes it difficult or even impossible for the program manager to manage teams and coordinate efforts. Remember that the core role of the program manager is to coordinate various projects identified under the umbrella program.
Doing this requires them to get information and disseminate it across the teams involved. Strong communication skills help avoid ills such as effort duplication and clarify shared goals for the entire team.
#4: Equitable and inclusive
All stakeholders of the program must feel that they are appreciated and wanted without sensing some type of exclusion. Even though team members may have varying strengths and weaknesses, you cannot risk appreciating some more than others. Instead, leverage the strengths that each person brings for the benefit of the entire program.
How to Start a Program?
The bottom line of starting a program is program planning. The kind of plan you have will guide you on the details that go into it. Planning can be resource intensive, but it is important for the success of your program. You lack clarity of what you intend to achieve if you do not have any plan.
There are some responsibilities that you must define as part of program planning. These include:
- Senior responsible owner – Takes the role of approving the program plan and heads monitoring activities
- Program manager – Designs and implements the program plan, alongside coordinating all the teams involved
- Business change manager – Manages all transitions in the business and closely works with the program manager to define the project portfolio
- Program management office – Supports the program manager in developing and implementing control processes
Strategic Business Value of Program Goals
The strategic value of program goals in a business cannot be overstated. When you get it right and align all the elements involved, it can be the main reason why your business runs smoothly.
It ensures that the different pieces of work performed by your team are focused in the same direction to achieve a set goal. The program goal will ensure that project teams operate without the distractions of tasks getting out of hand or projects spinning out of control.
An organization that has a program goal and uses the right tools, like Smartsheet program management templates, is well set to achieve its strategic goals. It introduces a program manager whose main task is to coordinate how different project teams operate so that everyone remains on track.
Program management also establishes well-defined leadership in the organization. When you lack program management, you become like a ship that’s operating without a rudder and is not headed in any specific direction.
Since your program plan requires you to have a certain structure in your leadership, you have an opportunity to give the organization the right project team that takes it in a defined direction. Add a business value and reach the program goals via structured program and project management with PPM Express. See the Smartsheet vs. PPM Express integration in action.
Tips and Pitfalls of Program Management
Even as you handle your program through tools such as Smartsheet task management, there are some tips that increase your chances of success. These are:
#1: Set control processes
You must have clarity on how individual projects are controlled in your company. A lack of these control processes can mean the program would not function entirely. Controlling the whole program requires you to be able to control individual projects. That needs detailed planning involving a steering committee.
#2: Highlight unique features of the program
Different programs tend to have varying ways of handling them, especially if it involves external forces. Thus, it is necessary that you know everything that makes your program unique and checks how they fit into the PMO standards. Your project managers must know the guidelines and commit to following them to make program management a success.
#3: Set in place a breakdown structure
Each project must have a work breakdown structure. On the other hand, the program ought to leverage the interdependence of your projects. You can even define milestones that assist in monitoring the program.
While at it, remember to create a master project for the program, which would harbor important control information. Other partial deliverables can converge and be controlled from the master project.
#4: Adopt a strong program management tool
Your program efforts will not succeed if you lack a strong management tool like PPM Express and Smartsheet portfolio management to help with the process. The tool chosen should provide bottom-up and top-down control measures for various projects involved.
Program Management Software: PPM Express vs. Smartsheet
When planning for your program management software, you will often come across Smartsheet and alternatives. However, PPM Express and Smartsheet integration can help you to gain a considerable advantage in use. Therefore, the users have an opportunity to integrate all the Smartsheet functionality into PPM Express to conduct project portfolio management.
PPM Express not only gives you an all-in-one platform for managing your program but also integrates with other tools such as Microsoft Planner, Jira Software, and Microsoft Project to give you immense power.
On the other hand, Smartsheet is an online-based work management software that’s created in a spreadsheet format. The tool is also used for collaboration, integration, accessibility, and visibility. Whereas Smartsheet has these abilities, it tends to have limitations when it comes to program management, hence necessitating integration with a platform like PPM Express to give it desired functionalities.
Both PPM Express and Smartsheet share the following features:
- External Integrations
- Data Export
- Task Scheduling/Tracking
- Gantt Charts
- Data Import
- Resource Management
Whereas many companies use project management Smartsheet, PPM Express is different. It gives you an opportunity to manage risks, issues, change requests, action items, and project dependencies on a project level and view the summary information across projects on a program level.
The cloud-based software that runs in Microsoft Azure comes ready to use and does not require a consultant to make changes. That makes it an ideal choice for your program management requirements.