In today's hyper business environment, organizations must develop new products and services quickly, before their market disappears. Frequently, this requires managing several ongoing inter-related projects at the same time, known as project program management.
Researcher Mihaly Görög of Corvinus University of Budapest in Hungary set out to discover how single-project management tools can be applied to program management in order to improve efficiencies.
He studied completed project programs and their associated projects in six companies, all from different industries. He interviewed key management executives, project and program managers, sponsors and team members.
He examined the six project programs to determine their organizational framework, scope, implementation plans, resource allocation, cost estimations and controls.
Görög also studied the problems that these organizations encountered as they executed their projects and project programs, such as
• Scope definition and change-management
• Project control
• Planning (scheduling, resource allocation, cost estimation)
From these findings, Görög developed a more comprehensive definition for determining whether a collection of inter-related projects is actually a project program.
"A project program is more than a group of projects," says Görög. Besides the common underlying strategic objective, he says, "we identified two specific inter-relationships that transform a group of projects into a project program - resource-related and scope-related interdependence."
He defines resource-related interdependence as the common resources required to implement the program, and scope-related interdependence as the reliance of one program-project outcome on the outcomes of other program projects, and vice versa.
He found that the following project-management tools are useful for single projects, and examined how these were applied in the context of the six project programs:
• organizational arrangements - decision-making and coordination
• project implementation plans (especially the task-responsibility matrix) - coordination and resource allocation
• project control (i.e. both scope and process control) - decision- making, change management, and monitoring
• structural plans (i.e., capability-breakdown structure and product-breakdown structure) (see footnote 1) - scope definition and change management
He found that applying single-project management tools is most effective when:
• a program's projects are connected by resource-related interdependence (interrelationships). "The program-level use of the resource-allocation tools and the so-called double scheduling (see footnote 2) then become very important," he says, to avoid resource congestion as demand escalates during program implementation.
• a program's projects are connected by scope-related interdependence (interrelationships). "In this case, the program strategy becomes very important," he says. "It is difficult but critical to define the scope of the expected program result and the associated scope of the project results."
Görög concludes that "program management is not scaled-up project management," and says that single-project management tools can play a decisive role in overcoming the principal problems encountered in project programs.
1) The capability-breakdown structure supports the strategy-oriented scope definition by identifying the required functional and non-functional capabilities of the desired project result. The product-breakdown structure revealed the means (technical solution, built-in materials, etc.) for realizing the required capabilities
2) Double scheduling: The first step is scheduling each project based on its own precedent relationships characteristic of the project in question. Then the program's projects should be scheduled in order to avoid resource congestion during program implementation
Source: Görög, M. "Translating single project management knowledge to project programs", Project Management Journal, 42:2, March 2011, pp.17-31.
PMPerspectives.org is a website which connects project managers and sponsors with project management researchers. Our mission is to understand and improve projectmanagement practices. The research team comprises Dr. Blaize Horner Reich and Dr. Andrew Gemino from Simon Fraser University, Canada and Dr. Chris Sauer from Oxford University, UK.
© Reich, Gemino, Sauer (2012)
This article was reposted in 2013 with minor typographic corrections.