Relating Programs and their Projects

According to PMI’s Standard for Program Management, programs consist of three components: a life cycle, a set of process groups and supporting infrastructure.  This sure makes a lot of sense.  These components provide a common frame of reference for any program.  They stretch from a program’s controlled start through its controlled middle where project and other work is being done and on to the controlled end of the program.  

The program life cycle breaks your program into discrete phases or stages for control.  These phases or stages may be overlapping.  The program life cycle infrastructure supports the program manager and provides them with all of the information needed to effectively manage their program.  The process groups organize the activities within the program phases or stages.  I think this trio of components is a neat way to package up how you manage and control your program from start to finish.

Let’s make sure we can clearly distinguish between the program life cycle and a project life cycle within the program itself.  Programs target managing outcomes and accruing incremental business benefits.  Programs generate discrete deliverables and capabilities at the completion of their life cycle, and the resulting benefits from these capabilities flow into the program. Remember, many programs may have an extended life cycle encompassing their constituent projects and elements of related work as they start and finish within the program life cycle. Some completed projects within our program may be transitioning to operations while others are just getting started.

In contrast with the program life cycle, a project life cycle assists the project manager in controlling and managing project deliverables.  Within a program, there may be several projects following their own project life cycles.  These project life cycles may be different based upon the types of projects being done and the application areas those projects address.

Projects deliver program benefits in two ways.   The first way is that several of a program’s projects and their resulting capabilities may need to be integrated in order to provide some or all of the program’s benefits.  On the flip side, some projects may produce business benefits that can be realized immediately by the program when the project is complete.  Another way to look at projects is that they are focused on deliverables versus managing outcome and accruing incremental business benefits.

Well, there’s a quick look at the relationships between programs and projects.  Program managers, spend some serious time with the Standard for Program Management and learn more about the subject while preparing for your PgMP certification exam with Learning Tree’s course:  Preparing for the Program Management Professional (PgMP)® Exam

Susan Weese

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