The life cycle of program management

Depending on the type of program (merger & acquisitions, power plant construction, pharmaceutical product, etc.), usually different phase models are used to manage the program. Regardless of the species-specific used

Organizational aspects of program management

Program management is embedded in the context of project portfolio management and a program management office.

  • The program manager is responsible for program management.
  • The project managers are responsible for the management of their respective projects.
  • The Office program provides central administrative support for the program managers 
  • The Program Management Office (PMO) is responsible for defining and managing the program-related governance processes, methods and procedures, templates, etc.

Program and project offices are often set up for programs or large projects.

The teams at these offices are usually concerned with administrative tasks. These include collecting, analyzing and preparing project progress reports, preparing steering committee and board meetings, preparing decision templates and presentations, etc.

Program management offices, on the other hand, are more strategically oriented and address project work company-wide or within one area (division, business area, etc.). The aim is to firmly anchor project management as a best practice in the organization.

Large companies have PMOs at both group and division levels and in practice have different names. Project Management Excellence Center or Project Management Office are common names.

The program board as a general control body is among others responsible for:

Methods for comprehensive program planning and control

In addition to the generic definition of the program life cycle, the PMI® Program Management Standard structures the program management in process groups as they are known from the standard for individual project management [PMBOK]:

  • Initiation Process Group
  • Planning Process Group

Executing Process Group

  • Monitoring and Controlling Process Group
  • Closing Process Group
  • Initialization of the program
  • Approval of program plans and approval of any deviations that may occur
  • Checking and evaluating program progress, ongoing benefits, and costs
  • Decisions on problems that cannot be solved by the program manager
  • Securing resources
  • Establish a framework for investment decisions for the program

The process groups are composed of individual processes, the input, and the output of which are described. Process groups interact both within and across other process groups.

The input and output of each process is in the form of information objects (plans, inquiries, documentations, etc.) i.e. of “what is required”. The specific design with which methodology is to be used in detail remains open. It would probably also include the scope of a

The framework goes beyond listing every possible methodology in detail.

Please note: The Program Life Cycle describes the timing of the program. The process groups have no direct link to the Life Cycle. One or more processes from a process group are usually Executed at least once in each phase.

Example: “Interface Planning”

The process group “Planning Process Group” includes the individual processes:

  • Develop a Program Management Plan
  • Interface planning
  • Transition planning
  • Resource planning
  • Scope definition
  • Create Program Work Breakdown Structure
  • Schedule development
  • Cost Estimation and Budgeting

As well as six further individual processes.

“Interface planning” is described as a process for identifying and depicting dependencies within the program or between programs within a portfolio or with regard to external factors.

Identifying content-related and temporal dependencies is a critical task. Decisions in individual projects often have an impact on other projects.

“Interface Planning” process – Source: based on

But how can content, technical and resource-related dependencies be identified?

An interdependence analysis like that of Prof. Dr. Arno Müller and Lars von Thienen, bps – business process solutions GmbH, can serve as a simple but effective tool.

The interdependence analysis is intended to identify content-related, technical and resource-related interactions (synergy and conflicts).

The projects are shown in a matrix as rows and columns, compared in pairs and evaluated with a 3-stage evaluation factor (0- no influence, 3-medium influence, 6-strong influence). It can be determined beforehand what type of influence (content, technology, resources, etc.) is considered.

The resulting column and row totals provide information about the degree of influence. High values for the row total indicate a high degree of influence that this project has on other projects. In return, a high value for the column total indicates that this project is strongly influenced by other projects.

Best Practices – Relevant standards for project and program management, PMO and portfolio management

The categories “Critical Projects”, “Active”, “Passive” and “Damping Projects” can now be formed and recommendations for action can be derived from them.

Critical projects have to be constantly monitored, problems quickly remedied and information flows between the projects effectively designed.

Active projects themselves have a strong influence on other projects but are less influenced by other projects. Project managers of these projects must report changes or disruptions to the project managers of the other projects at an early stage. Passive projects have little influence on other projects but are strongly influenced by other projects. The project managers of these projects have to make sure that they always have information from the other projects.

Damping projects have little impact on other projects and are little influenced by other projects. These projects can, therefore, be managed relatively independently.