What are the Program Management Challenges?

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What are the Program Management Challenges?

As part of a project and program management consultancy company, I visit companies which both struggle and succeed with program management. I sometimes stand back and ask myself the question, “why”? Why does program management fail or doesn’t have a presence in this company? I do not believe company’s overall problems in program management can be attributed to specific tools or techniques or even the process of working. To me the problem stems from a culture of acceptance and need. Let me explain this. Do you or your company believe program management to be a vital part of the company’s overall performance? If the answer is YES, then you will be more successful than a company who considers it irrelevant. In other words, program management needs to be an integral part of the corporate culture.

Let’s consider some of the challenges / barriers to successful adopting of a program management culture within any company:

  • Develop knowledge – your people can simply lack the basic knowledge of what program management is trying to achieve. I do not run into too many companies anymore with a total absence of knowledge in this regard. The conceptual foundation of program management has been around for a number of years. But the gap in knowledge is not what program management is, but how it will be adopted to drive success through the organisation.
  • Lack of organisational view – adopting a formal approach to program management and showing how it links with project management and strategic management is a must. A company that does not adopt a formal structure / process for program management will struggle. Consequently, informal and inconsistent approaches to program management are used with mixed results. This is a much more common occurrence than finding a company devoid of knowledge in program management.
  • Poor connection to strategic management – People seem to naturally underestimate the magnitude of program management and what it can achieve. For example, program management is another level of business management and should be treated as such. Program management should be used to run the business and deliver the strategy of the business. This is the primary purpose of what textbooks say. However, program management needs to be adopted to deliver value on how strategy can be delivered on.

It must be remembered that program management is first and foremost a philosophy of management, not an elaborate set of tools and techniques, nor is it an administrative function. Rather, it is concerned with managing an organisation towards the accomplishment of whatever it has set out to do. As such, program management will only be as effective as the people and structures that are used.

Ultimately, program management represents discipline, organisation, and accountability within a multi-project environment.

Submitted by our expert Project Management tutor, Liam Dillon

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Liam Dillon - Project Management Tutor


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