What is Program Management?

If you’re a restaurant owner trying to open up three new locations at the same time, there are going to be a lot of moving parts to manage. Each site might have a different construction manager, project manager, and even design manager, so how do you get them to all work with a cohesive approach and deliver seamless results in the end? The answer is exceptional program management. 

Program management is a function that sits above each individual project, driving alignment and finding synergies within each project. Oftentimes, program management can lead to cost savings, timeline reductions, and better results, but only if it’s done well. With the right program management infrastructure in place, your strategic business initiatives will always be the core focus, and everything else becomes a piece of the puzzle. 

However, there’s a lot that falls into the program management realm, and it can get confusing. We’ll break down everything you need to know about program management before you start working toward your organization’s next big goal.

Is Program Management the Same as Project Management?

Program management and project management are NOT the same, but they do go hand-in-hand. A project, for instance, would be one single initiative with one timeline to track, one budget to monitor, and one team to work with. The design and development of one singular restaurant or one medical facility could be managed with project management. 

When the scope gets larger, program management becomes critical. If you’re aiming to stand up three different restaurant locations, multiple timelines will need to be considered, resources may need to be shared, and budgeting will become a much more complex endeavor. This is where program management comes in. 

Program managers are equipped to deal with larger, more strategic goals and moving deadlines. They will partner closely with the project managers at each work site to ensure materials are used efficiently across projects, fewer raw materials go to waste, and there is uniformity in the design of each location that makes it feel connected to the others. 

The Benefits of Effective Program Management

When you have the right program management infrastructure in place, your strategic goals will be reached on shorter timelines and with lower overall costs. The benefits of investing in program management are abundant and always worth the cost. Once you consider some of the following benefits of stellar program management, you’ll never take on a strategic initiative without a program manager.

Project Synergies

Finding synergistic opportunities across projects can be a major time and money saver. Whether it’s re-using leftover materials, pulling an expert resource from one project to navigate a roadblock on a project within the program, or doing one design process instead of three, these opportunities can have a monumental impact. Without a program manager acting as a connector among different projects, these synergies would likely be overlooked.

Communication Alignment

A singular cohesive messaging strategy can keep investors feeling confident throughout the initiative. On the other hand, if one location is communicating entirely different results than another, your investors might not know if they should feel confident or worried about the initiative. A good program manager will ensure that communication channels are not filled with noise and that less time is required for report-outs.

Cost-Cutting Capabilities

This goes along with project synergies but buying raw materials in bulk is a major cost-saving strategy when it comes to real estate development of any kind. Instead of three projects working with suppliers, one program manager can be the point of contact that’s responsible for each site getting the necessary supplies. Since raw materials will often be the same, bulk discounts will cut costs while quality control remains a central focus.

Risk Management

It’s not uncommon for one project with a program to break ground before its counterparts. If that one location runs into any issues with permits, licensing, or even raw materials, these risks can be removed before impacting the two other projects within the program. Removing roadblocks and anticipating challenges before they become issues is a major function of program managers, so while they work in the background to ensure risks are low, project managers can focus on hitting their milestones.

Continuous Improvement

Program managers have a birds-eye-view of every project; they are able to see what is working well and what needs to be adjusted. If one project manager is using a slightly different approach and it’s providing exceptional results, then that approach can be communicated to the other project managers by the program manager. Each project can learn from its counterparts instead of operating in a silo, leading to the best results for all.

Program Management Umbrella

In the program management space, there are a lot of terms and different types of management that fall under the umbrella of program management. Sometimes, it can be confusing to understand how all the pieces fit together, but at the core, program management oversees and encompasses all other management types within a project. These can include roles such as:

  • Development Management
  • Construction Management
  • Project Management
  • Design Management
  • Developer for Fee
  • Construction Administration
  • Contract Administration

Programs are large, strategic initiatives. As such, there are many people involved and a lot of moving parts at all times. Most of the roles listed above are more focused, program management encompasses everything that a program needs to be successful. Because of the complexity of program management, getting the wrong program manager in a role can be detrimental to every single component of the program, negatively impacting timelines, budgets, and more.

Our Approach to Program Management

At SCGWest, we believe that program management is the key to our client’s success. Our program managers are equipped to handle the oversight of multiple projects, work with large teams of people, and help drive strategic alignment throughout the program they are managing. With a strong program management infrastructure, your organizational goals are much more attainable. At SCGWest, your goals are our goals, and our program managers are the best in the space. Let’s make your dreams a reality. 

Background Resources:

  1. https://www.atlassian.com/agile/project-management/program-management
  2. https://www.realprojectives.com/program-management-could-save-you-time-money-and-hassles-does-it-make-sense-for-your-project/
  3. https://www.pmi.org/learning/featured-topics/program
  4. https://www.projectmanager.com/guides/program-management
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