1. Establish a Program Office
Programs need intensive control. Due to their scope and complexity, this can only be affected with the support of a centrally responsible body: the program office. As a rule, the program office is made up of several members. Usually, one program manager alone cannot master the requirements.
The responsibilities of the program office can involve:
- • Defining and disseminating the particularities of the respective program
- • Training the project managers specifically for the respective program
- • Preparing and conducting status meetings
- • Calling for all actions and data at the status dates fixed
- • Editing reports for different committees
- • Ensuring the data quality of the projects
- • Developing scenarios in problem cases
- • Supporting the project managers in administering the projects
2. Define the Control Processes
Firstly, ensure that the individual project control in your company runs smoothly. This is important for the program to work
There is a requirement for controlling an extensive program. You need to be able to process a lot of information from the projects concurrently. This makes the preparation of steering committee meetings complex. You need more preparation time and everything needs to be better organized than with ‘regular’ projects.
Define regular intervals for the dates of the steering committee meetings. All information must converge in the necessary quality. And at the right time. You should determine sensible intervals corresponding to the total time of the program. This is the only way to identify deviations early. You can quickly derive the necessary decisions at the interfaces for program success.
3. Point out the Particularities of the Program
Perhaps you already have a Project Management Office (PMO). The latter is usually responsible for:
- • standards in project management
- • project manager training
However, a program tends to have individual particularities in handling. This applies above all when external contributors are involved. For this reason, it is necessary to define special rules for the program. They are likely to differ from the PMO standards here and there.
So ensure two things:
- • All project managers must become acquainted with the rules for the program
- • They must all observe them
4. Determine a Suitable Work Breakdown Structure
The appropriate work breakdown structure is important for every project. The work breakdown structure has to enable the program to convey content and time dependencies between the projects. To achieve this, you define the important milestones in each project. Those milestones will later be used to monitor the program.
We also recommend you to create a separate master project for the program. This program plan contains all overall control information necessary for effective program management. All interfaces or partial deliveries should converge, and be controlled from, there. This means the steering committee only needs to open and edit one single project plan.
5. Define the Interface between the Projects
The steering committee issues the targets on this basis at regular intervals. These are targets concerning the milestones at the interfaces. They are allocated to the corresponding projects (top-down). And the project managers have to implement these targets. In turn, the current dates of the milestones have to be collected from the projects on a regular basis (bottom-up). The time differences between plan and actual dates at the interfaces entail the need for central control.
6. Obtain an Efficient PM System
You will only be able to run complex programs with the aid of efficient software. By now, there are many suitable products on the market. Over the last few years, these have become more and more professional.
For managing successful programs, we recommend a solution to the scenario described above. This solution facilitates the top-down and bottom-up control of projects. In this specific case, it comes down to how you can set the links between the projects.
For instance, it would be far from ideal if:
- • your solution displayed all changes in linked tasks directly upon opening a project
- • you did not have the previous version available for comparison
Preferably, your solution would allow you to show the external milestones in your own schedule at the touch of a button. This would allow you to look at your program planning and the links at the same time.
7. Automate the Synchronization of the Interface
If deadlines in the projects are postponed, automatic synchronization with the program plan will save you time. The best case would be: You open the program plan and directly see the actual state of every milestone next to the plan value. If you have many interfaces, a solution of this kind can save you a lot of time. As a program manager, you would be able to spend more time controlling the program. There would be an end to collecting current data, which will be out of date again in no time
8. Establish an Early-Warning System
Do not realize the interface schedule control only via the actually reported dates. Use the Milestone Trend Analysis (MTA). This will give you an early warning for the most important interfaces and deliveries. You will be informed if dates are rescheduled frequently.
Our tip: Use the targets from the program plan as target dates for the important milestones from the projects in the MTA. This allows you to identify the critical effects of postponement.