What Are the Elements of Program Management?


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In business, a program is defined as a set of coordinated activities or projects that are managed in an integrated way to achieve strategic objectives. A program typically has a longer timeframe than individual projects and often involves multiple stakeholders and teams working together.  Given the all-encompassing nature of business programs, you’re probably wondering what the key elements are.

There are five essential elements of program management:

  1. Project definition
  2. Scope management
  3. Program control and monitoring
  4. Resource allocation and scheduling
  5. Project completion 

As cliché as it sounds, ‘it is the little things that matter,’ and program management elements are one of such little things. Since tracking complex programs with multiple projects seems Herculean, getting to know the unassuming aspects of program management makes your work seamless. So this article covers the elements of program management to get you started.

What Elements Constitute Successful Program Management?

Successful program management requires the person in charge of the program management office to break down program management into the various components, frameworks and tips to ensure the successful delivery of the organizational goals within the estimated timeframe. These distinct aspects of program management together make up program management elements.  

Components of Program Management

Program management components constituting a critical aspect of program management elements are beyond the program management process or lifecycle. Essentially, they are those silent and unassuming sequences of events that can mar your overall goals and objectives if not given proper attention. 

Interestingly, duplicating the same process for multiple projects does not run complex programs within an organization. Also, effective program management through adequate manipulation of program management elements requires a profound understanding of program management intricacies that may take years to perfect. 

Fortunately, we have grouped these program management components into five categories for easy application.

Program Governance

A considerable aspect of Program management involves leadership, and sound program governance is critical for maintaining excellence in program delivery. As a result, there should be a clear definition of the separate roles, duties and responsibilities of every member of the company. 

The idea is to maintain some hierarchy in the organizational process to keep each member accountable. Additionally, ensuring that every member of the organization possesses the requisite skill set for their job description within the organization is a critical aspect of program governance. 

The program manager is responsible for assigning essential duties to all stakeholders for the seamless running of the programs. 

Detailed Program Planning

Detailed planning is the foundation of successful program management and makes up the principal job description of a program manager. Program management requires extensive planning, which is why setting SMART goals for the programs comes in handy. 

SMART is a management acronym that stands for: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. Essentially, it involves breaking down complex organizational goals into bite-sized, manageable chunks of projects. 

A detailed program plan aims to create a streamlined fashion for seamlessly delivering programs. A company meeting involving all stakeholders might be required to facilitate effective program planning. 

Here is a list showing how to use SMART goals for creating a detailed program plan.

  • S for Specific

All organizational programs must be specific, highlighting detailed explanations including strategies and human resources to get the job done. Usually, a frequent meeting might be used as a strategy to equip the program manager with crafting the specifics of the organizational goals into programs. 

It also involves information about program structure, goals, milestones and personnel to head individual projects constituting the program.

  • M for Measurable

The measurability of a program complements its specific details. Essentially, a well-planned program should be measured against some metric and include both tangible and intangible benefits. It serves as quality control for the program manager to track the program’s efficacy and possible risks.

  • A for Attainable

Nothing ruins organizational goals like when they are unattainable, so this is where a program manager comes in handy. Usually, the owners of an organization can sometimes be unrealistic and set lofty goals in their mind’s eye that seem realistic. 

The place of program management exists to see between the lines and distinguish between reality and wishful thinking. As a result, a successful program is attainable within the confines of the organizational paradigm. 

  • R for Relevant

Every successful program should be relevant to avoid wasting resources and time. The relevance of a program is usually related to the timing and availability of resources. As a result, irrelevant programs due to management inconsistencies do not yield any organizational benefits.

  • T for Time bound

Time is the ultimate unifying factor in any field of endeavor, and program management is not left out. Essentially, every program has a set time within which it should be completed, and program management ensures that the organization meets its set time target for every program or project. 

As a result, every well-planned project or program within an organization has a specific time frame attached to it. 

Project plan

Program Stakeholder Management

Program Stakeholders are the key players in any program plan. They include but are not limited to organizational leadership, program and project managers, project design team members, financers, contractors, workers, government representatives, etc. 

Usually, more extensive programs involve more stakeholders than smaller programs and every stakeholder, whether individual or group, requires careful management for a successful outcome. Therefore, program management requires excellent communication skills to ensure clarity while pursuing organizational goals.

Program Analysis and Forecasting

Although the future is unknown to anyone, every organization thrives under a contingency plan. A significant aspect of program management involves anticipating risks and planning ahead to surmount them. Program management also involves the proactive measure of continuous forecasting to shield the organization from unfortunate events due to unexpected risks.

Program Time and Financial Management

Time and cost management are only possible when program management’s forecasting and risk management aspects are practical and functional. If we consider the execution of large programs, for instance, time and finances can lend a crippling effect on the organizational goals. 

Therefore, program management involves solid financial and time management skills to keep programs and projects afloat. 

What Makes the Elements of Program Management Essential?

Program management elements are essential for any establishment’s sustainability and coordination of its members. Also, it places an indispensable tool at the disposal of the program manager, project manager and other members of the company’s leadership. 

As a result, both human and material resources are appropriately allocated for the smooth running of the organization. The reason is that many organizational projects and program resources overlap. Thus creating a somewhat scramble for resources among projects or programs. 

A good understanding of the program management elements better equips the program manager’s office with the technical know-how to effectively balance these scarce resources. This way, the organization can finance and optimize multiple projects within company programs through the program manager’s office. 

Although program and project management elements are similar since they oversee the completion of specific organizational tasks, they are slightly different in their end goals. The program management elements supervise the realization of the company’s ongoing objectives. 

In contrast, project management elements oversee specific company deliverables. Therefore, program management elements create transformational change within the organization by managing project/program overlap, interdependence and possible conflicts in any establishment.  

How Program Management Elements Facilitate Organizational Framework and Other Critical Business Aspects.

Program management elements facilitate organizational framework and other vital aspects of business by maintaining organizational hierarchy, program consistency with organizational goals and driving business strategy. 

If an organization fails to maintain a stable framework, it can run contrary to its ideals and miss achieving its desired outcome. As a result, program management elements stabilize the organizational framework by providing structural governance and a process model. 

Here is how:

Structural Governance

Structural Governance within the organizational framework involves a hierarchical order among the significant roles for ensuring successful program management. It specifies the various positions/offices and their corresponding responsibilities. 

Here is an example of how structural governance works.

  • The Program Sponsor: The program sponsor is also known as the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO). They ensure that company programs align with the business case and provide expected organizational benefits. Different organizations have different designations for the office of the program sponsor, but their responsibility remains the same.
  • The Program Manager: The program manager answers to the program sponsor and manages the daily running of the company programs by coordinating and assigning them to specific projects.
  • The Business Change Managers: The business change managers encourage workforce mobility by transitioning people and processes into sections to achieve the desired business outcome and other organizational benefits.

Process Model

The process model consolidates the activities of key players in structural governance to create additional value for the organization. 

Here is a table highlighting some critical components of the process model for achieving program management success and their complementary effect on program management elements. 

Essential Components of the Process ModelComplementary Effect on Program Management Elements
Organizational visionIt refers to the highest drive of the organization toward attaining its goals.
Organizational aims and objectivesThey include a detailed statement of the requirements for achieving the organization’s vision.
They provide a reference point for renewing focus within the company.
Program scopeIt adds boundaries to the programs.
It explains the program deliverables.
Program/project designIt provides a framework for the individual projects that constitute the program.
It aids program and project prioritization.
Program approachIt determines the format or method for running the programs.
It includes communication plans and regular stakeholder updates.
Resource management
It includes an outline for resource allocation according to project/program time frame (long-term/short-term)
Responsibilities It highlights the duties and responsibilities of each program area.
It allocates tasks to program personnel.
Organizational benefit realizationIt sets the paradigm for measuring the conclusion of the program.
It involves an ongoing tracking of completed programs.
It records the benefits of completed programs.
Serves as a means of final program evaluation in line with the company goals. 

Key Managerial Business Aspects Vs. Program Management Elements

The program management elements also find expression in any enterprise’s key managerial business aspects. They create a complementary effect while aligning the program manager’s office with the organizational ideal for business management and transformation.  

Here is another table showing the critical managerial business aspects and their associated program management elements.

Key Managerial Business Aspects Associated Program Management Elements
GovernanceOrganizational leadership definition.
Defines program roles and responsibilities.
Sets metrics for measuring corporate success.
General ManagementPlans overall program.
Plans individual projects.
Regularly reviews projects and programs.
Ensures the engagement of stakeholders.
Financial managementTracks the general cost of running programs and projects.
Sets up required budgets.
Infrastructural managementCreates a conducive work environment.
Manages organizational resources.
Tracks timeliness of program and project deliverables.   

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes program management essential for any organization?

For proper and effective resource management and allocation, program management is essential for any organization. Multiple projects often compete for resources, like funding and human resources. As a result, program management attempts to balance these scarce resources within the organization.  

What are some essential skills for program management?

The essential program management skills needed to excel on the job in any organization include but are not limited to excellent organizational prowess, people management and public relations skills, planning and scheduling skills, program strategy, report and proposal writing, and presentation/technical skills and effective budgeting and financial management. 

What are the components of a program management plan?

A program management plan includes the program governance, information about the sub projects within each program, presumed or estimated benefits after a successful program delivery, timeframe for program completion, program strategy and tracking methods. The program management plan is essentially the blueprint for any program execution. 

Final Thoughts

The success of every organization is predicated on its effective program management, but program management will be unsuccessful without ample knowledge of the little things that matter in the process. So now that you know the program management elements, nothing stops you from delivering those programs, no matter how complex they may be! 

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