CHOW #91- Vital Signs of a Program

Reading the scenario painted in the blog: Program Health Vital Signs, can you distil out a few vital signs of programs?

Suggested Solution:

Extract 1.

Arjuna thought, “For one, I coordinated the work of the different projects under the program.”

“Okay, what else?”

“I ensured that the interfaces between the projects are articulated, designed and implemented properly.”

“Good. And?”

“I ensured that the products developed by the projects presented a common front and interface to the outside world.”

“But that is only if the program is delivering a single integrated product. It needn’t be so. The program could be delivering a suite of products. Why was the program called a “program” and not a large project?”

“I think it is because the program did not end with the delivery of the product. It was ongoing.”

“Good. But, why was it ongoing?”

Arjuna thought, “I think it was because the customer organisation’s strategy required certain outcomes and the product developed by my program had to support realizing these outcomes.”

“Exactly. You have got it perfect. A program is aligned to an organisational strategic objective, unlike a project which delivers logical parts of what is required to meet the objective.”

Arjuna said, “Now that you say it, it makes sense.”

Vital sign 1

  1. Alignment with organisational strategic objective.

Extract 2

“We had to prove to the customer that the product delivered was helping the customer realise the advantages due to the strategic objective.”

“Wonderful. You mean you had to manage the benefits delivered by the program?”

“Right. Benefits and RoI management was the key thing.”

Krishna said, “Let us look at your program and see what the benefits to be delivered are.”

Arjuna said, “Well the benefits are:

  1. Reduce illegal entry into the country by 95%
  2. Increase by 35% customs duty collection from traders entering the country with goods and leaving with cash
  3. Deploy defence shields in under three seconds and ensure people are in bomb shelters in under one hour, if there is a threat of an attack from the enemy.
  4. Launch missiles in pre-emptive strikes against enemy missiles at a far enough distance from the city
  5. Protect computers and communication systems from cyber warfare by enemies
  6. A centralized command centre for monitoring and triggering actions across all systems and interfaces to ensure coordinated high-impact actions in time with zero collateral damage”

Krishna said, “You can see how these benefits are different from project goals which are to deliver required software to specifications. You can also see that that benefits can be delivered incrementally and not only as big bang at the end.

He continued, “For example, you need only deliver one of the projects under your program for the first and second benefit realization (with interfaces to the customs duty collection at the gates of the city). Cyber security is also more or less independent not too much coupled with other projects, though they are all parts of the integrated program. So, benefits 1, 2 and 5 can be delivered and realized ahead of other benefits.”

Arjuna said, excited, “But benefits 3, 4 and 6 are closely related (peril detection, action – proactive and defensive and coordinated response with no collateral damage) and hence the corresponding projects need to come together to deliver.”

Vital sign 2

  1. Benefits and RoI management

Extract 3

Krishna continued, “Of course, there are other areas also that matter. For example, stakeholder management.”

“But, the program stakeholders will be different from the project stakeholders?”

“Certainly. You are dealing with a higher level of stakeholders. Stakeholders who are looking at delivering and achieving strategic objectives and looking at benefits.

Krishna continued, “In fact, as a program manager you have to think big picture; think customer strategy; think stakeholder benefits; think relationships; and think vision and leadership.”

Vital sign 3

  1. Program stakeholder management

Extract 4

Arjuna asked, “Won’t risk management also be one of the areas to look at?”

“Yes. It would. However, you need to clearly distinguish between program and project risks. As program manager you should be concentrating on managing program risks, leaving project risks to the project managers.”

Arjuna asked, “And how would you judge whether a risk is a program risk or a project risk?”

Krishna said, “Very simple. Ask yourself these questions: Is the risk affecting RoI or benefits delivery? Is it affecting organizational strategy delivery? Is it a risk based on market / environmental factors? Is it affecting project output integration with system? Is the risk affecting financial performance? If the answer to some of these questions is yes, you are probably dealing with a program risk and you should be up in arms against it.”

Vital sign 4

  1. Program risk management

Extract 5

“Okay. I now understand. And in a similar fashion I can manage program change too?


Vital sign 5

  1. Program change management

Extract 6

Krishna continued, “And as the person managing benefits, you should be more aware of the financials of the program than a project manager would the financials of a project.”


Vital sign 6

  1. Program financials management

Extract 7

Krishna continued. “The next area is the actual program life cycle management.”


Krishna said, “Program lifecycle management has to be flexible, adaptable and responsive. It is implementing the areas of strategy alignment, benefits management, and the other areas we talked about on an ongoing basis.”

Vital sign 7

  1. Program lifecycle management
What do you think?

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