1.0 Define the Program


Planning is a part of all programs. The larger the program the more important it is to spend a sufficient time on planning. Before the program work begins, you need to spend time in up-front planning to make sure that the work is properly understood and agreed to. This is not wasted time or 'overhead' time. This is the time the program manager spends ensuring that the program manager and the Program Sponsor have common perceptions of what the program is going to deliver, when it will be complete, what it will cost, who will do the work and how the work will be done.

At the end of a difficult program, the benefits of planning might be obvious. But the benefits are also known ahead of time as well. At a high-level, these benefits include:

  • Understanding and gaining agreement on program objectives, deliverables, scope, risk, cost, approach, etc. This ensures that the Program Office and Program Sponsor agree on the work that is required.

  • Validating the original Business Case is still valid. When the program was initially approved, the program cost and duration were probably estimated at a high-level – maybe up to 50%. After the planning process the estimated costs of the program should have a higher level of confidence.

  • Providing high-level schedule and budget baselines from which progress can be compared. This is a result of creating the program schedule and high-level milestone schedule.

  • Understanding the relationship between the various projects that make up the program. This might include financial, time or resource linkages that need to be understood before creating a final plan.

  • Defining the processes used to manage the program and projects ahead of time. These processes should be created and communicated ahead of time by all interested stakeholders.

Planning for large programs can be very challenging. At times, the program manager can get frustrated because of the difficulty in gaining agreement with the Program Sponsor on scope, schedule and cost. However, this is exactly the reason this work is done ahead of time. Think of the problems you will encounter trying to gain agreement with the Program Sponsor on scope, schedule or cost when the work has started and the deliverables are actually being produced. Even though it can be difficult, it is very important that sufficient program planning be done ahead of time, and that the agreement on cost, schedule and scope are agreed to during the planning process.

There are three major aspects of program planning

  1. Define the program. Before you start executing the work, it makes sense to first understand what you are doing. Defining the program is where you understand the work and the overall nature of the program. This includes understanding the program objectives, scope, deliverables, constraints, assumptions, risks, organization, etc. This also includes defining the processes used to manage the program and the underlying projects.

  2. Build the program schedule. This includes understanding the work to plan and manage the program, as well as a high-level view of the work to be completed at the project level.

  3. Build the program budget. This is the estimate of the costs associated with the program and how these costs are allocated in the program budget.  

This section describes the first of the three aspects above - Defining the Program.

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1.1 Define the Program / Process

1.2 Define the Program / Techniques

1.3 Define Projects within a Program

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