In many corporations, project management is an ad hoc activity. When there is a cross-functional goal to be met, management may pull together for the short term, electing someone to lead the project and allowing employees to participate. When the goal is met, the project ends and the project team disbands. For very small companies in a static environment, this method works well. However, in larger companies or in any-sized company that’s dealing with change, it might be time to implement a program management office.
Program management is designed to take a larger and more comprehensive view of the organization’s activities. Program offices generally run multiple projects that may span across the entire organization. The managers must compare project requests and activities to ensure that projects or assets do not conflict with each other and that there is no duplicity of effort.
Work Toward Strategic Goals
Program managers must evaluate the activities of the organization to ensure they are working toward strategic goals. Just because a project can be done does not mean the end result will add value to the organization. Program managers must evaluate requests coming in to make sure that the effort will help increase sales, reduce costs or benefit the customer. They also allocate budgeted dollars and watch projects to make sure that benefits of the project exceed the cost.
In many projects, the project leader must take time at the beginning to outline the process, the rules and the methods of communication. With a program management office, those are defined for all projects in advance and are consistent from project to project. This means that employees can jump right into forming the team and not have to spend the first meetings discussing how everything is going to work. As an end result, there are fewer issues related to communication mix-ups.
The program management office evaluates all new requests and groups them so that efficiencies of scale can be achieved. This means that one project effort could be initiated in order to satisfy the needs or requests of more than one functional group. One example is when a software programmer creates a program that would email daily status reports to managers, no matter whether that manager is in finance, operations, marketing or sales. Without a program office, this would likely have been four separate projects with four separate developers and four separate budgets.