An evolving program management maturity model

integrating program and project management

Thomas J. Moore, Program Manager, EDS


Many organizations are struggling with the differences between program and project management. Without clear definitions, organizations do not understand how to integrate program and project management and whether or not they should. Program management must be based upon a solid foundation that includes (1) Alignment, (2) People, and (3) Robust Program Management Processes. An organization will not succeed in implementing program management until these three items are addressed.

This paper will describe how one systems integrator has deployed program management. The following questions will be answered:

• What is the difference between project and program management?

• How should an organization align to implement a program management governance structure and realize program benefits?

• What are the distinctions between, Enterprise Program Offices (EPO), Program Management Offices (ProgMO), and Project Management Offices (PMO)?

• How do individuals within an organization effect the implementation of program management?

• What program management processes are required, and how do they integrate with project management processes?

• What levels of maturity exist in deploying program management?

Project vs. Program Management

The Project Management Institute's A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) defines a project as a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service. Subsequently, the PMBOK® Guide defines a program as a group of projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually.

Project Management

To expand upon these definitions, project management focuses upon achieving a specific objective. It concentrates on scope, planning, management, and project control on a day-to-day basis within a defined start and finish time period. Project management is expected to deliver within specified parameters of cost, time, and quality; and projects are typically aligned with a specific business need.

Project management focuses on:

• Managing a detail project plan

• Managing day-to-day tracking and oversight

• Managing blocks of work for specific product delivery

• Tracking a schedule that addresses day-to-day detail tasks and activities

• Reporting against a limited set of milestones and deliverables

• Escalating issues that cannot be resolved at the project level

• Escalating risks that have a high probability of occurring and effect multiple, related projects

• Escalating scope changes that cannot be resolved at the project level or that effect multiple, related projects

Program Management

In contrast, program management provides for the administration of a group of interdependent projects that together achieve one or more strategic business objectives to maximize the value of their collective benefits. It blends the rigors of project management with a strong focus on client (internal or external) interface, governance, people, and interdependencies between projects and other programs.

Program management focuses on:

• Managing the big picture and the interdependencies between programs and projects to achieve broad business change objectives and benefits

• Focusing on client interaction at multiple levels

• Providing coordination and communication across programs and project teams

• Identifying program specific issues, risks, benefits, and scope changes

• Resolving escalated issues and mitigating risks across each project

• Managing scope change at the program and project level

• Maintaining project sponsor support and alignment with the program's objectives

• Removing project roadblocks

• Providing budget and resource management planning at the program level

• Managing to a high-level milestone schedule to ensure that the program and projects are on track to meet plans


Alignment focuses on the realization of business benefits and the deployment of a well-defined governance structure. For all organizational constituents, including executive leadership and program managers, governance establishes clear roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities. A focus on benefit realization requires that program benefits be mapped to the organization's strategic business plan. Subsequently, business benefits are achieved through the deployment of an effective governance structure. The following describes governance and its alignment with benefit achievement.

Executive Leadership

Executive leadership is the governing body that establishes strategic direction for an organization. Executive leadership has the following roles and responsibilities:

• Develops the organization's strategic business plan

• Ensures that an effective governance structure is deployed throughout the organization

• Ensures the alignment of programs with the organization's strategic business plan and benefit realization

• Sponsors the deployment of program management

• Ensures ongoing focus on the program management capability within the organization

• Provides sufficient funding to support program management

• Sponsors organizational change (change management) required to deploy program management

• Resolves issues that cannot be resolved at the program steering committee level

• Selects an executive to serve as the lead sponsor for a specific program initiative

Enterprise Program Office (EPO)

The EPO supports a specific organization and interfaces with the organization's programs. Large organizations may break their structure down so that there are suborganizations (possibly functionally aligned) having their own supporting EPO. When EPOs are being layered, care should be taken to avoid redundancy and excess cost. The EPO has the following roles and responsibilities:

• Develops, deploys, and maintains program management architecture (policies, standards, processes, procedures, and tools)

• Drives program management linkage to the strategic business plan

• Assists programs in being on time, within budget, and meeting client requirements

• Provides a repository for Knowledge Management (program lessons learned and intellectual capital)

• Provides training and consulting as required for the:

• Program Management Architecture

• Program Management life cycle

• Automated program/project information management tool

• Assists in the establishment of new program management offices

• Manages the “pool” of program managers, including selection and placement

• Conducts quality assurance audits of the program management offices to ensure that program management processes are being followed

Program Steering Committee

The program steering committee is the executive group responsible for program oversight, guidance and barrier removal. The program steering committee should consist of the following membership: Lead executive sponsor, client executive(s) (internal and/or external), program manager, supplier executive, other key stakeholders (internal and/or external) as appropriate. The lead executive sponsor chairs the program steering committee. The program steering committee has the following roles and responsibilities:

• Ensures program oversight, guidance, and barrier removal

• Works with program manager to ensure that program benefits are achieved and aligned with the organization's strategic business plan

• Ensures that all key stakeholders interests are addressed

• Resolves issues that cannot be resolved by the program manager

• Provides periodic program status to executive leadership

• Escalates issues requiring executive leadership intervention

• Convenes periodic meetings to review program status

Program Manager

The program manager is the single point of accountability for overall program management across multiple interdependent projects and must ensure that the program is on time, within budget, and meets client requirements. There are many challenges associated with the program manager role. Programs require a high degree of cross-functional integration. Communications and coordination are often substantial and complex. Managing the interrelationships between process, people, and technology is another significant challenge. The program manager has the following roles and responsibilities:

• Ensures that the program is on time, within budget, and meets client requirements

• Ensures that benefits are achieved and linked to the strategic business plan objectives

• Ensures that the program adheres to the program contract

• Ensures that the program revenue and costs are controlled

• Leads cross-project planning, as well as dependency and conflict resolution

• Monitors progress to key program milestones

• Resolves issues that cannot be resolved at the project level

• Escalates issues to the program steering committee that cannot be resolved at the program level

• Mitigates risks and escalates obstacles requiring program steering committee attention

• Allocates or reallocates resources within a program

• Represents the program on the program steering committee

• Ensures appropriate management of the day-to-day activities of the ProgMO

• Provides periodic status to the program steering committee

• Identifies external influences and communicates with other programs as appropriate

Program Management Office (ProgMO)

The Program Management Office handles a group of projects or programs focused on delivering specific measurable outcomes. The ProgMO concentrates on the macro view by focusing on exceptions, constraints, common assumptions, and overlapping agreements associated with several projects organized to achieve a particular business objective and benefit. The ProgMO often utilizes exception reporting and status techniques. The program manager or a lead program management office individual may manage the ProgMO. Other personnel that may be required to staff a ProgMO are: a communications and training expert, a schedule analyst, a financial analyst, a metrics analyst, a resource analyst, and administrative support. An organization must establish benchmarks in determining the appropriate staffing of a ProgMO. Benchmarking should be based on the following criteria: Program size (budget, personnel, globalization, etc.) and program maturity (pursuit, start-up, intermediate, operational, etc.) The program management office has the following roles and responsibilities:

• Supports the program manager

• Tracks the achievement of program benefits

• Documents and tracks program level issues, risks, and scope changes

• Maintains the Program Charter

• Tracks schedule, cost and client satisfaction metrics

• Coordinates all program communications

• Reconciles project schedules with the program milestone schedule

• Creates periodic program status reports

• Conducts periodic quality assurance audits of all of their constituent projects to ensure that project management processes are being followed

• Provides training and consulting to project management offices (if they exist) and projects

• Provides a repository for program management metrics

Project Manager

A project manager provides day-to-day management, monitoring, and control of project activities. They are the single point of accountability for the project's deliverable-based milestones. The project manager has the following roles and responsibilities:

• Provides day-to-day management, monitoring, and control of project activities

• Manages budgets, allocates resources, and achieves benefits

• Applies disciplined project management policies, standards, processes, procedures, and tools

• Resolves critical project issues

• Escalates issues and scope changes to the program manager that cannot be resolved at the project level

• Mitigates risks and escalates obstacles requiring program manager attention

• Ensures that cross-project risks are escalated to the program level

• Represents project in cross-project planning and conflict resolution

• Provides periodic status reports to the program manager

• Acts as focal point for communication with program manager/ProgMO

Project Management Office (PMO)

In large projects, project management offices might exist to provide assistance to a project manager. Their function is to provide tracking and oversight for the project and summarize project information for reporting to the ProgMO. The PMO and project managers are concerned with project management processes but need to understand that project information is integrated into the program management processes. This will be elaborated upon under the Robust Program Management Processes section. Care should be taken in not deploying PMOs if the need for them does not exist. A PMO is responsible for supporting the project manager's roles and responsibilities.


All elements of the above governance structure may be required for very large and complex programs. The minimum governance structure required for a program is a lead executive, a program manager, and a ProgMO. Organizations will need to define their governance structure based upon their individual program needs and the necessity to integrate project management and program management to achieve business benefits.


Program management cannot be implemented without organizational process discipline, mature project management practices, and the involvement of the executive leadership of an organization. Attempts to deploy program management have failed when executive leadership is not directly involved. In many organizations the principles of "change management” need to be applied in order to change the existing organizational paradigms. Not only must executives be involved with program management deployment, but they also must proactively support their program managers on an ongoing basis. For many individuals, this requires a paradigm change. Instead of "shooting the messenger” when a program manager delivers bad news, the executive must learn to respond by saying, “How can I help in solving this problem?” With this change in attitude, program managers will quickly escalate unresolved critical issues when they are identified.

Organizations also need to reconsider how they identify and select potential program managers. Many managers have been successful in managing programs or projects based on pure “brute force” or the “hero” concept. When deploying a program management discipline, the selection of program managers should not be solely based on the previous success record of individuals.

Program managers need to have the following skills:

• Success in building effective teams

• Ability to deal comfortably with executive leadership

• Excellent conflict management skills

• Superb client relationship skills

• Ability to make timely decisions

• Reputation of integrity and trust

• Strong negotiating skills

• Ability to organize resources and multitask

• Strong political savvy

• Skilled in priority setting

• Ability to manage a complex leveraged environment

• Ability to coordinate multiple projects that might be spread across the globe

• Have utilized both program and project management disciplines

• Excellent communication skills

Many organizations are requiring that program manager candidates be PMI® PMP® certified. Although certification does not ensure that an individual will succeed as a program manager, it is an indication that they possess project management theoretical knowledge and specific credentials that will aid them in succeeding as a program manager.

ProgMO support personnel also need to be skilled in the project and program management disciplines and understand their differences and how they are integrated.

Organizations need to ensure that they provide appropriate career paths for individuals to progress through project management and program management positions. Without clearly defining this progression, individuals may not be motivated to increase their skill sets for being promoted to higher levels of responsibility.

Organizations must also ensure that personnel receive ongoing training in order to progress within their career. Some training may be provided internally but external training and attendance at professional conferences must be provided. Experienced program managers should be assigned to mentor project managers as they develop professionally. Qualified program managers will not be successful unless the alignment described above is effectively deployed throughout the organization.

Robust Program Management Processes

Some project management professionals have stated that program management is nothing more than a higher level of project management. As this paper describes below, this is not the case. Because of the differences between program and project management, differing frameworks or processes must be utilized. The PMI® PMBOK® Guide describes the project management processes. However, within the project management profession, the program management processes have not been well defined, except to indicate that they are a super set of project management.

Program management processes, as described below, do not map one-to-one to the PMBOK® Guide. This is intentional based upon the nature of program management. Since program management focuses on the big picture, strategic change, and benefit realization, it is not looking for the same level of detail that a project focuses on. The following describes one organization's approach to developing program management processes and how they integrate with project management processes.

Scope Management

One of the major deliverables of Scope Management is a program charter or contract. The program charter is a dynamic document that describes the program's benefits and the projects that will support the achievement of these benefits. It is a shared understanding and agreement among all stakeholders as to what will be delivered, how it will be completed, and the commitment required. The charter will change over time and will be the impetus for the start-up of new projects and the closedown of former projects. Project scope statements will be created from the program charter. Within Scope Management, the program manager will assess and approve or reject scope changes that only occur at the program level and may be cross-project in nature. In addition, Scope Management provides for the evaluation of escalated project scope changes against the program's benefit proposition and any cross-project impact that they may have.

Value Management

Value Management is one of the processes that truly distinguishes program processes from project processes. Value Management involves the assessing, tracking, and realization of program benefits. Program benefits may include enhanced efficiency, economy, and effectiveness of future operations. The benefits are specifically detailed in the program charter or contract. Program benefits are linked to the organization's strategic business plan and owned by the program's key stakeholders. In today's environment, very few organizations track benefits at a project level, and if they do, they are usually only financial in nature. Programs are established to achieve tangible benefits for a client (internal or external). If benefits cannot be assessed, tracked, and realized, the program and its constituent projects should not continue. Program benefits are allocated to projects and are achieved through one project or interdependent projects, based upon the project's deliverables. It is essential that the achievement of benefits is tracked even after a project or program is closed down. In many instances, program benefits will not be realized until several months or years after the program has closed down. The ProgMO is responsible for the continuation of benefit tracking.

Communication Management

Communication Management provides for cross-project communication. A communication strategy and a communication plan must be established at the program level for all program communications. A program manager/ProgMO may communicate with many internal and external entities that are not engaged with by a project. Communication Management facilitates cross-project communication related to issues, risks, scope changes, and other program work products.

Resource Management

Resource Management allows the program manager/ProgMO to handle human resources at the macro level. The program manager can adequately allocate staff for project start-ups and closedowns, and reallocate human resources as required. The program manager also addresses escalated project resource issues that result from a conflict or constraint. The project is responsible for the day-to-day management of human resources.

Issue Management

Issue Management is not a specific project management process. Issues can develop at the project level due to scope changes, resource problems, scheduling problems, cost concerns, and other project related conflicts or concerns. The program manager is responsible for the management and resolution of all program level issues and escalated project issues. The program manager assesses an issue as to its cross-project impact. Issues that cannot be resolved by the program manager are escalated to the Program Steering Committee.

Risk Management

Risk Management provides for the assessment of program specific risks that would not be identified at a project level. The Program Manager/ProgMO is also responsible for monitoring all project risks that are associated with benefits, resources, quality, and project interdependencies. The program manager will ensure that contingency plans are in place for all risks that are assessed as “high” relative to impact and probability at both the program and project level.

Quality Management

Quality Management ensures that a quality plan exists for overall program and project quality. Specific quality emphasis is placed upon project interdependencies. The EPO personnel will conduct periodic quality assurance audits of the program management offices to ensure that the program management processes are being followed. Corrective action plans will be developed from these audits and subsequently followed up on by the EPO personnel. The ProgMO personnel will conduct periodic quality assurance audits of all of their constituent projects to ensure that the project management processes are being followed. Corrective action plans will be developed from these audits and subsequently followed up on by the ProgMO personnel. The quality plan will also define program management metrics that will be used in providing early warnings of program failure points.

Financial Management

The program manager is responsible for controlling all costs relative to contractual commitments. Financial Management is integrated very closely with Value Management and Procurement Management. The ProgMO reviews all project costs on a periodic basis to ensure that they are within the baselines established for each project. Significant variances from the baseline are addressed and if not resolvable at the project level escalated to the Program Steering Committee for resolution. The ProgMO also utilizes the financial cost data to determine whether or not specific financial benefits are being achieved.

Procurement Management

The program manager is responsible for controlling all revenues relative to contractual commitments. Procurement Management ensures that the program manager monitors the contractual commitments on an ongoing basis and takes whatever corrective actions are necessary to ensure that the contractual agreement is adhered to. The program manager is responsible for billing the client and ensures that the contracted revenue stream is achieved. The program manager/ProgMO will also negotiate and monitor sub-contracts with internal and external entities that are not handled at a project level.

Performance Monitoring

The program manager must ensure that the program is on time, within budget, and meeting client requirements. Performance monitoring consists of program schedule tracking, metrics collection, and status reporting. The program manager/ProgMO periodically reviews all project schedules and ensures that they are meeting the program schedule milestones. Significant variances from the schedule baseline are addressed and if not resolvable at the project level escalated to the Program Steering Committee for resolution. Periodic program level status reports are prepared by the ProgMO and distributed to the appropriate audiences. Program defined metrics are captured and periodically reported to acknowledge program trends and early warnings of program failure points. It is strongly recommended that Earned Value be introduced into the reporting of program progress.


The deployment of robust program management processes does not ensure program success. It is unlikely that the program will meet all of its objectives of on time, within budget, and meeting client requirements if (1) there is not strong executive leadership support, (2) the program is not aligned with the strategic business plan, (3) qualified personnel are not in place throughout the organization, and (4) program and project management processes are not integrated.

Program Management Maturity Model

The full-scale deployment of program management does not happen quickly. A program management maturity model must exist just as project management maturity models exist. The following describes a suggested model for deploying program management within an organization over time.

Initial Program Management Activities

• Ensure that mature project management processes are in place

• Establish an enterprise program management team (not an enterprise program office) to:

• Develop program management architecture (policies, standards, processes, procedures, and new tools)

• Integrate project management tools into the program management architecture

• Ensure that integration of program and project management is clearly defined

• Determine the utilization of an automated program/project management information tool

• Define a program governance structure

• Define the “change management” plan

• Pilot program management architecture and governance on a “test” program

Instill Basic Discipline into “Key” Programs

• Deploy program management architecture on “key” programs (high visibility, major organizational impact, etc.) using the “change management” plan

• Ensure that Lead Executives (Sponsors) and program managers are engaged

• Acknowledge “key” program managers as key positions within the organization (succession / progression planning)

• The Enterprise program management team works with “key” programs to:

• Deploy program management architecture

• Provide training

• Provide consulting

• Continuously improve program management architecture

• Conduct quarterly quality assurance audits of “key” programs

• Review results of quarterly quality assurance audits with lead executives (sponsors)

• “Key” ProgMO personnel conduct periodic project quality assurance reviews on all of their program's constituent projects

Identify and Align Critical Program Practices

• Program management architecture is institutionalized for “all” programs

• Program managers have PMI® PMP® certification

• Client is directly engaged in program governance

• Consistent key program management metrics are implemented

• Leadership models consistent practices

• The Enterprise Program Management team works with “all” programs

• “All” ProgMO personnel conduct periodic project quality assurance reviews on all of their program's constituent projects

Quantitatively Manage Programs

• Metrics provide early warnings of program failure points

• Enterprise program management office is implemented and oversees all programs

• Executive leadership integrally involved in metrics and oversight

• Earned Value is deployed on all programs and projects

Analyze and Improve Program Management Practices

• Business plan drives program portfolio

• World Class program management

• Bottom line: Predictable, positive results; Client attraction and retention


Each organization must determine the time frame for the deployment of program management throughout the five levels of maturity. Organizations must not become discouraged if results are not being obtained as quickly as they had originally projected.


This paper draws a clear delineation between program and project management. Building program management upon a solid project management foundation takes time and executive level support and involvement. As the project management profession matures, the differences between program and project management will be more clearly defined, understood, and implemented. The program management architecture and program management maturity model described in this paper further contributes to this evolution.

Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium
September 7–16, 2000 • Houston, Texas, USA



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