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Program management

What is a program?

A program is a group of projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits and control which is not available from managing them individually.

Programs deliver benefits and contribute to achieving business objectives. Projects provide outputs that lead to operating benefits that can be measured in terms of improvement in performance or capacity or provision of a new service.

Programs may be established to deliver change to a target group, community, behaviour, hazard or occurrence, across the whole of the state or government, across more than one level of government, or in the environment in which the department operates. A program may be used to deliver activities that have nothing to do with change, such as maintenance programs. Programs, on the whole, span a much longer timeframe than the individual projects that make them up.

Infrastructure programs and subprograms within the department relate to both what is included in the Queensland Transport and Roads Investment Program (QTRIP).  To achieve economies of scale and administrative convenience regions bundle some of these projects together.

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What is program management?

Program management is the centralised coordinated management of a program to achieve the program's strategic objectives and benefits.

There are benefits that flow from delivery of the projects in the program and there are benefits that flow from the program management process itself, such as economies of scale and administrative convenience or effectiveness.

Program management identifies interdependencies between projects to ensure that planning, scheduling, executing, monitoring and controlling of projects results in optimal delivery of the program. Projects may be interdependent because of the collective capability that is delivered, or they may share a common attribute such as customer, supplier, technology or resource.

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Why program management?

Managing a collection of projects as a program has advantages that may include the following:

  • focus on or improved likelihood of achievement of strategic and operational benefits-project managers do not manage benefits realisation
  • alignment with strategic objectives
  • improved project prioritisation to achieve program outcomes, including improved ability to identify relationships amongst projects and the need for integration
  • optimising the investment mix-which projects go onto the programs
  • improved stakeholder management and stakeholder satisfaction through more streamlined and coordinated engagement processes, particularly with key stakeholders. Best use of resources (optimisation and mobility)
  • optimisation of the supply chain and industry resources, including access to larger suppliers through bulking of smaller projects, and greater confidence for suppliers to allow them to plan longer term
  • efficiencies in scheduling
  • efficiencies in staffing; particularly where resource constraints may affect projects within the program
  • application of program risk mitigation strategies across projects
  • coordinated program response to changes in organisational direction that affect certain projects
  • strengthened capacity for program contingency planning
  • improved decision making information and more streamlined reporting processes.

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Program management methodology

The Cross Functional Framework diagram shows the alignment between the OnQ Project Management Framework, the Transport System Manager (TSM) Framework and the department's Program Management Framework.

A strategic level methodology for program management that utilises a selection of the OnQ project management activities, applied at a program level, appears in the business management of projects diagram. It shows a generic management/work management split, similar to the OnQ project methodology project management/work management split.

The OnQ program management methodology site seeks only to give an overarching strategic framework for program management to occur within. The framework does not:

  • cover or replicate any specific program management work content areas as these already have well established processes.
  • specify any program categorisation or structure, as this is considered 'work management'
  • require the program to be targeting transformational change.

As can be seen from the business management of projects diagram, the OnQ program management process uses (a maximum of only) 4 of the 20 OnQ activities, and a maximum of 3 out of the 10 template completions, modified as follows:

  • The OnQ project proposal (4 in1 template) can be used to confirm the business need, and set the important directions for the program, including the benefits to be realised. For smaller, less complex programs, this may not be necessary.
  • The options analysis (4 in1 template) can be used to determine the projects to be included in the program. If a higher level strategy is in place, then an options analysis for the program may not be necessary.
  • A Program Delivery Plan can use the OnQ business case (4 in1 template) to determine how the program will be delivered/managed where no required format exists. All programs should have a program delivery plan in some form or other and the OnQ format can be used where no other required format exists. Any existing format should be checked against the OnQ template for completeness, and any missing items added.

Using the templates in this way requires the word 'project' to be amended to 'program'. To date, no separate templates have been produced for this purpose.

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Selecting and prioritising projects within programs

Responsibility for allocating specific projects, directing project selection methods and accepting the program manager's recommendations on these matters rests with the program customer/business objective owner, who will tailor/package programs to best realise the benefits the business is seeking.

There are many methods for selecting or prioritising projects for inclusion in a program. These include:

  • developing a strategy that determines which categories or projects are selected
  • political priorities
  • equality between groups or geographic areas
  • the state of development of the various possible project concepts
  • benefit cost ratio
  • multi criteria analysis
  • funding constraints
  • critical resource availability.

Some combination of these will often be used. For example, see the following assessment criteria used for evaluating proposals submitted by local governments for one particular program.

Assessment criteria

  1. Does the proposal fall within the scope of the program?
  2. How well will the proposal achieve the strategic objectives?
  3. What benefits will the proposal produce?
  4. Who or what number of people will the benefits flow to?
  5. What will be the upfront cost of the proposal?
  6. What will be the maintenance costs of the proposal?
  7. Do the benefits exceed the cost?
  8. Does it serve a relatively disadvantaged or remote or isolated group?
  9. Does past funding history indicate priority is due?
  10. Does equity between regions or districts need to be considered?

However individual methods of prioritising are considered to be tools or techniques and are not yet specifically covered on this website.

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Last updated
07 May 2020