Program Life Cycle Management

Program Life Cycle Management performance domain facilitates effective program definition, program delivery, and program closure.

These components may include projects, subsidiary programs, and additional program-related activities that are necessary to achieve the specified goals and objectives.

Since programs, by nature, involve a certain level of uncertainty, change, complexity, and inter-dependency among the various components, it is useful to establish a common and consistent set of processes that can be applied across phases.

Program Life Cycle Management spans the duration of the program, during which it contributes to and integrates with the other program domains as well as the supporting program activities.

1.- The program life cycle

  • A program is defined, benefits are delivered, and the program is closed.
  • The programs involve the coordination and sequencing of multiple components above what is required at an individual project level.
  • The program activities begin before funding in approved.
  • During program delivery, components are authorized, planned, and executed, and benefits are delivered.
  • Program closure is then approved by the program steering committee when the desired benefits or program objectives have been realized or the steering committee has determined that the program should be terminated.

The program life cycle phases overview

  • Program Definition Phase. This phase consists of program activities conducted to authorize the program and develop the program roadmap required to achieve the expected results.
  • Program Delivery Phase. Program delivery comprises the program activities performed to produce the intended results of each component in accordance with the program management plan.
  • Program Closure Phase. This phase includes the program activities necessary to transition the program benefits to the sustaining organization and formally close the program in a controlled manner.

During program closure, the program is transitioned and closed or terminated early, or work is transitioned to another program.

Program Definition phase

The program definition phase includes program activities conducted to authorize the program and develop the program roadmap required to achieve the expected results
There may be a number of activities executed by a portfolio management body prior to the start of the program definition phase.

The primary purpose of the program definition phase is to progressively elaborate the goals and objectives to be addressed by the program, define the expected program outcomes and benefits, and seek approval for the program.

Program formulation includes:

  • Initiate studies and estimates of scope, resources, and cost;
  • Develop an initial risk assessment; and
  • Develop a program charter and roadmap.

The candidate program is compared with other organizational initiatives to determine the priority of the program under consideration.

This analysis helps determine the probability of the program’s successful delivery of organizational benefits and helps identify risk response strategies and plans.

The contents of the program charter generally consist of the following questions and their answers:

  • Justification. Why is the program important and what does it achieve?
  • Vision. What is the end state and how will it benefit the organization?
  • Strategic alignment. What are the key strategic drivers and the program’s relationship to the organizational strategic objectives and any other ongoing strategic initiatives.
  • Benefits . What are the key outcomes required to achieve the program vision and benefits?
  • Scope. What is included within the program and what is considered to be out of scope at a high level?
  • Components. How are the projects and other program components configured to deliver the program and the intended benefits?
  • Risks and issues. What are the initial risks and issues identified during the preparation of the program roadmap?
  • Timeline. What is the total length of the program, including all key milestone dates?
  • Stakeholder considerations. Who are the key stakeholders, who are the most important stakeholders,
  • Program governance . What is the recommended governance structure to manage, control, and support the program?

Program Planning, commences upon formal approval of the program charter by the program steering committee. This plan is the key output created during program planning and may be combined into one plan or multiple plans that include the following subsidiary documents:

  • Benefits management plan
  • Stakeholder engagement plan
  • Governance plan
  • Change management plan
  • Communications management plan
  • Financial management plan
  • Information management plan
  • Procurement management plan
  • Quality management plan
  • Resource management plan
  • Risk management plan
  • Schedule management plan
  • Scope management plan
  • Program roadmap

Program delivery phase  includes program activities performed to produce the intended results of each component in accordance with the program management plan.

The program manager is also responsible for managing this group of components in a consistent and coordinated way in order to achieve results that could not be obtained by managing the components as stand-alone efforts.

Each program component will progress through the following program delivery sub-phases:

  • Component authorization and planning:  involves the initiation of components based on the organization’s specified criteria and individual business cases developed for each component. These criteria are generally included in the program governance plan. The Program Governance Performance Domain provides guidance for processes leading to component authorization.
  • Component oversight and integration . In the context of a program, some components may produce benefits as individual components, while other components are integrated with others before the associated benefits may be realized. Each component team executes its associated plans and program integrative work. Throughout this activity, components provide status and other information to the program manager and to their associated components so their efforts may be integrated into and coordinated with the overall program activities
  • Component transition and closure . After the program components have produced deliverables and coordinated the successful delivery of their products, services, or results, these components are typically scheduled for closure or transition to operations or ongoing work. Prior to the end of the program delivery phase, all component areas are reviewed to verify that the benefits were delivered and to transition any remaining projects and sustaining activities.

Program delivery ends when program governance determines that the specific criteria for this phase have been satisfied or a decision is made to terminate the program.

Program closure phase includes program activities necessary to transition program benefits to the sustaining organization and formally close the program in a controlled manner.

During program transition, the program steering committee is consulted to determine whether:

  • (a) the program has met all of the desired benefits and that all transition work has been performed within the component transition, or
  • (b) there is another program or sustaining activity that will oversee the ongoing benefits for which this program was chartered.

2.- Program activities and Integration Management

Program activities and integration management are concerned with collectively utilizing the resources, knowledge, and skills available to effectively deploy multiple components throughout the program life cycle.

This process also involves making decisions regarding:

  • Competing demands and priorities,
  • Risks,
  • Resource allocations,
  • Changes due to uncertainty and complexity of the program scope,
  • Inter-dependencies among components, and
  • Coordination of work to meet the program objectives

Program activities overview

All work performed in a program for the purpose of overall program management is collectively known as program activities.

It is important to note that program activities directly support the individual components to ensure the component activities help achieve the program objectives.

Program integration management

is the core activity that occurs across the entire program life cycle.

This section focuses on the following activities and when they are performed throughout the program life cycle phases:

  • a) Program infrastructure development
  • b) Program delivery management
  • c) Program performance monitoring and controlling
  • d) Benefits sustainment and program transition
  • e) Program closeout

a) Program infrastructure development  its primary purpose  is twofold. It establishes both the management and technical resources of the program and its components. This infrastructure refers to both personnel and to program specific tools, facilities, and finances used to manage the program.

Although the program manager is assigned during program definition, the program management core team is designated as part of establishing the program infrastructure.

For many programs, the program management office (PMO) is a core part of the program infrastructure. It supports the management and coordination of the program and component work.

An effective PMIS incorporates:

  • Software tools;
  • Documents, data, and knowledge repositories;
  • Configuration management tools;
  • Change management system;
  • Risk database and analysis tools;
  • Financial management systems;
  • Earned value management activities and tools;
  • Requirements management activities and tools; and
  • Other tools and activities as required.

These resources are separate and distinct from the resources required to manage the individual components within the program

b) Program delivery management includes the management, oversight, integration, and optimization of the program components that will deliver the capabilities and benefits required for the organization to realize value.

These activities are performed throughout the program delivery phase and relate to the initiation, change, transition, and closure of program components.

During the course of program delivery, change requests that fall within the program manager’s authority level will be approved or rejected to manage performance and any changes to the program management plan

c) Program performance monitoring and controlling  are performed by both program- and project-level components during delivery management.

  • These activities include collecting, measuring, and disseminating performance information to track progress against the program objectives and assess overall program trends.
  • Typical outputs of this ongoing activity include program performance reports and forecasts. Program performance reports include a summary of the progress of all program components.

d) Benefits sustainment and program transition. Some program components produce immediate benefits while others require a hand-off or transition to another organization in order for the ongoing benefit to be realized.

Benefits sustainment may be achieved through operations, maintenance, new projects, or other initiatives and efforts.

This activity transcends the scope of individual program components since this work is typically performed as the program is closed

e) Program closeout. As part of the program governance plan, a final program report may be required to document critical information that can be applied to improve the success of future programs and component projects.

This final report may consist of:

  • Financial and performance assessments,
  • Lessons learned,
  • Successes and failures,
  • Identified areas for improvement,
  • Risk management outcomes,
  • Unforeseen risks,
  • Customer sign-off,
  • Reason(s) for program closeout,
  • History of all baselines, and
  • Archive plan for program documentation.

Upon program completion, knowledge transfer is performed when the program management team assesses the program’s performance and shares lessons learned with the organization.

Mapping of the program management life cycle to program activities

Program Governance

Program governance,

  1. enables and performs program decision making, establishes practices to support the program, and maintain program oversight.
  2. comprises the framework, functions, and processes by which a program is monitored, managed, and supported in order to meet organizational strategic and operational goals.

Program Manager,

  • has management responsibilities to ensure that the program is run within the governance framework while managing the day-to-day program activities.
  • should ensure that the program team understands and abides by the governance procedures and the underlying governance principles.

Component governance,

  • It is the governance of the different components of a program, that is achieved through the actions of the program manager and the program team.

Program governance is impacted by organizational governance, which is a structured way to provide control, direction, and coordination through people, policies, and processes to meet organizational strategic and operational.

Effective program governance supports the success of a program by:

  • Ensuring that the goals of the program remain aligned with the strategic vision, operational capabilities, and resource commitments of the sponsoring organization.
  • Approving, endorsing, and initiating the program and securing funding from the sponsoring organization;
  • Establishing clear, well-understood agreements as to how the sponsoring organization will oversee the program, and conversely, the degree of autonomy that the program will be given in the pursuit of its goals;
  • Facilitating the engagement of program stakeholders by establishing clear expectations for each program’s interactions with key governing stakeholders throughout the program;
  • Creating an environment for communicating and addressing program risks and uncertainties to the organization, as well as opportunities and issues that arise during the course of program performance;
  • Providing a framework that is aligned with portfolio and corporate governance policies and processes for assessing and ensuring the program is compliant. Each program may need to create a particular governance process or procedure, but it should be aligned with the organization’s governance principles;
  • Designing and authorizing the assurance process and, when required, executing reviews and health checks of the program progress in delivering its expected benefits. Various review types are used, including phase-gate reviews, other decision point reviews, and periodic health checks;
  • Enabling the organization to assess the viability of the organization’s strategic plan and the level of support required to achieve it;
  • Selecting, endorsing, and enabling the pursuit of program components, including projects, subsidiary programs, and other program activities; and
  • Making decisions to transition between phases, terminate, or close the program.

1.- Program Governance Practices

To facilitate the design and implementation of effective governance, many organizations prepare documented descriptions of each program’s governance frameworks, functions, and processes.

The purpose of the program governance plan is to describe the systems and methods to be used to monitor, manage, and support a given program, and the responsibilities of specific roles for ensuring the timely and effective use of those systems and methods.

The program governance plan may be modified as appropriate, based on outcomes attained during the course of the program. It is generally accepted good practice to ensure that modifications are effectively communicated to those stakeholders responsible for program governance and program management.

The governance plan should

  • defines roles and responsibilities: who will have accountability and authority with respect to key decision-making categories and responsibility boundaries.
  • contain a schedule of anticipated program-related governance meetings, activities, and key milestones, such as scheduled expected decision point reviews (including phase gate reviews), program health checks, and required audits.
  • Dependencies, assumptions, and constraints. List of governance key dependencies, assumptions, and constraints including resource, budget, and operational limitations.
  • Benefits, performance metrics, and measurement . List of the methods and metrics used to evaluate the program and evaluate component contributions to benefits, and a description of how information on the components will be collected, consolidated, and reported (e.g., a balanced scorecard or dashboard).
  • Support services. Identification of the areas where governance-related support is needed. Included is a description of the feedback and support approach used during the program.
  • Stakeholder engagement. A listing of the stakeholders who should be engaged and communicated with during the program’s life cycle and governance activities.

The vision and goals of the organization provide the basis for strategic mandates that drive the definition of most programs. Program governance ensures that any program within its area of authority defines its vision and goals in order to effectively support those of the organization.

Program approval, endorsement, and definition

These approvals occur in the program definition phase and are facilitated by two program artifacts:

  • Program business case. Serves as a formal projection of the benefits that the program is expected to deliver and a justification for the resources that will be expended to deliver it.
  • Program charter. Authorizes the program management team to use organizational resources to pursue the program and links the program to its business case and the organization’s strategic priorities.

Program governance facilitates program funding to the degree necessary to support the approved business case.

When program funding needs to be secured from external sources, program governance is typically responsible for entering into the appropriate agreements necessary to secure it.

The program success criteria

describes the definition of success consistent with the expectations and needs of key program stakeholders, and reinforce the program alignment to deliver the maximum attainable benefits.

Program monitoring, controlling and reporting may include:

  • Operational status and progress of programs, components, and related activities;
  • Expected or incurred program resource requirements;
  • Known program risks, their response plans, and escalation criteria;
  • Strategic and operational assumptions;
  • Benefits realized and expected sustainment;
  • Decision criteria, tracking, and communication;
  • Program change control;
  • Compliance with corporate and legal policies;
  • Program information management;
  • Issues and issue response plans; and
  • Program funding and financial performance.

Program risk and issue governance

Effective risk and issue management practices ensure that key risks and issues are escalated appropriately and resolved in a timely manner.

The escalation processes typically operate at two levels:

  • (a) within the program, between component teams, the program management team, and the program steering committee; and
  • (b) outside the program, between the program management team, the program’s steering committee, and other stakeholders.

Based on the risk appetite of the organization, and working with organizational governance and the program management team, program governance may establish program risk thresholds for adherence within the program.

Program quality governance

Quality management planning is often performed at the component level, and therefore is managed at that level.

The governance participants are responsible for reviewing and approving the approach to quality management and the standards by which quality will be measured.

In some cases, the governance participants may define such measures, which include:

  • Minimum quality criteria and standards to be applied to all components of the program;
  • Minimum requirements for quality planning, quality control, and quality assurance by components;
  • Any required program-level quality assurance or quality control activities; and
  • Roles and responsibilities for required program-level quality assurance and quality control activities.

Program change governance

The program manager assesses whether the risks associated with potential changes are acceptable or desirable, whether the proposed changes are operationally feasible and organizationally supportable, and whether the changes are significant enough to require approval of the program steering committee.

The extent to which a change can be authorized by program governance is bounded by the program business case and organizational strategy.

Program governance reviews

Program governance endorses decision-point reviews and their specific objectives, which may include assessments of the:

  • Strategic alignment of the program and its components with the intended goals of both the program and the organization;
  • Risk that the program faces, to ensure that the level of risk remains acceptable and to provide opportunity for program governance to assist in responding to risk;
  • Program resource needs and organizational commitments in addition to capabilities for fulfilling them;
  • Stakeholder satisfaction with current program performance;
  • Issues that should be resolved in order to improve program progress;
  • Potential need for changes to elements of the program, in order to further improve the program’s performance and likelihood of success; and
  • Fulfillment of criteria for exiting the preceding phase and entering the succeeding phase.

Program periodic health checks

The importance and use of these reviews increase when there is an extended period between scheduled decision-point reviews.

The program governance plan specifies governance requirements for the scheduling, the content, the participants, and the assessments (or metrics) to be used during such health checks.

Program component initiation and transition

Program steering committee approval is usually required prior to the initiation of individual components of the program to the extent that the initiation of a component requires:

  • (a) the introduction of additional governance structures that are responsible for monitoring and managing the component, and
  • (b) the firm commitment of organizational resources for its completion.

The program manager frequently acts as the proposer when seeking authorization for the initiation of these components.

The approval of the initiation of a new program component generally includes:

  • Developing, modifying, or reconfirming the business case;
  • Ensuring the availability of resources to perform the component;
  • Defining or reconfirming individual accountabilities for management and pursuit of the component;
  • Ensuring the communication of critical component-related information to key stakeholders;
  • Authorizing the governance structure to track the component’s progress against its goals.

Approval is generally required for transition and closure of an individual program component. The review of any recommendation for the transition or closure of a program component generally includes:

  • Ensuring appropriate program-level communications of the component’s closure to key stakeholders,
  • Ensuring component compliance with program-level quality control plans (when required),
  • Assessing organizational- or program-level lessons learned as a consequence of performance of the component in transition, and
  • Confirming that all other accepted practices for project or program transition or closure have been satisfied.

Program closure

  • The program steering committee reviews and makes decisions on recommendations for the closure of programs.
  • Alternatively, programs may be terminated because changes in the organizational strategy or environment have resulted in diminished program benefits or needs.
    Regardless of the cause for termination, closure procedures should be implemented.
  • The final program report is approved by the governance participants during closure.

2.- Program governance roles

Establishing an appropriate collaborative relationship between individuals responsible for program governance and program management is critical to the success of programs in delivering the benefits desired by the organization.

Program managers rely on the program steering committee (also referred to as the program governance board , oversight committee, or board of directors) members to establish organizational conditions that enable the effective pursuit of programs and to resolve issues that inevitably arise when the needs of their program conflict with the needs of other programs, projects, or ongoing operational activities.

In accordance with the program charter, program managers assume responsibility and accountability for effectively managing programs in the pursuit of organizational goals as authorized by the program steering committee.

Commonly used roles

  • Program sponsor. An individual or a group that provides resources and support for the program and is accountable for enabling success.
  • Program steering committee . A group of participants representing various program-related interests with the purpose of supporting the program under its authority by providing guidance, endorsements, and approvals through the governance practices.
  • Program management office (PMO). A management structure that standardizes the program-related governance processes and facilitates the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools, and techniques.
  • Program manager. The individual within an agency, organization, or corporation who maintains responsibility for the leadership, conduct, and performance of a program. In the context of governance, this role interfaces with the program steering committee and sponsor and manages the program to ensure delivery of the intended benefits.
  • Project manager . The person assigned by the performing organization to lead the team that is responsible for achieving project objectives. In the context of governance, this role interfaces with the program manager and program sponsor and manages the delivery of the project’s product, service, or result.
  • Other stakeholders. These stakeholders include the manager of the portfolio of which the program is a component and operational managers receiving the capabilities delivered by the program.

Program Sponsor

The program sponsor is the individual responsible for committing the application of organizational resources to the program and for program success.

Typical responsibilities of the program sponsor are to:

  • Secure funding for the program and ensure program goals and objectives are aligned with the strategic vision;
  • Enable the delivery of benefits; and
  • Remove barriers and obstacles to program success.

Typically, an effective sponsor exhibits the following attributes:

  • Ability to influence stakeholders,
  • Ability to work across different stakeholder groups to find mutually beneficial solutions,
  • Leadership,
  • Decision-making authority, and
  • Effective communication skills.

Program steering committee

Program steering committees ensure that programs are pursued in an environment with appropriate organizational knowledge and expertise, well supported by cohesive policies and processes, and empowered by their access to those with decision-making authority.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • Provide governance support for the program to include oversight, control, integration, and decision-making functions;
  • Provide capable governance resources to oversee and monitor program uncertainty and complexity related to achieving benefits delivery;
  • Ensure program goals and planned benefits align with organizational strategic and operational goals;
  • Conduct planning sessions to confirm, prioritize, and fund the program;
  • Endorse or approve program recommendations and changes;
  • Resolve and remediate escalated program issues and risks;
  • Provide leadership in making, enforcing, carrying out, and communicating decisions;
  • Review expected benefits and benefits delivery; and
  • Approve program closure or termination.

Program Management Office (PMO)

It facilitates the governance practices.

It is a management structure that standardizes the program-related governance processes and facilitates the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools, and techniques.

It provides professional expertise using staff highly trained in applying program governance practices to provide oversight, support, and decision-making capability to the program.

The PMO role may extend to monitoring compliance to program management practices.

Program Manager

The program manager is the individual responsible for management and oversight of the program’s interactions with the program governance function.

Typical governance-related responsibilities include:

  • Assess the governance framework, including organizational structure, policies, and procedures, and, in some cases, establish the program governance framework;
  • Oversee program conformance to governance policies and processes;
  • Manage program interactions with the steering committee and sponsor;
  • Manage inter-dependencies between components within the program;
  • Monitor and manage program risks, performance, and communications;
  • Manage program risks and issues and escalate critical risks and issues beyond the program manager’s control to the steering committee;
  • Monitor and report on overall program funding and health;
  • Manage, monitor, and track overall program benefits realization.

Project Manager

In the context of a program, the project manager role generally refers to an individual responsible for oversight or management of a project that is being pursued as a component of the program.

While the role is not always central to program governance, the typical governance-related responsibilities of a project manager include:

  • Manage project interactions with the program manager, steering committee, and sponsor;
  • Oversee project conformance to governance policies and processes;
  • Monitor and manage performance and communications;
  • Manage project risks and issues and escalate critical risks and issues beyond the project manager’s control to the program manager, sponsor, or steering committee of the project;

Other stakeholders

Several other stakeholders may have program governance related roles.

The portfolio manager may have a role in ensuring that a program is selected, prioritized, and staffed according to the organization’s plan for realizing desired benefits.

The operational manager is generally responsible for receiving and integrating the capabilities delivered by other program components for achieving desired organizational benefits.

This role has governance implications as it informs and performs the governance practices.

3.- Program governance design and implementation

Program governance begins with (1) the identification of governance participants and the (2) establishment of governance practices. There is also the need to (3) define expectations for how governance-related roles are filled and responsibilities are discharged.

Governance practices may differ depending on the sector or industry that the organization serves. Governance of programs in such diverse fields as national or local government, aerospace and defense, banking and financing, and pharmaceutical development may have remarkably different needs based on the unique political, regulatory, legal, technical, and competitive environments in which they operate.

Governance practices provide the foundation for ensuring that decisions are made rationally and with appropriate justification, and that the responsibilities and accountabilities are clearly defined and applied.

There are many factors to consider when designing the program governance rules and framework. Common factors to consider when optimizing and tailoring program governance include:

  • Legislative environment . Programs that are significantly influenced by changing legislation may benefit from governance designed for direct interaction with the legislative authorities.
  • Decision-making hierarchy. It is critical for decision-making responsibility to be at the level where competence, accountability, and authority reside.
  • Alignment with portfolio and organizational governance. Program governance is impacted by the portfolio governance that it supports.
  • Program delivery. A program that regularly delivers benefits to the organization is likely to require different governance than a program delivering all or most of the benefits at the end.
  • Risk of failure . The greater the perceived risk of program failure, the greater the likelihood the governance team will monitor progress and success more diligently.
  • Strategic importance. High-value programs critical to the success of the organization and delivering benefits that need to be completely aligned with the strategy may require different or more senior participants on the governance team.
  • Program management office (PMO). In many project- or program-based organizations, a centralized PMO supports the governance of all programs for that organization. In other organizations, PMOs may be formed specifically for a given program.
  • Program funding structure. When funding is secured from outside the delivery organization, for example from the World Bank, there are likely implications on the design of the governance and the skills required.

The corresponding design of the governance should align with required practices in a timely manner.