Technical Program Management – Complete Guide

Technical Program Management - Complete Guide

A single project can be tedious whereas, managing multiple projects simultaneously may seem to be a game of juggling the balls. Every project has to be handled individually whereas, the interdependencies between them have to be maintained wisely.

These issues introduce the concept of program management to achieve clarity across various teams and reduce stress among them.

Introduction To Program Management

In program management, multiple related projects have to be executed and controlled simultaneously. The Program Manager will be responsible to plan for the resource management and guide those related projects under the programs. The project management aims to share various project activities such as the project costs and resources to drive the benefits. The larger chunks of tasks have to be broken into smaller manageable pieces.

Program vs. project

Programs have a large scope and are made up of various interconnected projects. These interconnected projects have similar aims at all the phases of the program lifecycle. Programs have flexible deadlines and long-lasting benefits.

Projects have a small scope. They focus on a particular deliverable and are usually temporary. They have strict deadlines, quality control, and cost benefits.

Jeff Bezos Career Advice
Jeff Bezos Career Advice

Difference Between Program Management And Project Management

Program management includes the management of interdependent long-term initiatives according to the company goals. There will be multiple projects included under the program management and all of them will have a project manager.

Project management includes the planning, handling, and executing only the work of a single team. This provides clarity and teamwork to the team.

Introduction To Technical Program Management

The technical program managers have to make strategic technical decisions under the technical program management. They have to manage the work right from the origination to the finish.

Here comes the Technical Program Manager (TPM) into the picture.

Technical Program Manager (TPM)

The Technical Program Manager is in charge of multiple related projects. The TPM has to specialize in strategic technical program management. They mostly use Gantt charts to track the victory of the technical programs.

Typical responsibilities of a TPM include:

  • Achieving strategic goals for the company:

The TPM has to make sure that the technical program’s initiatives are in line with the objectives of the company. The manager has to plan a proper utilization of the resources of the company and freely check the progress of the related projects frequently.

  • Working with multiple project managers:

The TPM has to make the teams arrive at a decision together and direct the individual project managers under the program.

  • Communicating with various stakeholders:

The manager has to handle the expectations of, work with, and provide communication between various teams, their project managers, and other stakeholders. The TPM has to report the program progress to the executives regularly.

  • Reviewing The Code And Design

The code and design of the projects have to be regularly reviewed by the TPM. The TPM has to also lead the hardware and software teams to implement various programs (codes) for the projects.

  • Handling the risks:

The TPM has to frequently look for the risks throughout the program lifecycle and handle them efficiently. He/she can also approach his seniors or other related stakeholders for the same.

  • Cost control:

Cost control and the management of the company’s budget kept for the technical program.

  • Utilization of program management tools:

They take real-time data as input and help the project managers in the decision-making process by providing an output. This is marked as one of the best practices for program management.

  • Managing the changes:

Changes in a technical program are obvious. So are the changes in the underlying projects. These changes can be caused by the stakeholders, internal team members, weather, changes in the supply chain, or other external factors. These changes must be identified, accepted or rejected, and responded to. A TPM has to be ready to handle these changes efficiently by communicating with the related stakeholders if required.

To Be A Technical Program Manager (TPM)

A TPM is expected to have enough technical knowledge to handle the program risks, estimates, and risks. They are, however, different than the developers or engineers.

Job expectations for a TPM depend upon the seniority of the role, members under the TPM, and the overall organizational structure.

Background

To be a TPM, one must have the following background:

  • Degree in an undergraduate technical field.
  • A technical background.
  • An experience in product development, product management, and project management.
  • The candidate should have been a product manager, a software or hardware engineer, a business analyst, or an engineering manager before becoming a TPM.
  • An MBA, a master’s degree in the field of Information Technology, a certification from the project management institute are preferred. These are not necessary but can prove to be an advantage.
  • The new TPMs have to go through on-the-job training where they will be introduced to the company goals, staff members, and current programs.
  • This training generally lasts up to 2 weeks but it may defer according to the employer.
  • The average salary of a TPM in the US is $137,129, 50%(Median).
  • Some benefits provided by various employers include disability, vision, dental, life insurance, and medical coverage, paid holidays, retirement plans, and paid vacations. Additional monetary benefits can be given to the TPMs who perform better than expected.

Some Key Terms Related To Technical Program Management

  1. Technical Program

A technical program is a collection of various interconnected technical projects. It has long-term objectives. These projects should be executed simultaneously.

  1. Technical Program Management

 The tools, techniques, management skills, and programs have to be executed and controlled in technical program management.

  1. Stakeholders

These are the ones who have are either interested in the project or the program and/or can be affected by the project or the program.

  1. Triple Constraint

 The three factors are scope, time, and cost. Quality can be the fourth factor after them. All of them should be balanced during the technical program management.

  1. Program Management Framework

It is a set of all the components, processes, standardized templates, tools, participants, methodologies, and activities required to plan a program right from the beginning to the end.

  1. Risk Management

Under risk management, the program manager has to identify the potential risks, their causes, and strategies to reduce their impacts.

  1. Sponsor

A sponsor or a sponsoring group has to authorize and approve the money-related elements of the program such as deliverables and funding. The sponsor is the most senior person amongst all the other stakeholders.

Lifecycle of a program

It consists of the following 5 phases:

C:\Users\admin\Desktop\Program life cycle.png
  1. Program Formulation

The related stakeholders and the executive committee have to approve the elements established here. This is an iterative phase. Some more elements to be regarded in this phase are:

  • Objectives of the program.
  • Analyzing the potential risk factors.
  • Management of resources.
  • Budget planning for the initialization of the program.
  • Advantages of the program.
  • Identifying the stakeholders and their expectations.
  • Identifying the mission, vision, and values for the program.
  1. Program Organization

This phase can be commenced after receiving approval from the related stakeholders. This phase is iterative. Some elements included in this phase are:

  • Defining and sequencing the business activities.
  • Creating a schedule.
  • Realizing the duration of all activities.
  • Make a list of the resources required.
  • Identifying the teams under program management.
  • Getting a business case for every project under the program.
  1. Program Deployment

In this phase, the program managers, the project managers, and their teams have to carry out the allocated tasks. The program manager can use various tools to track the progress. This phase is cyclical.

  1. Appraisal Phase

Most of the work gets done up to this phase. This is also a cyclical phase. Some key elements in this phase are:

  • Assessing whether the progress is going according to the plan.
  • Monitoring the threats for the plans constantly.
  • Communicating with the stakeholders.
  • Identifying and monitoring the risks as well as their solutions.
  • Coordination between the stakeholders to ensure efficient resource utilization.
  • Ensuring that the projects meet their technical requirements.
  1. Program Closure

The program has to be closed in this phase in a controlled manner. Some elements of this final phase are:

  • Realizing the status of the benefits with various stakeholders.
  • Documentation of the conclusions and a beginning to rectify them.
  • Dis-assembling the program management team.
  • Measuring the long-term benefits.

Introduction To Program Management Software

A program management software is the one that helps the program manager to track and report the progress of the program, collaborate with the teammates after inviting them, organizing team’s projects, resource management, portfolio monitoring, and customizing the workflows.

Must-Have Features Of A Program Management Software

  1. Gantt charts

Timelines are provided for the tasks. Thus, the key metrics can be highlighted and the projects can be managed easily.

  1. Dashboards

They display the data in the form of pie charts and graphs according to the data collected from the programs provided by the program manager. These metrics are automatically calculated for a quick view of the performance.

  1. Team management

Details of every individual are managed. However, details of some teams may get overlapped. Thus, program management software can help to manage their working hours and tasks.

  1. Time management

Time tracking is helpful to keep everyone on schedule. Timesheets can be used to track the hours of the work. It will allow the program managers to check whether the actual progress is going as per the planned progress.

  1. Tracking the cost

The cost associated with the program should be tracked regularly to stay within the budget. On one hand, resources must be allocated only where they are required while, on the other hand, overspending of resources should be avoided. The budget-to-cost ratios should be provided by the software. 

  1. Kanban boards

Transparency is necessary for the smooth functioning of the teams. The program managers can visualize the workflow and allocate necessary resources to the team members through the Kanban boards.

Some Technical Program Management Softwares

It has a work graph data model to help the teams to stay in sync, reach their goals, and hit the deadline.

It helps the managers to collaborate, manage projects, and push the boundaries of productivity. It believes that each team works uniquely whether it is in big companies or small offices.

It is a software product made and sold by Microsoft for project and program management. One has to pay a minimum of $10.00 per month to get a project here. Using this software, a program manager can create a schedule, assign the tasks accordingly, track the progress, track whether everything goes according to the budget, and check the workloads.

It allows the program manager to plan sprints after the creation of user stories and matters, distribute the work amongst the team members, discuss and prioritize the team’s work, release the same with updated information, and improve the team’s performance according to the real-time data.

The program managers can save time as they know what other stakeholders need from them. It provides visibility of 3600, powerful automation, and collaboration between various departments. Having a single source of information makes it easy for the program managers to lead and manage everything across the members.

It provides a dynamic workspace to help the project manager in automating the workflows, managing the programs, and come up with new solutions soon. It has security and consists of no-code tools.

Advantages Of Technical Program Management

  1. Achieving The Strategic Goals Of The Company

The program manager can start, define, speed up, or terminate the projects under the program to make plans for achieving the strategic goals of the company. 

  1. Checking Whether The Plans Go As Per The Strategic Goals

Along with coordinating with various related technical project teams, the technical program manager also has to track whether the plans are going according to the strategic goals. It is necessary because the plans may change with the passing time and end up being different than the strategic goals of the company.

  1. Easy Resource Allocation

The program structure is in front of the technical program manager. Thus, it becomes easier to allocate the resources and the budget across multiple interdependent teams.

  1. Easy Risk Management

The risks become visible quickly. Thus, risk management can be structured and followed accordingly. The responses of the risks can be shared across the teams so that they can work together and their work of mitigating the risks doesn’t get duplicated.

  1. Easier Management Of Interdependencies

The projects may rely on one another. This is called ‘project interdependency.’ These dependencies can be tracked, logged, and work can be done accordingly to save time through the program management. Otherwise, these interdependencies can be hard to find by looking at every project individually.

  1. Easy To Find The Opportunities

Risks and opportunities can be found easily. Since the program manager already has a big picture, the manager may prevent the risks in advance and move towards the opportunities. Some opportunities include extending the submission date or modifying the plan.

  1. Managing The Conflicts Easily

The program manager can see the hierarchy, interdependencies, and overall structure under the program. It is the responsibility of the manager to solve the corresponding conflicts. The manager may also have to approach the sponsors or the portfolio manager.

  1. The Best Projects Can Be Chosen

This can be done only if it is necessary. Otherwise, it may lead to more conflicts and the program manager will be included in them. However, the project manager with an unconvincing project can be approached and asked to make related improvements.

Challenges In Program Management

  1. A Scope Creep

The program may start going in a direction away from the planned scope again and again. Thus, the technical program manager has to carefully manage the technical program before it goes out of hand.

  1. Unclear Demonstration Of Responsibilities For A Program Manager

To overcome that, the technical program manager should discuss the responsibilities with various stakeholders and note them down. This is a very basic need.

  1. Managing The Expectations Of Multiple Stakeholders

We cannot expect every stakeholder to have a common expectation. Their expectations may differ according to their contribution towards the program, the effect of the program, their cultures, and experiences.

  1. Issues With The Budget

The Technical Program Manager (TPM) has to set clear budget boundaries with all the technical project managers and their members before starting the program or individual projects. The program manager obviously cannot go to sponsors frequently to increase the budget.

  1. Unskilled Members

This includes the TPM too. First, the TPM should possess the required skills and should know how to get the work done without any conflicts. Thus, it is advised to allocate the responsibilities according to the skills and experiences of the team member and other stakeholders.

Conclusion

The Technical Program Managers have to look after the product and project development across the IT industry. Technical Program Management is a job of great responsibility. However, it can be made easy and crystal clear with the help of proper management. Thus, the project and program managers should be chosen wisely.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What Is Project Portfolio Management (PPM)?

Answer:

The projects in the Program Management are interdependent.

Project Portfolio Management includes the analysis of the potential return, methods, technologies, and processes on the commitment of the project. These projects may or may not be related to one another but they remain under one portfolio.

  1. What Are The Three Aspects Of A Technical Program Manager?

Answer:

  1.  Leadership: Various related technical project managers come under a single technical program manager. The manager has to motivate and manage the team members, plot the strategies, listen to the employees, and act wisely.
  2. Communication: A TPM needs to communicate with various team members, executives, project managers, and stakeholders. The TPM should have the ability to convince these people according to the budget, scope, and other requirements of the program.
  3.  Organization: Various people and legal concerns are included in the program. The TPM should carefully manage all that as he will be answerable to all.
  1. What Is Product Management?

Answer:

Product management deals with the development of new products, planning, pricing, verification, business justification, prediction, product launch, and marketing at all the stages of a product life cycle.

Technical Program Management – Complete Guide

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