The Standard for Program Management

The Standard for Program Management

by Project Management Institute

Paperback(Fourth edition)

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The Standard for Program Management – Fourth Edition differs from prior editions by focusing on the principles of good program management. Program activities have been realigned to program lifecycle phases rather than topics, and the first section was expanded to address the key roles of program manager, program sponsor and program management office. It has also been updated to better align with PMI’s Governance of Portfolios, Programs, and Projects: A Practice Guide.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781628251968
Publisher: Project Management Institute
Publication date: 10/01/2017
Edition description: Fourth edition
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 669,643
Product dimensions: 8.30(w) x 10.80(h) x 0.50(d)

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The PMI provides services including the development of standards, research, education, publication, networking-opportunities in local chapters, hosting conferences and training seminars, and providing accreditation in project management.

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The Standard for Program Management – Fourth Edition provides guidance on the principles of program management. It provides generally accepted definitions of programs and program management and concepts important to their success — program management performance domains, the program life cycle, and important program management principles, practices, and activities. This edition of The Standard for Program Management expands and clarifies concepts presented in previous editions. It complements and aligns with the Project Management Institute's (PMI's) core foundational standards and guidance documents, including the latest edition of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK ® Guide), The Standard for Portfolio Management, Implementing Organizational Project Management: A Practice Guide, and the PMI Lexicon of Project Management Terms.

This section defines and explains terms related to the standard's scope and provides an introduction to the content that follows. It includes the following major sections:

1.1 Purpose of The Standard for Program Management

1.2 What Is a Program?

1.3 What Is Program Management?

1.4 The Relationships among Portfolio, Program, and Project Management, and their Roles in Organizational Project Management (OPM)

1.5 The Relationships among Organizational Strategy, Program Management, and Operations Management

1.6 Business Value

1.7 Role of the Program Manager

1.8 Role of the Program Sponsor

1.9 Role of the Program Management Office


The Standard for Program Management provides guidance on principles, practices, and activities of program management that are generally recognized to support good program management practices and that are applicable to most programs, most of the time.

* Principles of program management are tenets that are held to be true and important for the effective management of programs.

* Generally recognized means there is general consensus that the described principles, knowledge, and practices are valuable and useful.

* Good practice means there is general agreement that application of the principles, knowledge, and practices improves the management of programs and enhances the chances of program success, as measured by the extent and effectiveness of benefits delivery and realization. Good practice does not mean that all provisions of the standard are required to be applied to every program; an organization's leaders, its program managers, its program teams, and its program management office (when one is employed) are responsible for determining what is most appropriate for any given program, based on the unique or specific requirements of the program and its sponsoring organization.

The Standard for Program Management is also intended to provide a common understanding of the role of a program manager in general, and especially when interacting with:

* Portfolio managers whose portfolio(s) include the program or its components;

* Project managers whose projects are part of the program;

* Program sponsors and other members of the program steering committee. This committee may be referred to as a program or portfolio governance board;

* Program or project management office;

* Program team members working on the program or on other subsidiary programs;

* Program beneficiaries; and

* Other stakeholders or stakeholder groups (e.g., organizational executives, business partners, clients, suppliers, vendors, leaders or political groups) that may influence the program.

The Standard for Program Management is intended to be applied according to the Project Management Institute's Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, which specifies obligations of responsibility, respect, fairness, and honesty that program managers should abide by in the conduct of their work. The Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct requires that practitioners demonstrate a commitment to ethical and professional conduct, and carries with it the obligation to comply with laws, regulations, and organizational and professional policies.


A program is defined as related projects, subsidiary programs, and program activities managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually.

Managing projects, subsidiary programs, and program activities as a program enhances the delivery of benefits by ensuring that the strategies and work plans of program components are responsively adapted to component outcomes, or to changes in the direction or strategies of the sponsoring organization. Programs are conducted primarily to deliver benefits to the sponsor organizations or constituents of the sponsoring organization. Programs may deliver benefits, for example, by enhancing current capabilities, facilitating change, creating or maintaining assets, offering new products and services, or developing new opportunities to generate or preserve value. Such benefits are delivered to the sponsoring organization as outcomes that provide utility to the organization and the program's intended beneficiaries or stakeholders.

Programs deliver their intended benefits primarily through component projects and subsidiary programs that are pursued to produce outputs and outcomes. The components of a program are related through their pursuit of complementary goals that each contribute to the delivery of benefits.

Component projects or programs that do not advance common or complementary goals; or that do not jointly contribute to the delivery of common benefits; or that are related only by common sources of support, technology, or stakeholders are often better managed as portfolios rather than as programs (see The Standard for Portfolio Management).

The following is a list of program elements and their definitions:

* Components are projects, subsidiary programs, or other related activities conducted to support a program.

* Projects are temporary endeavors undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result, as described fully in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). Projects are used to generate the outputs or outcomes required by programs, within defined constraints, such as budget, time, specifications, scope, and quality.

* Subsidiary programs, sometimes referred to as subprograms, are programs sponsored and conducted to pursue a subset of goals important to the primary program. As an example, a program to develop a new electric car may sponsor other programs related to the development of new motor, battery, and charging station technologies. Each of these other programs would be managed as described in this standard and also monitored and managed as a component of the sponsoring program.

* Other program-related activities are work processes or activities that are being conducted to support a program, but that are not directly tied to the subsidiary programs or projects sponsored or conducted by a program. Examples of processes and activities sponsored by programs may include those related to training, planning, program-level control, reporting, accounting, and administration. Operational activities or maintenance functions that are directly related to a program's components may be considered as other program-related activities.

When used in the context of program management, the term activities should be read as program activities. Program activities are activities conducted to support a program, and not those activities performed during the course of a program's component projects.

The primary difference between projects and programs is based on the recognition within programs that the strategies for delivering benefits may need to be optimized adaptively as the outcomes of components are individually realized. The best mechanism for delivering a program's benefits may initially be ambiguous or uncertain. Outcomes delivered by a program's components contribute to the delivery of the program's intended benefits and, as necessary, to refinement of the strategy of the program and its components.

The primary value of managing an initiative as a program is based on the acknowledgement of the program manager's readiness to adapt strategies to optimize the delivery of benefits to an organization. As a consequence of a program's potential need to adapt to the outcomes and outputs of its components and its potential need to modify its strategy or plans, program components may be pursued in an iterative, nonsequential manner.

The program life cycle depicted in Figure 1-1 illustrates the nonsequential nature of a program's delivery phase. In a program, the iterative pursuit of components is expected to produce a stream of outputs and outcomes that contribute to organizational benefits. Program benefits may be realized incrementally throughout the duration of the program or may be realized at or after the end of the program. The program life cycle is discussed in greater detail in Section 7 of this standard.

One example of a program that delivers benefits incrementally is an organization-wide process improvement program. Such a program might be envisioned to pursue component projects to standardize and consolidate specific processes (e.g., financial control processes, inventory management processes, hiring processes, performance appraisal processes) and subsidiary programs to ensure that the benefits of consolidation are fully realized (e.g., to ensure adoption of the improved processes or to measure employee satisfaction and performance with the new processes). Each of these components may deliver incremental benefits as they are completed. The outcomes of components might trigger the initiation of new projects to further improve processes, satisfaction, and performance. However, the program would not be complete until all of the projects and subsidiary programs necessary for business improvement have delivered their intended program benefits.

Alternatively, programs may deliver intended benefits all at once — as a unified whole. In this case, the benefits of the program are not realized until the program is completed. A drug development program can be viewed as a program with unified benefits delivery, where the individual components of the program would not be expected to deliver benefits until the entire drug development program is successfully completed, the product is approved for sale, patients are treated with it, and the organization realizes benefits from its sale.


Programs are generally initiated or recognized in two ways:

* Programs initiated to pursue new goals, objectives, or strategies are begun before the start of work on their component projects and programs. These programs are typically initiated to support new strategic goals and objectives; they enable an organization to pursue its vision and mission. Examples of such programs include programs initiated as part of an organization's strategic planning process (such as part of a portfolio-based decision to develop a new product or service, or to expand into a new market), to influence human behavior (such as to raise awareness of healthy behaviors or of terrorist threats, or to ensure compliance with new regulations), or to respond to a crisis (e.g., to provide disaster relief or to manage a public health issue). These programs are generally supported from the beginning by program management activities.

* Programs may also be formed when an organization recognizes that its ongoing projects, programs, and other work are related by their pursuit of common outcomes, capabilities, objectives, or benefits (e.g., a process improvement program supported by previously independent software development initiatives), or a neighborhood revitalization program supported by building public parks and traffic control projects, and a community outreach program. These programs are often formed when an organization determines that organizational benefits would be more effectively realized by managing ongoing initiatives as a single program. Such programs are supported by program management activities after some or all of their projects have been initiated.

Newly initiated or identified programs should all be managed according to the principles and life cycle management guidance described in the subsequent sections of this standard. It is incumbent on a program manager to ensure, for example, that activities important to program definition be completed for programs whose projects and other programs may have already begun.


The relationship among portfolios, programs, and projects is as follows:

* A portfolio is a collection of projects, programs, subsidiary portfolios, and operations managed as a group to achieve strategic objectives.

* Programs consist of related projects, subsidiary programs, and program activities managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually. Programs are common elements of portfolios, conducted to deliver benefits important to an organization's strategic objectives.

* Projects, whether they are managed independently or as part of a program, are temporary endeavors that are undertaken to create unique products, services, or results.

Programs and projects, as significant elements of an organization's portfolio, are conducted to produce the outputs and outcomes required to support an organization's strategic objectives.

Figure 1-2 provides an example of how a portfolio of programs and projects may be organized to pursue an organization's strategy.


Program management is defined as the application of knowledge, skills, and principles to a program to achieve the program objectives and to obtain benefits and control not available by managing program components individually. Program management involves the alignment of program components to ensure that program goals are achieved and program benefits are optimally delivered. Program management is performed by a program manager who is authorized by the organization to lead the team(s) responsible for achieving program goals and objectives.

The program manager ensures the effective alignment, integration, and control of a program's projects, subsidiary programs, and other program activities by actions taken in five interrelated and interdependent Program Management Performance Domains: Program Strategy Alignment, Program Benefits Management, Program Stakeholder Engagement, Program Governance, and Program Life Cycle Management. Program Management Performance Domains are complementary groupings of related areas of activity or function that uniquely characterize and differentiate the activities found in one performance domain from the others within the full scope of program management work. These performance domains are discussed in detail in subsequent sections of this standard. Through these Program Management Performance Domains, the program manager oversees and analyzes component interdependencies to determine the optimal approach for managing program components. Actions related to these interdependencies may include:

* Define how the outputs and outcomes of a program's components are expected to contribute to the program's delivery of its intended benefits and support the organization's strategy.

* Monitor benefits realization of program components to ensure they remain strategically aligned to the organization's goals.

* Ensure that the outputs and outcomes of a program's components are effectively communicated and considered so that a program can effectively optimize the pursuit of its intended benefits and provide value.

* Lead and coordinate program activities (for example, financing and procurement) across all program components, work, or phases.

* Communicate with and report to stakeholders to provide an integrated perspective on all activities being pursued within the program.

* Proactively assess and respond to risks spanning multiple components of the program.

* Align program efforts with the organizational strategy and the program's business case.

* Resolve scope, cost, schedule, resource, quality, and risk issues within a shared governance structure.

* Tailor program management activities, processes, and interfaces to effectively address cultural, socioeconomic, political, and environmental differences in programs.

Program managers apply program management principles to ensure that programs and their components are appropriately planned, controlled, and completed, and that program benefits are appropriately delivered and sustained.


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