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Identifying a Programme Tutorial

Welcome to identifying a program tutorial offered by Simplilearn. This tutorial is a part of MSP® Foundation and Practitioner course.  

This tutorial covers the first process of the transformational flow, that is, ‘identifying a program’. It also focuses on the various roles and responsibilities in each step of the ‘identifying a program’ process. In addition, it makes you aware of the information that is available from the documents used in the process.  

Let us begin with the objectives of this lesson in the next section.

Objectives

By the end of this identifying a program tutorial, you will be able to:

  • Describe the inputs, principle controls, key roles and the outcomes of the process, ‘identifying a program’

  • Explain the steps involved in the same process

  • Identify the roles and responsibilities in the ‘identifying a program’ process

  • Discuss the information available in the documents used in the same process

Let us move on to the next section to discuss the MSP® framework.

MSP Framework

The diagram of MSP Framework is shown below.

As seen from the pictorial representation of MSP Framework, we observe that ‘Identifying a program’ is a part of the transformational flow process and it is positioned in the innermost ring of the MSP® framework.

  • This is the first process of the program and it is initiated as soon as the program mandate is received.

  • The main aim of the ‘identifying a program’ process is to gather data at the initial phase. This will help in deciding whether the program is worth proceeding with or not.

  • If proceeding, the collected data can be used by the forthcoming transformational flows.

In the next section, we will introduce the concept of ‘identifying a program’.

Identifying a Program Introduction

‘Identifying a program’ transformational flow is the trigger for initiating the overall program management process. It starts as soon as program mandate is received. The inputs, controls, roles, steps, and outputs of this process are as follows:

Inputs of the Process in Identifying a Program

Let us first begin with the inputs of this process.

The inputs for this process include the program mandate and business strategy used to ensure that the program outcomes are aligned to it.

The inputs also include the emerging program’s current status and plans which help the program to analyze if the current projects are being shaped into an emergent program or if any of the projects can be used for the new program.

Principal Controls of the Process in Identifying a Program

The principal control is provided by the Sponsoring Group who monitors the process, authorizes it and ensures that the program brief is aligned with the business strategy. Formal assurance review is conducted to ascertain the alignment with the strategy and assure that the program is feasible. This review can also be done by external parties.

Key Roles of the Process in Identifying a Program

The key roles identified in this process are that of the:

  • Sponsoring Group,

  • Senior Responsible Owner or SRO (read as S-R-O),

  • Program Board and

  • a Small team (optional).

The Sponsoring Group provides the necessary authorization and monitors the progress. They also nominate one of their peers as the Senior Responsible Owner, who has the accountability for the success or failure of the program.

The Program Board and an optional small team who can work on the program brief and program preparation plan ensure that these are aligned with the business strategy.

The steps involved in this process are:

  • Sponsor the program,

  • Confirm the program mandate,

  • Appoint the SRO and

  • Program Board,

  • Produce the program briefly,

  • Develop the program preparation plan,

  • Independent review and

  • Approval to proceed.

We will discuss each of these in detail, in the following sections. Let us now look into the outputs of this process.

  • One of the expected output of this process includes an independent assurance report confirming or denying the viability of the program.

  • The other outputs are confirmed mandate and approved program briefly.

  • Program brief is also referred to as an outline business case. In the case of emergent programs, outputs will include the decisions that have been taken on current activities. It needs to be confirmed if those activities will continue or will be stopped.

  • Another major output is the program preparation plan, which provides the plan and governance arrangements for the next phase.

  • The approval to start ‘defining a program’ from the Sponsoring Group and

  • The appointment of the SRO and the Program Board are the other outputs of this process.

In the next section, we will focus on the first step of the process, that is, ‘sponsoring the program’.

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Step 1: Sponsor the Program

The Sponsoring Group provides the initial and ongoing, top-level sponsorship required by the program to gain and maintain a necessary commitment to investment, resources, timescales, delivery and operational changes.

This sponsorship is provided via the program mandate. The following are the responsibilities of the Sponsoring Group:

  • Sponsoring groups have their own strategic interest in the program.

  • They are responsible for making decisions regarding the investment in the program.

  • They provide approval to proceed with each tranche.

  • The members include those who are required in delivering the change and planning the organizational strategy.

The approval signifies that they are ready to invest in the next phase of the program.

In the next section, we will focus on the responsibilities of each member of the Sponsoring Group.

Step 1: Sponsor the Program (contd.)

The members of the Sponsoring Group will be significantly impacted by the program’s success or failure, as the program is a necessary means for them to deliver the transformational change and strategy.

The members of the sponsoring group include those who are required in delivering the change and planning the organizational strategy. Let us discuss the responsibilities of each member of the Sponsoring Group.

  • Each member of the sponsoring group should clarify their perspective on the program, which helps the program team to understand their interests and priorities.

  • The Sponsoring Group members should also define the level of engagement support they will be able to provide for the program. This is necessary, as the members can have other high-priority responsibilities

  • . The members of the Sponsoring Group should confirm their acceptance of the role, assigned responsibility, and commitment to the program.

In the next section, we will focus on ‘confirm the program mandate’.

Step 2: Confirm the Program Mandate

Following are some important information about the program mandate:

  • Program mandate should articulate the direction, constraints, priorities, and aspirations of the program to the team that is working on the development of program brief.

  • It should also define the “success” of the program, identify critical factors and outline assurance methods and controls to achieve it.

  • It can be documented from the corporate strategic plan.

  • In case it does not exist as a single document, it can be created with the help of facilitated workshops and interviews with the Sponsoring Groups, stakeholders, executive members of the organization and senior management teams.

  • The consolidated program mandate should be reviewed and confirmed by the Sponsoring Group. This is the trigger to initiate the program.

This information set the scene for the controlled start-up of the program and need to be confirmed at the outset. In the following section, we will look into the appointment of the SRO and Program Board.

Step 3: Appoint the SRO and Program Board

We will start with the appointment of the Senior Responsible Owner or the SRO (read as S-R-O) in this section. Following are some important information about the appointment of the Senior Responsible Owner or the SRO:

  • In a program organization theme, the SRO is one of the peers and members of the Sponsoring Group.

  • The SRO is appointed and assisted by the Sponsoring Group, at the earliest opportunity, to provide leadership and direction to the program.

  • The SRO is already a member of the executive group, so the appointment is basically a formality to endorse him to the position.

  • The Sponsoring Group normally selects an individual with the most appropriate and relevant authority, credibility, experience, and skills to lead and direct the program as the SRO.

  • A specific role definition is prepared for the SRO, which is approved by the Sponsoring Group.

  • The SRO should confirm the understanding and acceptance of the role. If the program is too big, it can be assisted by individuals with appropriate skills.

  • The SRO appoints and heads the Program Board to establish governance.

  • The SRO is accountable for the success of the program, irrespective of the involvement of different executive groups and individuals.

In the following sections, we will further focus on appointing the SRO and Program Board.

Step 3: Appoint the SRO and Program Board (contd.)

The following are some important information about the appointment of the Program Board.

  • The Program Board is appointed and headed by the Senior Responsible Owner.

  • The purpose of the Program Board is to drive and deliver the outcomes and benefits of the program.

  • Even though the program board is appointed in the ‘identifying a program’ process, it exerts its full control and authority only from the ’defining a program’ process.

  • The Program Board reports to the SRO with whom the final decision-making power remains.

  • The Program Board must support the authority and executive boards.

  • It has to ensure coordination between multiple projects and different executive groups.

A small team may be appointed to prepare the program brief and the program preparation plan.

This is generally carried out by the Program Manager and the Business Change Manager or the BCM (read as B-C-M), but if they have not yet been identified at this level, individuals possessing required skills and knowledge to accomplish these tasks can work on preparing the program brief and the program preparation plan.

The Program Manager and the BCM have to be appointed before the start of “defining a program” to drive the process.

In the next section, we will understand how to produce the program brief.

Step 4: Produce the Program Brief

The following are a few facts about the program brief.

The Program brief-

  • Provides a formal basis for assessing the viability and achievability of the program.

  • Once approved, it provides the inputs for the business case.

  • At this time, the program brief is used rather than a detailed business case.

  • This helps to avoid futile and time-consuming work on detailed cost analysis and investment appraisal, when the overall concept of the program may not be viable due to other reasons.

  • The program brief defines the program’s specific objectives, required benefits, potential risks, outline costs and timescales using inputs from the program mandate.

  • Options for delivery can also be developed. It should restate the position, ‘where we are now’, refine and expand the program mandate. Assumptions on the future with consideration of “do-nothing scenario” should also be considered.

  • The program brief should highlight the areas of potential overlap that might cause conflict or duplication.

  • It should also identify conflicts where one activity diminishes the outcome of another activity. These scenarios can be identified in case of conflicting projects.

  • Program brief should identify gaps in case of insufficient activities, and plan actions to improve the program. It needs to provide guidance for reshaping the changed initiatives and delivering the planned benefits.

In the next section, we will focus on the step, ‘develop the program preparation plan’.

Step 5: Develop the Program Preparation Plan

Preparation for ‘defining a program’ involves detailed planning and design of all aspects of the program.

  • Program preparation plan is produced to ensure that the Sponsoring Group is aware and willing to commit to cost, time and resources for the next part of the program.

  • The development of a detailed program preparation document requires essential planning for sufficient time and resources, which helps in reducing the uncertainty.

  • Individuals with the right skills such as market knowledge, procurement, and technology are required to prepare the blueprint and other related documents.

  • Identifying them in advance will help reduce the complexity and give the next phase a smooth start. A key element of the program preparation plan is that it should be able to explain how assurance will be applied during the next process.

  • The Program preparation plan sets out the governance arrangements, resources and the anticipated timetable for delivery of the work in ‘defining a program’.

In the next section, we will cover the last two steps of ‘identifying a program’.

Step 6: and Step 7: Independent Review and Approval to Proceed

The last two steps of ‘identifying a program’ are independent review and approval to proceed.

Independent review

Let us first look into the independent review:

  • An independent review of the program brief is conducted to assess the scope, rationale, and objectives of the program.

  • This helps to identify whether the organization has the ability and resources to deliver the program.

  • The reality, impacts, possible mitigations of identified risks and assumptions should be challenged to verify the confidence of the team and the correctness of the brief.

  • The procedure to conduct the review should be outlined in the assurance arrangement of the program mandate.

  • An example of this type of review is the OGC Gateway Review 0 which is prevalent in UK public sector programs.

Next, let us discuss approval to proceed.

Approval to proceed

The approval to proceed is as given as follows:

  • The formal approval of the program brief and program preparation plan by the Sponsoring Group is significant.

  • It implies the SRO’s confirmation that the program meets the business requirement, and that it is viable and can be taken forward.

  • Approval also means that the Program Board commits to support the delivery of the program.

  • Most importantly, the Sponsoring Group authorizes and commits to provide resource and support the SRO to undertake the process of defining a program, as specified in the program preparation plan.

  • This approval is based on confirmed understanding and commitment to the program’s vision, expected benefits, risks, issues, timescales, resources, and costs. There should be a clear justification for the investment of resources in the program.

  • The estimated benefits and outcomes should outweigh the sum of costs, risks, and dis-benefits.

In the next section, we will focus on an example based on the concepts discussed.

Identifying a Program Problem Statement

Chao Yin, the Program Manager at Nutri Worldwide Inc., has completed the development of the project brief and program preparation plan for the new program, Nutri Snack.

The documents have been forwarded to Kylie Honkele, the SRO, for approval.

Following are the scenarios mentioned in the program brief and program preparation plan prepared by Chao.

  • In the program brief, all the projects have been listed.

  • The external stakeholders have been informed about the program plan.

  • When the review is completed for the documents, the tranches will be set in motion.

Kylie is reviewing both the documents. In the next section, let us find out Kylie’s feedback after the review.

Identifying a Program Solution

After reviewing both the documents, Kylie has found the following mistakes as shown in the table below. She has also explained the reasons why it is a mistake. Following are the feedback given by Kylie after reviewing the program brief and the program preparation plan:

Mistakes in the documents provided by the Program Manager

Feedback is given by the SRO

In the program brief, all projects have been listed.

The mistake here is that Chao failed to understand that the ‘identifying a program’ process focuses on laying the groundwork and program brief is a document that provides a formal basis for assessing the viability of the program.

So it does not include a list of all the projects.

Projects list is prepared in the ‘defining a program’ process as part of the projects dossier.

The external stakeholders have been informed about the program plan.

External stakeholders are identified as part of the ‘defining a program’ process and not as part of the ‘identifying a program’ process.

When the review is completed for the documents, the tranches will be set in motion.

Here the mistake is that the tranches are usually defined only in the ‘defining a program’ process after the review of the program brief and program preparation plan document in the same process.

Tranches are defined in the ‘defining a program’ process.

In the next section, we will look at the Roles and Responsibilities used in ‘identifying a program’.

Roles and Responsibilities

The table shown below, depicts the roles and responsibilities of the Sponsoring Group, Senior Responsible Owner or SRO, Program Manager and Business Change Managers or BCMs in each step of the ‘identifying a program’ process.

In the table,

  • ‘R’ represents those who are responsible to get the work done and

  • ‘A’ represents those who are accountable or answerable for the program’s success.

  • ‘C’ represents those who are consulted and those who support and have the information or capability and

  • ‘I’ represents those who are informed or notified but not consulted.

As observed from the table, the accountability or ‘A’ is mostly owned by the Sponsoring Group in the ‘identifying a program’ process.

The sponsoring Group needs to sponsor the program, appoint the SRO and Program Board and give the approval to proceed based on the independent review of the program brief.

The two most important outputs of this process, program brief, and program preparation plan are prepared by the Program Manager and BCMs represented by ‘R’, with the help of other expert resources.

Even though it is prepared by others, the SRO is accountable for both these documents, as represented by ‘A’.

In the next section, we will focus on the documents used in the ‘identifying a program’ process.

Documents Used in Identifying a Program Purpose

The following are the purposes of the various documents used in the ‘identifying a program’ process.

Programme Mandate

The purpose of the program mandate is to describe the required outcomes from the program, based on the strategic and policy objectives. It is also called the strategic or embryonic business case in some organizations.

Programme Brief

The purpose of the program brief is to assess whether the program is viable and achievable. It is also referred to as the outline business case. Information stated here evolves into many documents including the vision statement, risk and issue register, and business case in the “defining a program” process.

Programme Preparation Plan

The purpose of the program preparation plan is to provide details on how “defining a program” process will be undertaken.

In the next section, we will focus on these documents in detail.

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Documents Used in Identifying a Program Information

The following are the information available in the documents used in the ‘identifying a program’ process. Let us start with the program mandate document.

Program Mandate

Following are some information about the programme mandate document:

  • It should define the strategic objectives and initial budget for the program.

  • It should also make a note to include the program’s context and other organizations (internal or external) likely to be affected by the program. This will help to gauge how the program fits in the corporate mission and goals.

  • It should identify the critical success factors and the organizational improvements delivered by the program.

  • The document should specify the possible strategies and approaches for delivery, to maximize the chances of success.

  • The document should provide the initial assurance arrangements to ensure that the work in the first phase is carried out in an orderly manner.

  • The document should set expectations in terms of timescales, costs, benefits, constraints, and deadlines that need to be met by the program to be successful.

  • It should refer to external drivers that are driving the program such as competition from other similar firms and legislation changes and summary of the “as-is” state to differentiate between the current scenario and the future scenario.

Next, let us discuss the program brief document.

Programme Brief

The contents of this document include the following:

  • The outline vision statement with the clear statement of the goal of the program.

  • It should also include the outline description of benefits, an estimate of when they are likely to be achieved and measurement standards for them, so as to ensure the program team is aware of what needs to be achieved.

  • It further includes estimated costs, timescales, and efforts required to set up, manage and run the program throughout its lifecycle. This will give a baseline to compare the benefits if the program is profitable.

  • If expenses are more than the estimated benefits, it makes no sense to proceed with the program.

  • It should include the list of identified risks, constraints, conflicts and issues identifiable at the beginning of the program.

  • It should also include options for delivery known at that stage including the impact of “do-nothing” state. This will help to realize the gains from the program and they can also be shared with the stakeholders to gather more support for the program.

  • The program brief can also include the initial list of candidate projects along with rough timescales and if some of the current projects need to be terminated, they should be listed along with reasons.

  • The document should include a complete assessment of the current state, current business operations and performance in impacted areas.

  • These details are useful when the program team moves to prepare the boundary and governance documents in ‘defining a program’.

Let us next, focus on the program preparation plan.

Programme Preparation Plan

Following are some information about the programme preparation plan document:

  • The contents of this document mention the required resources, including future management team and where they will be sourced from, for example, the BCMs and Program Manager.

  • It should also identify specific skill sets needed for the next process. It should define the boundaries within which the teams will work to minimize conflicts.

  • It should provide the descriptions of deliverables from the definitions provided in the program mandate.

  • It should identify the governance and controls under which the defining team will work. Governance will ensure that a proper reporting and issue escalation process is in place.

  • The program preparation plan also defines assurance arrangements for the “defining a program” process. These defined arrangements ensure quality outputs.

  • The program preparation plan should also define the schedule of activity in the next process, “defining a program”, to achieve outputs.

  • Membership of the Program Board will also be suggested by the document.

  • Most importantly, it should mention the estimated effort and cost associated with the program plan.

Note that all the arrangements and estimates are only for the next process, ‘defining a program’, and not the whole program.

Summary

Let us summarize what we have learned in this identifying a program tutorial:

  • ‘Identifying a program’ transformational flow is the trigger for initiating the overall program management process.

  • The inputs of this process are program mandate, business strategy and current status and plan of emerging programs.

  • The principal control of this process is provided by the sponsoring group.

  • The key roles are played by the Sponsoring Group and SRO.

  • Some of the expected outputs include independent assurance report, confirmed mandate, approved program brief, program preparation plan and appointment of the SRO and Program Board.

  • The steps involved in the process are sponsoring the program, confirm the program mandate, appoint the SRO and Program Board, produce the program briefly, develop the program preparation plan, independent review and approval to proceed.

  • The roles and responsibilities in ‘identifying a program’ is marked using the RACI method where -

  • R represents those who are responsible to get the work done,

  • A represents those who are accountable,

  • C represents those who are consulted and

  • I represents those who are informed.

  • Sponsoring Group is mostly accountable for the entire ‘identifying a program’ process.

  • The documents used in the process are program mandate, program brief, and program preparation plan.

  • The program preparation plan is used to provide details on how the ‘defining a program’ process will be undertaken.

Conclusion

With this, we come to an end to the tutorial on identifying a program. In the next chapter, we will discuss Defining a Program.

  • Disclaimer
  • PMP, PMI, PMBOK, CAPM, PgMP, PfMP, ACP, PBA, RMP, SP, and OPM3 are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

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