Program Management Performance Domains Tutorial

Welcome to the third chapter of the PMI-PgMP tutorial (part of the PMI-PgMP® Certification Training.)

This lesson will help you understand the domains in program management performance at a high level.

Let us see the objectives of this lesson in the next section.

Objectives

After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Explain the five program management performance domains.

  • Observe the key focus areas and activities within the five domains at a high level.

  • Understand how these five domains interact with each other.

  • Discuss the distinctions between program and project as well as between program and portfolio levels.

Let us begin with understanding the five program management domains.

Program Management Performance Domains

Domains can be understood as “themes” that represent program management work. These domains are where program managers focus their attention.  

Domains are the complementary groupings of related areas of activity, concern, or function. These groupings uniquely characterize and differentiate the activities found in one performance domain from others, within the full scope of program management work.  

No matter which process they are working on, the program manager must keep these domains in focus. Another way to look at domains is that the program manager’s work can be categorized into one of the five domains and they drive the processes of the program manager, primarily through the components.

We have seen the domains of program management earlier, but to refresh our memory, they are as follows:

  • Program strategy alignment

  • Program benefits management

  • Program stakeholder engagement

  • Program governance

  • Program lifecycle management.

We will look into these domains in detail in the succeeding sections.

To begin with, we will understand program management domain interactions in the next section.

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Program Management Domain Interactions

As seen in this diagram below, the work in each of the five program management domains is complementary to the other, i.e.; their activities may overlap.

Managing the program across the life cycle is at the center because it touches all aspects of program management.

For example, benefits management activities happen at all stages of the life cycle, so does stakeholder engagement, and so on.

Program governance supports strategic alignment by providing organizational oversight over the program and periodically reviewing the alignment.

Strategic alignment is also closely linked with benefits management because the program delivers strategic benefits to the organization.

Governance and benefits management also interact with the stakeholders because the program cannot be executed in isolation without knowing and interacting with the program stakeholders.

No matter which program is considered, the work of the program manager can be grouped within these five performance domains.

In the following section, we will look into the definitions of the five program management domains.

Program Management Performance Domain Definitions

In this section, we will look into the definitions of the five program management domains and the work that is performed within these domains. We will be covering them in detail in the subsequent lessons.

Program strategy alignment is about identifying opportunities and benefits to achieve the organization’s strategic objectives through program implementation.

In other words, it ensures that the program contributes to the strategic objectives of an organization.

A program represents a significant investment on the part of the organization, and the program needs to look for opportunities to provide benefits that align with the organization’s strategy.

Program benefits management is about managing the benefits that the program is supposed to deliver to the organization.

This includes:

  • Defining and planning for the benefits that may be delivered

  • Creating the benefits through program work

  • Identifying and capturing collaborations, developing a sustainment plan, finding opportunities to maximize the benefits realized

  • Delivering the benefits as per plan

  • Sustaining the realization of benefits over a period of time.

Program stakeholder engagement deals with the active engagement with the stakeholders over the duration of the program. This involves determining who the stakeholders are and understanding their needs and desires.

A program also needs to analyze its impact on the stakeholders and the other way around. To keep the program moving forward, it is important to obtain and maintain the support of the stakeholders. This would require the program to constantly engage and communicate with the stakeholders to minimize their resistance and maximize their support for the program.

Program governance establishes an oversight mechanism for a program, i.e., establishes the program and project management standards, policies, procedures, and processes that will be used to review the program, analyze the results, evaluate new and existing risks, and make decisions about the program.

Program lifecycle management manages the activities related to program definition, program benefits delivery, and program closure for the entire program.

Let us now move on to the next section on program lifecycle management which focuses on managing the program’s activities throughout the life cycle.

The three primary stages of the life cycle are summarized in the next section and detailed in succeeding lessons.

Overview of Program Life Cycle Phases

This section provides a summary of the program life cycle.

The three primary stages of program life cycle are definition, benefits delivery, and closure.

Program definition

Program definition looks at the strategic objectives of the organization, which can be addressed by the program. It comes up with the potential program outcomes, seeks approval to commence the program, and comes up with a high-level program roadmap.

Program benefits delivery

Program benefits delivery is an iterative phase, where the program will initiate the components, integrate the deliveries to create benefits for the organization, manage the delivery of the components, and then close and transit the components.

This will take place provided the program continues to deliver the benefits that are in line with expectations.

Program closure

Program closure executes a controlled and orderly closure of the program. In program closure, the program is formally transitioned and closed. This will happen after the program has delivered the intended benefits, or it is perceived that it can no longer deliver benefits, or due to a decision was taken by the executives.

Program closure processes provide guidance on systematic closure of a program.

Let us next discuss in detail the various activities involved during the initiating phase.

Tasks in the Initiating Phase

The organizational procedures to conduct program work mainly include the following 3 phases.

They are:

  • Initiate and plan

  • Execute, Monitor, and Control

  • Closure

In this section, we will look into the first phase that is the “Initiate and Plan” phase in detail. The subsequent lessons will cover the next two phases.

The following are the tasks involved in the initiating phase.

Program charter

During the initial stages of a program, the program charter is created with input from the stakeholders. The input could include specific organizational standards such as policies, style guides, and branding.

The program charter initiates the program and its benefits.

High-level program scope

Following this, the objectives of the program charter are translated into high-level scope statements; after which, a high-level milestone plan is created using these objectives and goals.

Milestone plan

Milestone planning will ensure that the expectations of the stakeholder are in alignment with the plan execution.

Accountability matrix

Right after this activity, the core team who will be involved in the execution phase are identified and assigned to roles.

Measurement criteria

The next step would be to define the measurement criteria for the successful completion of the program. Stakeholder expectations and requirements are analyzed for program success.

The final activity would be to initiate program kick-off meetings with key stakeholders to familiarize the organization with the program and also to acquire stakeholder buy-in.

Now that we are familiar with the fundamental activities involved in the initiating and planning phase let us look at the differences between program activities and component activities.

Program Activities vs. Component Activities

A core theme in the PgMP exam is to figure out what the program manager should do, as opposed to a project manager. This requires an understanding of what activities are appropriate at a program level and what activities are appropriate at the component level.

The following are some points of comparison between program activities and component activities:

The program level activities have slightly different content and scope from the component (project or other work) level activities.

The program level activities integrate and provide guidance and oversight. However, they do not replace the component level activities. They coordinate with them while trying to deliver “additional benefits and control.”

For example, risk management is required both at a project as well as a program level.

Project level risk management focuses on the risks that are specific to a project, whereas program level risks address risks that impact multiple projects. Program level risks may also look for opportunities to develop institutionalized responses to risks and manage a program level contingency reserve.

As the components go about the implementation and control of their activities, the program manager will manage at a fairly high level of granularity.

Continuing the theme of understanding the shift in focus from a project to a program level, let us understand the distinctions between projects and programs at a high level in the next section.

Program and Project Distinctions

Let us take a close look at the distinctions between a program and a project.

Project Duration

Project duration is generally well known up-front (during planning), and a project continues as long as it takes to produce the unique output that it is supposed to deliver.  

Program Duration

A program is also time-bound, its duration is known with lesser certainty up-front. This is because the end goal of the program may not be as straightforward as a tangible output. The program continues as long as it delivers benefits in line with the expectations of the organization.

Project Uncertainty

A project generally has lesser variability as compared to a program. The project goes through the usual process of changing the understanding of the result. This is achieved through progressive elaboration.

Program Uncertainty

A program tends to have more variability, and a program manager needs to embrace uncertainty while focusing on delivering the benefits back to the organization. Changes in a project are analyzed in terms of impact on the scope, cost, time and quality paradigm.

Project Managers and Change Management

The project managers implement change management, and approved changes become part of the baseline plans. The program manager looks at a change to analyze the impacts on the benefits of the program.

Program Managers and Change Management

Program managers will also get involved in the component (or project) level change management to bring in the perspective about the impact on benefits.

Next, we will look at the distinction between program and portfolio.

Program and Portfolio Distinctions

In this section, we will observe the differences between a program and portfolio.

Portfolio Duration

Portfolio generally has an indefinite duration. It represents a strategic investment being made by the organization, and while making the investment, there may not be a specific time horizon in mind. The investment is made and sustained on the condition that the portfolio contributes to the strategy of the organization.

Program Duration

A program, on the other hand, does have a definite time horizon, though it is known with less certainty than projects. A program continues as long as it is necessary to deliver the intended benefits to the organization.

Portfolio Components

The components of a portfolio may or may not be related to each other. The grouping of components in a portfolio is merely by their involvement in strategic goals.

Program Components

On the other hand, a program’s components have a relationship, and the program manager tries to harness the relatedness of the components to deliver additional benefits and control.

The inclusion of components in a program is directly linked to the contribution of the components to the benefits that the program manager is trying to deliver.

Let us now check your understanding of the topics covered in this lesson.

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Summary

This brings us to the end of this lesson. Let us quickly recap what we have learned.

  • Domains are the complementary groupings of related areas of activity, concern, or function. The domains of program management are program strategy alignment, program benefits management, program stakeholder engagement, program governance, and program lifecycle management.

  • Program strategy alignment is about identifying opportunities and benefits to achieve the organization’s strategic objectives through program implementation.

  • Program benefits management is about managing the benefits that the program is supposed to deliver to the organization.

  • Program stakeholder engagement deals with the active engagement with the stakeholders over the duration of the program.

  • Program governance establishes the oversight mechanism for a program, i.e., the program and project management standards, policies, procedures, and processes.

  • The three primary program lifecycle phases are definition, benefits delivery, and closure.

  • There are distinctions between a program and a project and also between a program and portfolio.

Conclusion

We have come to the end of the lesson on introduction to program management performance domains. In the next lesson, we will discuss Program Strategy Alignment.

  • 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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