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Get Started with Program Management


Now that you have connected your portfolio and team tools to achieve better alignment between strategy and delivery, the next step in your modernization journey is to adopt program management. According to Gartner, program management is the coordinated planning, management, and execution of multiple related projects that are directed toward the same strategic, business, or organizational objectives. Program management is more than a collection of similar projects organized under the same umbrella; rather, teams collaborate cross-departmentally and cross-functionally to achieve a shared strategic vision.  

Rather than perform annual portfolio planning that makes funding and investment decisions based on scope and requirements, teams create portfolios that are based on programs with associated value. Programs differ from projects in that they are prioritized based on measure of return (for example, ROI (Return On Investment), NPV (Net Present Value), IRR (Internal Rate of Return)) and typically based on leaner, shorter-term business cases. All funding and investment decisions are made based on outcomes, which ensures that teams are focused on delivering work that is both measurable and impactful. 

Making the shift to program management involves reevaluating your approach to both planning and funding. The sections below outline the fundamental steps for getting started with program management in Planview Portfolios, including setting up programs within a strategic hierarchy, configuring program financials, program planning and prioritization, and tracking progress through detailed status reports. 



Executing on strategy is all about making choices and trade-offs – effective planning is just as much about what you are not going to do, as it is about what you will do.



Fund Strategic Programs Incrementally

Setting up the strategy structure is the first critical task to funding programs at a strategic level. How many levels and what they represent (value statement, mission, theme, etc.) must be defined to provide a framework for program or product-centric planning, where programs are directly nested under the strategic objectives they fulfill. 


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Strategy structure with Enterprise, Mission, Objective, and Program levels


We recommend starting with the simple structure in the example above and adding levels only as needed. It’s much easier to add a level to the structure if you need more complexity in the future, while removing a level once it’s been established is much more difficult. For more detailed instructions on building the strategy structure's levels and adding to them, see Defining the Levels and Values of the Structure and Details of a Strategic Entity

Once the strategy structure is built out by an administrator, stakeholders and other decision-makers can create new strategic programs and add any relevant investment dependenciesColumn sets (configured by administrators) are helpful for viewing a range of data related to programs, such as status, financials, and schedules. 


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Strategic entities with status information tracked using a column set




Set Up Financial Models and Funding Guardrails

After the strategy structure is created, the next step is to configure financial models and metrics that will allow you to track measure of return at the project and program level. 

Financial models allow you to compare any two financial versions over time. When you revisit your program funding on a quarterly basis, being able to compare programs by measure of return enables you to continue to fund programs that are successful based on these criteria. Comparing versions of financial plans is also useful for rebalancing the overall program budget across the delivering projects, and easily reassigning investment funds from one program to another. 


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Strategic programs portfolio comparing ROI and additional financial metrics


First review the current financial models set up with your Planview administrator, and assess whether you need to create a new financial model for strategies, or add strategies to your existing work model. Then, the administrator will need to set up the calculation details for NPV and/or ROI. See the following articles for detailed product help on configuring these metrics: 


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Example ROI calculated column configuration 


During the portfolio planning process, simple strategy column sets can serve as lightweight funding guardrails. Program managers and epic owners can use these column sets to understand the constraints within which they can plan and execute work, and teams themselves are empowered to plan work. Those work items can then be added incrementally under the relevant strategic entity and sent to Planview AgilePlace and/or ProjectPlace for delivery by the team.


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Overview of work items nested in a strategy structure with a funding column set 




Prioritize and Fund Programs

After setting up your strategic hierarchy and funding guardrails, you are now ready for program planning. Programs are considered and funded on an incremental basis (usually quarterly) and detailed business cases are not required. Instead, try planning around leaner business cases that answer these simple questions: 

  • What are you willing to spend? 
  • What outcomes do we want to achieve? 
  • What are the key roles/teams involved?

Use the Rank view to gather programs for consideration in an ordered list. You can rank investments manually by dragging and dropping them in the list, or rank them automatically using a set of criteria (for example, cost, benefit, effort, ROI, and/or NPV). Each investment’s ranking is reflected in other pivot views of the Investment and Capacity Planning screens. 


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Rank potential programs according to cost, effort, ROI, and/or NPV


Switch to the Analyze view to prioritize the list of ranked programs by dragging and dropping them “above the line” and “below the line” in the split screen. Above the line programs are those which you can reasonably take on from a financial perspective, while below the line programs serve as a backlog of valuable work to draw from. Remember to utilize column sets to pull in financial data points which are of the most value and interest (for example, your funding guardrails column set). 


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Analyze programs in the portfolio based on high-level costs and outcomes, such as ROI 




Program Status Reporting

Dashboards and reporting are critical to keeping track of the top-down funding versus the bottom-up actuals and status of programs. You can use the FastTrack STR16 -Program Highlight report or a customized Power BI dashboard of programs to view the current state of all the programs and related information, such as costs, benefits, forecasts, risks, and status. Dashboards are also an ideal way to perform quarterly checkpoints to assess how well programs are performing in real-time. 


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Provide high-level visibility to progress using interactive dashboards spanning strategy to delivery 


Maturing any existing Power BI dashboards to incorporate program information should also be completed to continue to get the whole picture of the organization. For more information about configuring and using Power BI reports, see the following product documentation: 



Standardize Roadmaps and Dependencies Across Programs

As programs have their own roadmaps and dependencies, work with your Planview administrator to determine which configuration settings should be used. This ensures that all programs use the same criteria, and allows program managers to track the interdependencies between programs. For more information on working with dependencies, see the following articles: 

Then, program managers build out the target dates and milestones of the program, making sure to align the program schedule with the schedule of the associated entities (projects). For more information on using strategy roadmaps, see the following articles: 



Simplify Governance and Lifecycles for More Flexibility

As your processes and practices evolve throughout your modernization journey, regularly evaluate your current governance processes within Planview Portfolios and ensure that they are as lightweight as possible. Reviewing and simplifying lifecycle steps ensures that the flow of programs and work are not slowed down with unnecessary steps and overhead. 


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Strategic program lifecycle example


Intake lifecycles for both new work and new programs should also be reviewed and simplified. As you review, keep in mind that the goal is to collect the minimum amount of information required to prioritize, plan, and fund, and not adding in unnecessary approval steps. Less overhead allows for flexibility when the unexpected occurs.  

If you’re using requests for new program intake, review your request lifecycle process for ways to streamline it. For example, determine what information you’re gathering within the requests system and incorporate it into the initial program or work lifecycle, reducing the volume of requests.




Next Steps

Now that you have successfully made the shift to program management and reevaluated your approach to planning and funding, the next step in your modernization journey is Adaptive Portfolio Planning.