What is Agile Program Management?

By definition, program management is the activity of managing multiple projects simultaneously to improve an organization’s overall performance or create new benefits and capabilities for the organization to use.


In Agile terms, program management can be defined as the process of increasing an organization’s overall readiness to deal with complex situations and dynamic environments. But what exactly is Agile program management, and how does it impact different business operations? Let’s find out.

How program management differs from project management?

Most people believe that programs are simply large projects, much like Agile epics are simply large user stories. That, however, is not the case.

One way to look at it is that projects deliver outputs or small pieces of change, whereas programs deliver outcomes. A project, for example, will deliver working software, whereas a program will deliver increased value and/or revenue from that software over time.

In other words, the goal of a project is to be completed successfully, which includes delivering on time, staying within budget, and providing the appropriate type of value to the end-user. A program, on the other hand, aims to provide long-term benefits to the entire organization. Other differences between project and program management include:

  • Every project is unique and has a set duration, whereas a program is ongoing and focuses on constantly improving or achieving specific results for the organization.
  • A project’s purpose is to deliver a specific product (output or deliverable), and its success is determined by delivering the right product at the right time and the right cost.
  • Program management entails overseeing multiple projects that, when combined, will improve a company’s or organization’s overall benefits. A program’s success is determined by the benefits it provides.
  • Increased profitability, competitiveness, increased income, lower costs, and other program benefits may be available to an organization.
  • The program manager’s role in Agile is to ensure that a program can react to changes in both strategy and the environment in which the organization changes.


How does Agile fit in?

The market has begun to shift dramatically over the years. In the world of software development, complex situations and rapid changes have become commonplace. Technological and market trends necessitate a quick and dependable response to such changes.

Program management has emerged to deal with complexity and change in a decision-making environment based on adaptive decision-making. That is also why Agile practices have emerged because traditional methods were ill-equipped to deal with such complexity and uncertainty.

Both Agile practices and program management are based on the same idea: to build a logical system out of mutually reinforcing and integrated decisions aimed at creating and delivering value to stakeholders. Furthermore, Agile and program management share the following ideas:

  • Both methods share an evolutionary and adaptive development that results in the continuous release of quantifiable benefits.
  • Both methods recognize teams as an integrated evolving system in which stakeholders are actively involved.
  • Both methods share a simple approach that will improve the rate of response to changes in demand and a dynamic environment.

Agile and program management work well together

Agile methodology can be thought of as a mindset that can be applied to program management efforts. In essence, Agile‘s emphasis on delivering value wherever possible can supplement program management’s emphasis on understanding organizational needs, understanding the challenges teams frequently face and developing a specific approach that will meet the needs of stakeholders.

In Agile, the program manager’s duty is to guarantee that value is the organization’s top priority. The importance of communication and the reality that priorities will change frequently is critical in Agile program management. With this in mind, managers must speak with employees regularly to discover what is important and how to address certain difficulties or obstacles.

Furthermore, Agile PMOs (Project Management Offices) can improve flexibility in dealing with changes by employing iterative processes wherever appropriate, allowing them to shift or pivot more rapidly and efficiently than traditional program management approaches.


Implementing the Agile program management

Depending on the organization, agile program management can mean a variety of things. It could mean implementing the Agile methodology for some, successful administration of several Agile projects for others, or a business poised to embark on a big new venture that requires a strong solution for others. In any case, there are a few steps to implementing Agile program management:

  • Governance includes creating a framework and procedures for controlling activities, as well as establishing metrics to track the program’s performance where it counts most.
  • Alignment – Ensuring that the program is in line with the goals and objectives of the organization.
  • Assurance – To verify that the program supports an organization’s vision, it must be validated and verified.
  • Management – Conducting regular evaluations to ensure that all projects, teams, stakeholders, and other stakeholders are on the same page.
  • Integration – Assuring that all of the elements fit together to make a unified whole and optimize performance across the program’s value chain, including technology and functionality.
  • Infrastructure – Appropriate resource allocation has an impact on the program’s success.
    Finances – Taking into account the costs of running a program.
  • Planning entails gathering information, resources, and monitoring data to create a strategy.
  • Continuous improvement entails a continuous evaluation of performance as well as the development of new capabilities to help the program better.

Agile program management aims to consistently improve value for both the organization and its stakeholders through a variety of activities, while also assisting a company in effectively and quickly adapting to market changes, uncertainty, and instability.

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