Program management with IBM Rational Focal Point
In meetings with clients recently, I have noticed that more and more are showing an interest in program management. Over the last few months, I have been working with one specific client on their program management using IBM
Program management is an interesting discipline because there are many differing views on what a program really is—whether it is something different from a project, simply a super project or a collection of projects. However, generally, when a client asks for this capability their understanding is that:
Projects deliver output. Programs deliver outcomes.
From this perspective, program management is a balancing act between the needs of the program and the needs of the individual projects—especially where projects might be delivering to more than one program.
Therefore, it is essential that we manage the following from the program level:
If we strip this back to basics, then what we have to manage are the goals, budget, time and resource (although at program level, resource is usually part of budget). We must be able to see how estimates and planning flow down, and then how actuals flow up.
The advantage of Rational Focal Point is that it allows us to do this easily: at the program level, we can capture our goals, budget and anticipated roadmap. Then we can allocate the goals and budget down to the project level, identify our schedule and determine our resource demand. After the projects start running, we can aggregate the information from the project to the program level and perform an analysis between the estimations and the actuals. This analysis will help us to identify how we are performing against expectation and where we are going off course. It will also let us see, over time, how good or bad we are at planning and estimation!
All this allows us to have real, in-time steering at the program level. It also allows us to balance our budget and resources across our projects to ensure that every project is successful.
But what we really want is all of this presented in a nice neat dashboard format so that we can see, quickly, where things are going wrong. The dashboards are just another reason I love to use Rational Focal Point for program management—they can be produced quickly, easily and from the perspective of the individual user:
In future blog posts, I will take each element of my program management solution to a deeper level of detail. In the meantime, please connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn to talk more about program management and how you can find a good solution.