Portfolio and Program Management Approaches


Program management mainly focuses on ensuring that the effort dedicated to a given activity generates results for the organization. This implies allocating, utilizing and directing organization’s resources based on the desired outcomes. The program manager’s major role in the organization is to ensure that the efforts help meet the strategies set by the respective department. By definition, the program management entails managing a number of projects together. The key point of managing them together is to improve their outcomes and limit the individual project obstacles that could impede the progress of other projects. Projects are usually interconnected and a problem with one project could be easily translated into others. This implies the need for a program management to prevent or manage such incidents within the organization. This paper focuses on the benefits realization management (BRM) approach in the IT industry, exploring the benefits of its adoption. Furthermore, it explores how this approach ranks in comparison to other conventional management approaches in the industry.

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Benefits Realization Management Approach

Benefits realization management approach is based on the need to align the efforts of various projects with the set goals and objectives of the program. This implies enhancing the project management processes to ensure that all projects are running smoothly and simultaneously without hindering one another. Considering that program management implies monitoring various project management activities together, the BRM is so far the most effective approach that enables these projects to complement rather than impede each other due to the interconnectedness (Koh, Crawford & Project Management Institute, 2012). As such, there is a number of considerations that have to be made when using the BRM approach.

First, this approach allows for an overview of all relevant projects within the organization. Therefore, under BRM, the program manager would have to consider all of the underway projects in the organization (Dybå & Dingsøyr, 2008). Then, their interconnectedness has to be examined in order to understand what aspects of one project could pose a threat or challenge to another project within the program. In the IT industry for example, one project is likely to create a delay if another project depends on its completion to continue. This means that if the project stalls, the whole program is likely to stall. If a manufacturing company uses the ERM software, for example, and the procurement department fails to update their systems, it is likely that the storage department would also be unable to fill in their data to the database since they do not know what to expect from the procurement team. Such situations limit the overall performance of the organization and thus, undermine the performance of the entire program (Kester, Griffin, Hultink & Lauche, 2011).

When program outcomes depend on the efficacy of the projects, it becomes extremely important for the program manager to ensure that each of the projects is supportive rather than disruptive. This implies a need for the adjustment of project components to ensure that they can work together to meet each other’s needs as effectively as required. Generally, companies need to have projects that operate seamlessly considering their similar goals and objectives and BRM simply eliminates the autonomy that project managers tend to create for themselves.

Benefits of the BRM Approach

BRM approach has a number of benefits based on its focus and capabilities. First, the BRM approach ensures that projects are managed collectively. Therefore, various projects within the organization are likely to be organized in a way that enhances their overall outcomes rather than being left to run independently. When projects are left to work independently, project managers are likely to lose track of their goals and objectives owing to the amount of work they have to deal with on a regular basis. This implies the need for a program management that helps check the projects in terms of their progress and priorities as well as changes needed to be made based on the external environment of the organization. Considering that most projects are managed traditionally with a limited capability for handling changes, it can be understood that there is a need for a higher authority to actually enforce the change. However, this is done only after a careful scrutiny of the situation and its effect on the organization as a whole. The BRM approach focuses mainly on how company’s various projects will be affected by the changes that the company experiences. The focus then shifts to the projects that require adjustment in order to meet the outcomes desired by organization. 

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Noteworthy, the main determinant of the change and management activities within the BRM approach is the desired outcomes. This means that the approach takes on a bottom-up perspective designing the activities based on what the organization aims to achieve. This may take more time to process and explain within the organization, but it leaves little room for mistakes preventing the organization from wasteful projects and activities. Thus, the BRM approach is particularly useful in organizations that operate in dynamic environments and thus, cannot risk second-guessing in project management.

Another significant benefit of the BRM approach is its ability to use the Gantt charts to map and monitor various projects from a general point of view. Appreciating the interconnectedness of various projects within the organization allows a better understanding of the organization’s indulgences, thus providing all the relevant information for an effective management approach. The wider scope of this approach ensures efficient planning, monitoring and closing of various projects that are bound to have a positive effect on the organization, especially in the face of change.

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Differences and Similarities of the BRM Approach and Traditional Approach

Traditional approach of program management simply focuses on the four project stages treating each one of them individually and reconciling differences in the outcomes. Therefore, traditional approach is more curative than preventive (Levin & Flannes, 2010). The BRM approach focuses on identifying possible differences and remedying them before they become a problem for an organization. This means that the BRM approach is more effective for organizations that do not have the capacity to risk their operations at the project design level. Another difference between the approaches is their capabilities. Traditional approach is very limited in terms of what the program manager can do. Considering that the program manager’s job is to monitor all projects within the organization, traditional approach implies a lot of supervision with manager’s direct involvement in each project. In the BRM however, the program manager simply uses Gantt charts to monitor each project and spend more time analyzing the overall progress of the projects to establish how they are affecting one another (Drechsler & Ahlemann, 2015). Therefore, traditional approach entails more hard work than the BRM and yet, the BRM reports higher effectiveness in managing organizational operations. These two approaches, however, have one similarity because both require working with all the underway projects within an organization. In this case, it is about aligning the efforts made by an organization with the desired outcomes to ensure that there is no wastage of resources at any point.

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With BRM, the program manager has the authority to enhance the operations of one project to suit the operations of the program as a whole. Therefore, in the event of one project disrupting the work of a whole organization, the program manager has to find a working solution to prevent it (Conforto, Salum, Amaral, da Silva & de Almeida, 2014). Considering that a common cause for stalled projects is limited resources, it can be expected that the program manager would reallocate resources from one project to the critical project without much hesitation. All that is required is an assurance that such project actually deserves the given priority. Looking for resources for a given project often takes a lot of time and requires many approvals especially in a hierarchical organization. In this case, the program manager is able to provide the required resources in time, while the projects with a lower priority can wait for the new resources. This means less time wasted within the organization and thus, all the efforts are dedicated toward the achievement of desired goals and objectives. The BRM generally enables successful execution of all company’s projects through an efficient and considerate management of the program.

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Program governance is about leadership, oversight and control of the underway program. Since BRM focuses on aligning the projects with the desired outcomes of an organization, substantial leadership and guidance are involved in this approach. First, the main goal of the program management is the effective change that the company is seeking to implement. Consequently, the whole program management exercise at an organization is focused on the successful implementation of a necessary change (Conboy, 2009). The main consideration in this case is the ability of the program manager to provide guidance to project managers in terms of project performance in relation to the desired outcomes of an organization. Since project management significantly affects company’s bottom line, the program management structure is complex and it involves much analysis on the existing projects (Levin, 2013). Program sponsors are often the highest authority of the governance model for program management and they are followed in rank by the program steering committee. The program manager is the third in a governance model hierarchy and is in charge of the program planning along with other program management individual responsibilities.


Program management focuses on a number of concepts aiming to ensure that various projects within the organization run smoothly and effectively toward the achievement of the set goals and expectations. Considering that the whole idea of program management is to align the projects with the desired outcomes, the BRM remains the best practical approach from an IT perspective. When one project can significantly hinder the success of other projects within an organization and thus, impede the overall success of the company, the best option is to use the BRM approach and ensure that necessary adjustments are made to support critical projects and prevent a failure.


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