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Program planning

Program and milestones planning in project management

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Program and milestones planning in project management

The following article is part of the self-preparation for the modern BVOP® Certified Project Manager program.

This chapter explains the concept of Program planning in the context of BVOP.

  1. What is Program planning?
  2. Who does the program planning?
  3. Why do we plan the program?
  4. Milestones planning
  5. Prioritizing projects for realization by business value and dependencies
  6. Defining the high-level scope of the projects
  7. Analyzing and planning resources
  8. Projects realizations planning
  9. Planning milestones
  10. Communication planning
    1. Defining communication needs
    2. Establishing a communication channel for program and project management
    3. Communication needs with other roles in the organization
    4. Escalations planning
    5. Planning communication needs and channels with external parties
  11. Projects release planning

What is Program planning?

Program planning is the planning of all significant activities related to individual projects that are part of a single program. We call the program all projects that need to be created and are part of the same business initiative.

Important activities related to program planning can be, for example, prioritizing projects by importance, defining a high-level scope of the projects (without details) so as not to waste time, planning milestones, and more.

Who does the program planning?

Program managers, with the help of project managers, participate in program planning. They perform this important function at the beginning of any project or program. They can receive help and assistance from all other teams and we can say that all departments and units in the organization plan the program together. However, responsibility for the end-result is often the program manager. As BVOP changes the compositions on program and project management roles and suggests combining these positions, the ultimate responsibility falls on the entire project management office, regardless of the positions and roles included in it.

Why do we plan the program?

If we did not do planning in the beginning, we would not have relied on great success later when the work on the project started. If we don't do the planning, we risk creating chaos and serious delays in our work.

Milestones planning

We call the Milestones some important events and actions related to the work on the projects. Examples of these are design phase-completion, test completion, product demonstration to consumers, etc.

About this chapter

This chapter is an excerpt from the training materials for BVOP™ management certification.

Considerable program planning activities may include:

  • Prioritizing projects for realization by business value and dependencies
  • Defining the high-level scope of the projects
  • Analyzing and planning resources
  • Projects realizations planning
  • Planning milestones
  • Communication planning
  • Escalations planning
  • Projects release planning

Prioritizing projects for realization by business value and dependencies

Based on the dependencies between projects and their business value, prioritization is the first needed step.

Prioritization ensures clarity on the projects’ importance of implementation and requires planning, investment, and general focus.

Defining the high-level scope of the projects

The scope of each project needs to be described as high-level, which sets the basis for a more detailed assessment of further project management activities.

Analyzing and planning resources

The status* of the current materials, resources, tools, and people need to be identified.

*The status is an abstract term defining the condition, quality, capacity, availability, motivation, skills, attitude.

The current availability of materials, resources, tools, and people needs to be identified.

If the program requires additional resources or workforce, the organization defines them and plans the necessary provisions.

Projects realizations planning

May include high-level planning of estimated resources and the time needed to complete projects.

Planning milestones

Important events may need to be defined, described, and scheduled. Such events may include:

  • Gathering requirements
  • Scope finalizations
  • Approximate time for project initiation
  • Design phase initiation and completion
  • Development phase initiation and completion
  • Releases of product samples
  • Testing or validation phase initiation and completion
  • Repairing defects initiation and completion
  • Acceptances initiation and completion
  • Major Releases
  • Deliveries
  • Marketing campaigns

The planning of project realizations, resources, budget, and milestones should take into account phases that may go beyond predicted time frames such as testing, validating, defects repairing, and acceptances. These considerations are valid for both program and project management activities, and as a result, buffer time may be needed between different phases and milestones.

Communication planning

The communication process is critical during the entire program planning and its realization.

Program communication planning may include:

  • Defining communication needs
  • Establishing a communication channel for program and project management
  • Communication needs with other roles of the organization
  • Escalations planning
  • Planning communication needs and channels with external parties

Defining communication needs

Defining communication needs may include:

  • Defining all communication topics like meetings, status reporting, tests, risk discussions, resources, projects release planning, etc.
  • Defining, and concurring on the importance level of topics.
  • Agreement on communication frequency and details.

Establishing a communication channel for program and project management

Program and project management roles have to discuss, agree, and establish their communication channels, which include the physical environment, software, or technologies.

Communication needs with other roles in the organization

May include defining and planning communication needs with roles outside of the program and project management offices.

Escalations planning

Emergent issues and incidents may need immediate attention and actions. Escalation planning may include:

  • Defining parties and roles that may be involved in emergent issues.
  • Training parties and roles of the importance of the escalation process.
  • Training parties and roles in proper and fast reacting.
  • Preparation of potentially needed instructions and references required for different types of issues.
  • Preparing potentially needed environments, tools, software.

Simulations or potential scenarios may also be conducted if such may be predefined as part of the escalation planning and training.

Planning communication needs and channels with external parties

All external parties interested in the program need to be involved in the communication. Channels and frequency of communication need to be defined and agreed on between all parties.

Projects release planning

Projects release planning may include:

  • Defining all roles involved in project releasing and their responsibilities.
  • Defining and describing the steps needed for every project release.
  • Defining resources, materials, and tools needed and planning their provisions.
  • Testing and analyzing the status of current tools, environments, and materials.
  • Notifying all potentially involved parties of the plans, procedures, tools, environments, and materials.
  • Potential training.
  • Preparing all documentation templates that may be needed.
  • Defining and planning post-release needs and activities.

The following issues related to chapter "Program planning" are included in the certification exam. The sequence of questions is presented in the table.
The data is current as of November 24, 2020, 4:07 pm

ID Issue Time Category
0 Communication planning 60 sec PGM, PM
1 Escalations planning 60 sec PGM, PM
2 Who does the program planning? 60 sec PGM, PM
3 Why do we plan the program? 60 sec PGM, PM
4 Prioritizing projects for realization by business value and dependencies 60 sec PGM, PM
5 Projects release planning 60 sec PGM, PM
6 Planning milestones 60 sec PGM, PM
7 What is Program planning? 60 sec PGM, PM
8 Defining the high-level scope of the projects 60 sec PGM, PM
9 Communication needs with other roles in the organization 60 sec PGM, PM
10 Defining communication needs 60 sec PGM, PM
11 Establishing a communication channel for program and project management 60 sec PGM, PM
12 Projects realizations planning 60 sec PGM, PM
13 Milestones planning 60 sec PGM, PM
14 Analyzing and planning resources 60 sec PGM, PM
15 Planning communication needs and channels with external parties 60 sec PGM, PM

Comments from the BVOP™ community

Bronislaw Adamowicz

Program planning is the next logical step after analyzing the dependencies between the projects.

I would like to add a few words about prioritizing projects according to their business value (excluding dependencies). I want to remind you that business value does not mean financial gain. Or at least not just that. BVOP imposes the idea and emphasizes that business value has many dimensions and includes people and products.

Consider what will be the benefit to your clients if your project is realized. How will you improve their professional and personal lives? Look for value in potential results. Think beyond financial and marketing analyzes. Try to imagine the life of your clients and users, as well as all the people in your organization. What will be improved and what will change to worse or better?

The planning of projects and the program according to the business value is truly unique and changing the thinking of people and companies.

Comments of our guests
  1. Donovan Thomas

    Thanks for the post. In my previous comment, I wrote that analyzing project dependencies is a very important part of planning the program and all the projects that will be delivered. One advice from me. When planning milestones and a new release, always check that a project does not depend on another. Recall your dependencies. Something may surprise you at the last minute.

  2. BVOP™

    Dear Donovan, Thank you for your interesting comment and your valuable advice. Undoubtedly, this recommendation would be useful for our readers and online guests. Kind regards

  3. Kristen Frye

    I would be glad to have someone explain the topic of milestones of a program. Wouldn't they be the planned projects themselves? Thanks

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