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What is Different About IT Programs?

January 27, 2014

This is my final post in this series on managing projects and programs.  In the previous posts in this series, I have not called out the differences between programs and projects. In this post I want to contrast IT programs to the more common IT project.

Unlike IT projects, IT programs often do not have a firm end date—they are usually ongoing in time.  An IT program might be created after the launch of an application, software product or service. The focus of the IT program could be enhancement, maintenance and testing of the newly created entity. In many cases, the development project team moves on to the next project and a team is put together to support and sustain the new entity. The program ends as the application or product goes to end-of-life and is replaced by something new.  

The skills needed for IT programs often differ from those of a project team. What are called for are fewer people who can carry out a wide variety of tasks. The program team might be called upon to perform problem determination or client interaction on the phone or in person or focus on written communication explaining how a given aspect of a service really works. I can’t say program work is more challenging that project work but it is in some ways more interesting in the diversity of activities and interactions. 

After the excitement of creating the application, software product or service is over, you might find some challenges. The first surprise is that the program team may not be dedicated to the specific program. Considerable tension can be created when prioritizing activities of the team. Another concern may be funding. The funding available may not be transparently shared or may simply not be solid. As the fiscal year unfolds and funds get cut, programs are often the first to suffer. Finally, attention from executives may be less focused or just plain hard to come by. It is easy to see the executive’s perspective that launching a new application, software product or service is more impactful than keeping it alive and well over time. 

Does your organization differentiate between IT projects and IT programs? If so, have you experienced some of the characteristics that I have written about? Please comment on this. 

Posted January 27, 2014 | Permalink

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