The 4 Pillars of Integrated Program Management

Posted by Megan Cacioppo on May 11, 2017

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In the simplest terms, integrated program management (IPM) is a disciplined framework for managing projects and programs in a way that benefits all levels of the organization. The ultimate goal of IPM is successful project execution.

But what exactly makes up IPM and how should project teams go about implementing it at their respective organizations? In today’s post, we’re tackling just that – highlighting the four main pillars of IPM and what makes each so important.

Pillar 1: Plan, Plan…and Then Plan Some More
The first main pillar of IPM is having a good plan. And the first step in creating a good plan is fully understanding the scope. The scope of the project defines what is to be developed or delivered, and is typically outlined in what is known as a Statement of Work (SOW). Once the SOW is defined, you can then move onto the work breakdown structure (WBS). The WBS is a product-oriented hierarchy that breaks your project down into manageable chunks of work. Once both of those pieces are complete, your plan can and should come together in the project schedule.

The project schedule, or integrated master schedule (IMS) is so much more than just a list of project activities. The IMS should include logical relationships among the activities. Once all the activities, durations, and relationships are tied together, you’ll see that the IMS maps directly to the WBS – allowing the project team to have a single point of reference for all activities.

The final step in developing a good plan is connecting resources directly with your schedule – otherwise known as resource-loading. It’s hard to overstate just how important this part of the planning process is. Not having key resources, materials, people, or equipment in the right place at the right time can stop a project cold. Poor resource management is one of the largest contributors to schedule delays and cost overruns.

Pillar 2: Analyze the Data
Analyzing and monitoring your work are both critical for ensuring project success – and there are a few key activities to be aware of:

  • Schedule analysis – After a project begins, you need to collect status information on a regular basis (typically weekly or monthly) from people involved in the project. Status information has two key components: 1) percentage of schedule activities that are complete; 2) work and cost remaining to complete each activity, or estimate to complete (ETC). Keeping a close eye on these on a regular basis will go a long way to ensuring your project stays on track.
  • Cost analysis – Cost analysis can be a bit complex, but the main things to focus on are accounting for actual costs and committed costs. Comparing actual costs to the baseline will provide spend variances, which help you understand how you’re spending (the reality) compared with how you thought you would be spending (the plan). Keeping track of committed costs will help you see the things you haven’t yet incurred, but will impact your project down the line.
  • Risk analysis – As you monitor the risk plan, it’s important to account for risks that have cropped up and keep track of risks that you already put into your risk plan. Be cognizant of the warning signs and make sure you investigate and then explain, mitigate, or address any new risks in future planning. That’s how you decrease performance problems, cost increases, and schedule slips.
  • Other – Other key analyses to consider are checking out supply chain risk, minimizing labor pains and keeping tabs on materials and production. Each of these items can have an impact on project delivery.

Pillar 3: Monitor Your Status
The third pillar of IPM is monitoring project status and change. No matter your project size, scope creep is inevitable. There are two main sources: the customer and the contractor; but in either instance, the effect on the project is the same; profit, schedule, and cost are jeopardized.

Project leaders asked to tackle new scope can help protect their bottom line by performing a what-if analysis and understanding how the new scope will affect the overall cost as well as the schedule of the project. Multiple scenarios as well as risk/ opportunity analysis should be performed to discern the optimal solution. Such analysis must focus not just on the risk/opportunity relating to the new work, but also on risk/opportunity that may affect the overall project.

In addition, when taking on new scope, project leaders must ensure that they have a process for incorporating and tracking change. The artifacts that document change are sometimes called schedule or budget change requests, contract modifications, corrective actions, and work authorization documents. Establishing the process up front is critical to your overall success.

Pillar 4: Integrate the System
As you can see, the first three pillars require a lot of data to track and analyze and communicate. That’s why the fourth pillar, having an integrated system, is critical to effectively managing projects, programs, and portfolios. An integrated system can be manual, but in today’s high-tech world, automation is the preferred way to go. An integrated software system will capture, integrate, and organize project information. Depending on your level in the organization you may need different types of information, and a good system will provide the pertinent information to the right role at the right time. For more information about choosing the right integrated program management system for you organization, I encourage you check out Chapter 6 of our eBook, Integrated Program Management for Dummies.

So there you have it, the four pillars of IPM and why each is so important. Are you leveraging these pillars at your organization?