What is Agile Program Management?

Updated Aug 3, 2022.
agile-program-management

Agile is a value-driven approach to project management that emphasizes team collaboration, continuous improvement, customer feedback, and speed. Practicing agile helps agile teams and organizations to satisfy the needs of their customers with less risk and better outcomes.

There is so much noise about agile and the key benefits of using the agile methodology. However, there tends to be a disconnect between the formation and operations of agile teams and the funding and execution of projects in organizations. 

While agile project management is ideal for handling many projects, you need a better way to manage complex and interrelated projects across multiple project teams. You need to use program management to manage multiple interrelated projects effectively. 

However, program management tends to focus on execution and less on what really matters, creating value. Agile program management focuses on both project execution and delivering value. 

In this article, you will learn how agile program management can help organizations better manage interrelated projects with intersecting goals, requirements, and outcomes.

Let’s get started.

Definition of Agile Program Management 

Agile program management is a complex program environment that enables users otherwise referred to as agile organizations to plan, initiate, and implement key project strategies in a bid to guarantee maximum success. 

You can use agile program management to embark on and effectively manage several projects simultaneously to meet the organization’s goals and objectives for each project. This program management tool relies solely on the effective utilization of value-driven strategies to manage programs by placing special emphasis on speed and efficiency in meeting customers’ requirements. 

Agile program management differs from conventional program management. Unlike conventional program management, agile program management can effectively deal with changes to the business operations as regards complexity, speed of operations, and changes to the business operations.

Efficient agile program management often stands in the gap between a successful program outcome and a not-so-successful outcome. Agile program management offers the much-needed efficiency in meeting customers’ demands while reducing the likely program risks to the barest minimum. 

Key Concepts of Agile Program Management

Before you can adopt agile program management to your program, you need to have prior knowledge of the agile program management operational space. This includes certain key concepts that characterize agile program management. 

1. Constant Change

Agile program management differs from the conventional program management approach which utilizes the waterfall approach of executing one program’s task at a time. Using the waterfall approach is inefficient as the delay to one task being implemented causes a delay in the entire project process. Agile and waterfall are project management methodologies used by diverse teams.

Unlike conventional program management, agile program management has the special ability to implement several interrelated program tasks at the same time in a bid to save time and be efficiently resourceful. There are special provisions for necessary adaptations to changes that may arise thereby turning a negative into a positive. 

Agile program management is better equipped to deal with changing customers’ requirements during the program with its carefully listed out approach and regular customer feedback functions. This program management framework utilizes change as an efficient tool in increasing the program’s value.

2. Effective Collaboration 

Most program management places sole emphasis on meeting the program’s goals and objectives without regular check-in to ensure it meets customers’ requirements. Such an approach creates a huge collaboration gap among the program stakeholders as the much-needed incentives are not there. 

Agile program management ensures program stakeholders are properly incentivized on the benefits of effective collaboration to achieve the program’s said goals and objectives. 

With its efficient customer feedback function, agile program management ensures the customer’s requirements are met. If changes need to be made in meeting them, agile program management creates the required mechanism for adapting to these changes. 

Proper collaboration is a key component of any program management platform that ensures program stakeholders are involved. Effective team collaboration ensures stakeholders get the much-needed numbers and expertise in meeting the program’s goals and objectives while also delivering value to customers. 

Agile program management ensures all program stakeholders play an active and crucial role in delivering a successful and satisfactory customer program. 

3. Value Delivery

Conventional program management platforms that measure the program value as the efficiency and reliability of the program. Agile program management measures the true value of a program by its ability in meeting customers’ specific requirements of what is wanted and expected at the much-needed time while also delivering efficiency and reliability. 

As long as efficiency and reliability are important program deliverables, their importance cannot be substituted for meeting customers’ requirements because they are the true value that must be delivered.

Agile Program Management Principles

Agile program management has a set of principles guiding its operation and conduct. These principles ensure that agile program management does not deviate from delivering true value in meeting customers’ requirements and essential project deliverables

1. Focus on True Value

Agile program management is solely built on meeting customers’ requirements and delivering much-needed value efficiently and reliably while also meeting key project deliverables. 

One crucial mechanism used by agile program management is a responsive customer feedback mechanism that ensures all customer's needs and wants can be specially adhered to. 

With the implementation of agile program management, program stakeholders need to be adequately equipped and empowered with the much-needed tools and strategies in a bid to ensure they deliver true value to customers, in addition to the use of project management KPIs to track their progress.

2. Foster Constant Change

Change is a continuous process that affects the program process from time to time. The responsibility of determining the impact change would have on the program process, whether negative or positive, rests on the project team.

Agile teams see change as a positive outcome and such a mindset spurs them to use this change due to customer’s requirements as an efficient tool for delivering true value. 

With the effective use of the agile program management feedback mechanism, project teams are better equipped to adapt and manage these changes as they arise for the benefit of all parties involved. 

3. Establish Effective Collaboration

Effective collaboration plays a vital role in ensuring the program team has the much-needed information as at when due to make considerable changes as they arise. 

For you to effectively implement such changes, you need to have in hand all the necessary information as well as the likely impact these changes would have on the project process to act as a guide. 

Effective collaboration ensures the ultimate satisfaction of both the customers and all program stakeholders involved. You can use team collaboration software to enhance team productivity and boost cross team collaboration

Roles and Responsibilities in Agile Program Management

Your program team essentially comprises a variety of individuals from different parts of the world with different mindsets and thinking methods. The roles and responsibilities of each program stakeholder involved are solely dependent on what they have to offer to the program process.

1. Program Managers

Program managers are tasked solely with coordinating other program stakeholders. They stand in the gap between customers, program management, and other program stakeholders and provide adequate support for the program planning process by acting as an efficient guide.

Program Manager Salary
Source: Indeed

The duties of the program manager include drawing up and implementing an efficient program roadmap with the aid of other project stakeholders, and ensuring the program delivers its true value by regular and vigorous tracking of the program’s progress and each project stakeholders’ involvement. 

Using the services of a certified program manager is instrumental to the successful completion of a program. Program managers also need to put adequate measures in place to deal with program risks as they arise. 

Due to the constantly changing outlook of the program’s roadmap, program managers need to regularly update the program’s roadmap to make certain adaptations to new program information as they arise.

Program manager vs Project manager
Source: Asana

2. System Architects or Engineers

System architects or engineers are program individuals whose main contribution to the program process is to link the program’s technicalities with its overall requirements. They provide the much-needed technical leadership to the agile release train (ART). 

The role of system architects is to provide answers to the how’s of the program process. System architects or engineers distinguish the functional program requirements from the non-functional requirements. They also work hand-in-hand with other program stakeholders in ensuring the intent of the program is met.

3. Release Train Engineers (RTE)

Release train engineers (RTE) are a set of program individuals who serve as program leaders for the project team. They are otherwise referred to as program managers in certain programs as they provide solutions and the best means and methods of getting the program done. 

The main role release train engineers play in the program process is the efficient enabling of key agile release train events and processes to ensure they deliver the expected true program’s value. They are also in regular communication with other program stakeholders to ensure prompt assessment and management of risks.  

4. Business Owners

Business owners provide the answers to the true value expected from the program process. They are directly responsible for the program’s outcome. 

The task of ensuring that the value delivered by the program process matches the initial program expected outcome falls on the business owner. Business owners are in regular communication with the program manager. They grant the much-needed approval for changes to be implemented during the program process.  

Agile Program Management Best Practices

There is no specific approach or technique for agile program management. Several agile program management best practices aid its successful implementation to the entirety of the program process. 

Agile program management has the unique ability to effectively manage several similar programs simultaneously. This unique ability is referred to as ‘the scrum of scrums”. Here are some of the best practices that characterize agile program management.

1. Implementation of a Value-Driven System

Agile program management empowers program managers with the ability to build a standard program system that is predictable and relatable in its approach of delivering value to their customers. 

The standard program system is usually a series of rigorous planning and task-driven activities aimed at ensuring the requirements of individual customers are met. All program stakeholders involved need to be carried along the program process to aid efficient program delivery. 

Despite its complexities in delivering adequate value, the standard system should be made as simple as possible. As much as the sole aim of implementing agile program management is to ensure true value is delivered to respective customers, the system loses that value if the system is plagued with complexities beyond the understanding of the program team. 

Finding the balance between making your program system easy to understand while also having a sophisticated look is one of the best practices of your agile program management.

2. Adoption of an Adaptive Approach to Changes

In a bid to implement sudden changes as they arise during your program process, agile program management provides efficient practices in the form of adaptive measures in dealing with these sudden changes. 

The essence of these changes is to meet customers’ requirements and get desired results that can be tracked and analyzed. Adopting an adaptive approach to these changes makes up one of the best approaches in agile program management. 

3. Understand the Importance of Efficient Collaboration

Ensuring all program stakeholders are equipped with the necessary tools to aid efficient communication is one of the key determining factors of a successful program. 

Effective collaboration helps improve the overall productivity of the program process as all essential program stakeholders are in the right frame of mind in meeting and delivering the program’s goals and objectives. You can use online collaboration tools to drastically improve team productivity.

Agile program management ensures the project teamwork is in sync in delivering value to customers and also acts as an efficient tracker in ensuring the program meets its scheduled deadline. 

4. Efficient Utilization of Program Management Software

Using sophisticated, yet easy-to-implement program management software alongside agile program management software which aids efficient program performance is one of the efficient strategies in program management. 

The program management software should be implemented in a way that complements the existing agile program management software while also being flexible and easy to adapt to the program process. There should be a structured distribution of tasks and activities to ensure effective implementation. 

Martin Luenendonk

Editor at FounderJar

Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.

This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.