16 Program Management Tools To Consider

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published March 11, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Program management includes various tasks that help keep employees focused on their duties, including multiple types of program management tools. For example, these project management tools include formulas, software, checklists and plans to streamline project execution. In addition, these tools may include multiple types that you can use simultaneously, depending on your preference. In this article, we define what program management is, discuss program management tools and highlight 16 different options that may work for you or your business management needs.

Related: What Is Program Management?

What is program management?

Program management typically involves overseeing a series of interrelated projects according to a company's established plan. They coordinate each step of the plan and help execute its overall goals. Program managers can work in multiple industries, including software development and manufacturing. Their tasks include multiple duties, like:

  • Defining program controls and procedures

  • Reporting project progress in multiple departments

  • Managing a program's budget and finances

  • Mitigating risks and creating contingency plans

  • Collaborating with project managers to ensure projects stay connected

  • Developing and appointing new program team members

What are program management tools?

Program managers can use various tools when executing each of their duties. Tools often include internal solutions programs by the company or general-use methods appropriate for multiple situations. For instance, some tools may include adjustable design elements, while others serve one purpose, like planning technological integration within a project. Examples of common tools may include software programs, simple management concepts, checklists, charts or mathematical formulas. Using the right tool can help streamline a program manager's duties and minimize any confusion during a project process.

Related: Program Management Certification: What It Is and How To Earn It

16 types of program management tools

Here are some examples of program management tools you can use:

1. Project management software

Project management software helps automate many program manager duties, like task management, timeline management, resource allocation and delivery schedules. As a result, these applications can provide professionals with multiple benefits to their careers. First, program managers may use them to plan and coordinate simultaneous projects using the same dashboard. They can also create visual graphics that highlight how each project interacts, which can help define the scope of each project in a company's program.

2. Project plan

Project plans include all program aspects, including its scope, execution strategy, planning, objectives and delivery purpose. Managers may create project plans with their project leads, adjust plans throughout the production process and integrate additional steps within plans as needed. Project plans can include input from team leads, day-to-day employees, company owners and even board members. They may require approval from board members or other managers before executing.

3. Gantt chart

A Gantt chart is a visual representation of an individual project's schedule. They also showcase how each project activity connects to another. Using this tool can help program managers track multiple interconnected projects in an overall program. Managers may create Gantt charts using dedicated management software, spreadsheet programs or online templates. Since these charts may track hundreds of activities within a program, meaning managers may need to create more than one to provide in-depth information.

4. Milestone checklist

Milestone checklists involve a physical outline of a program's progress. Program managers may create a checklist in spreadsheets, then track its progress on a computer or print it out to distribute among others in their department. Checklists can help professionals maintain communication between departments, as they often update checklists by meeting with project managers to gauge a project's progress. By checking a milestone off the list, they can better visualize their future project and program goals.

Related: How To Become a Director of Program Management (With Salary and Skills)

5. Scorecards

Scorecards allow program managers to contrast an employee's performance with a project's overall process. Managers can observe team members directly and grade each on multiple factors. For example, they may grade employee precision, work habits and expertise. They may also grade various production elements and produce a comprehensive grading for each aspect. Some managers may present scorecards to team members to help them improve their project efforts. They may also present scorecards to upper management and HR, showcasing program success and providing hiring, promotion and firing information.

6. Project reviews

This tool provides program managers with a comprehensive examination of a project's overall process. It typically involves third-party audits by internal departments within a business. These reviews provide general information regarding project progress, giving actionable advice on improving a project's execution. They can also track project goals and provide a guide on how to best achieve them. For instance, if a program manager identifies a similar issue in production processes for multiple programs, they might develop new protocols and describe them in a review document.

7. Delivery reviews

Delivery reviews allow program managers to track all project deliveries, including completed products. A third-party supervisor group typically conducts these delivery reviews and presents information in reports to program managers and stakeholders. For example, delivery reviews may analyze product quality, delivery speed and accuracy and showcase how well all teams met their goals. Program managers may use this information when planning new deliveries or gauging a program's overall success.

8. SWOT

Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis provides program managers with reports analyzing a program's potential outcomes, including potential risks and growth opportunities. They may include ways to streamline production or manage internal environmental factors, like employee relations, stakeholder influence and a program's available budget. A SWOT analysis may also examine external factors, such as potential competitors, overall market strength and supply chain development.

9. PEST

Political, economic, social and technology (PEST) reports examine political and economic risk factors, like election results, changing interest rates and stock market performance. They may also report on social factors, like the public perception of a company, or the effect of technological changes, such as new inventions or updated production techniques. Program managers can use these reports to track a program's potential outcome within a specific market.

10. RACI

Responsible, accountable, consulted and informed (RACI) reports involve defining the roles and duties of each employee within a program. To create this report, program managers typically examine how these roles interact and verify how well each member meets their roles, then provide detailed reports that describe these factors. Program managers may use create these diagrams to evaluate the efficiency of each role and task within a project, then present this information to project managers, team leads or other stakeholders in a company.

11. Cause-and-effect diagram

Cause-and-effect diagrams compare how one project factor directly influences another. For example, these diagrams may examine factors like material availability, equipment repairs, safety training and employee recruitment processes to gauge how each affects program execution. Program managers may also call these fish-bone diagrams, as they visually mimic a fish skeleton as they branch out from various starting points to multiple endpoints. They often provide program managers and other leaders with detailed information regarding potential project outcomes.

Related: Learn About Being a Program Manager

12. Risk map

Risk maps analyze potential project risks to gauge their likelihood, plus their impacts on an overall program if they occur. They typically rank risk probability as either low, medium or high, then gauge risk impact as either low or high. Some risk maps may include potential solutions, including adjusting manufacturing processes or changing marketing strategies. Risks maps may include list-based designs or integrate various chart templates, depending on a professional's preferences. Program managers work with project leaders to develop the criteria for these rankings and choose an accessible format for a company.

13. Summary risk profile

Summary risk profiles examine potential issues in a project method or strategy. Program managers may make multiple summary risk profiles for each project, classifying potential risks by type and scope to minimize any confusion during the planning process. For example, they may include organization, execution, management, manufacturing, delivery and human resources risks in separate profiles. Summary risk profiles may contrast the level of risk each project presents with its overall value as an investment. If a professional discovers too many risk factors, they can use the profile to brainstorm potential solutions.

14. Radar charts

Radar charts, also called spider charts, involve a grid-based chart of project risks. Visualizing them allows a manager to determine how they might affect a program's execution. Professionals typically place low-risk items toward the graph center, then place lines in a spiral outward from this position in a web shape. Program managers rate these risks based on impact and importance, and some individuals may integrate potential risk solutions within their spider chart. They can use these charts to present information to company owners and other key stakeholders in an accessible, aesthetically pleasing way.

15. Stakeholder matrix

A stakeholder matrix is a chart that measures how much a stakeholder can modify a project and whether this individual's goals match the objectives of a company. These individuals may include mid-managers, senior managers, end-users, suppliers, partners and shareholders. A detailed chart may help program managers when planning project execution by guiding them to a relevant staff member in a business. A stakeholder matrix may also help record all stakeholder objectives and prioritize planning methods based on these needs.

16. Decision tree

Decision trees examine how various decision-making processes and unexpected events, like competitor results, may influence a program's projects and their overall outcomes. For example, these charts may include decisions like adding a new machine to a manufacturing process or hiring a new employee. Managers add these decisions to a chart as individual branches, highlighting these decisions' effects on a project or an overall program. Program managers may create multiple decision trees for each project within a program to create simplified visualizations of each process.

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