What Is Program Governance? Importance & Benefits


A program is a set of connected projects that are under the oversight of a steering committee, which is the program governance body. Program governance is a critical component to successfully managing a program of projects.

But what does program governance mean and why is it so important? We’ll answer those questions and explain what a program governance plan is and the key components to a program governance framework.

What Is Program Governance?

Program governance is a practical way for an organization’s program to deliver success by guiding it and providing good management. It does this by overseeing the program’s operations and offering control much as a government does for a nation or corporate governance does for a corporation.

For a program governance framework to work, it must be repeatable and structure activities, such as communication, monitoring and more. The program governance will account for both tangible and intangible assets of the organization by creating a set of processes, guidelines and tools used to manage a program.

Some things program governance defines are roles and responsibilities, chain of command and other aspects of program management to help the program succeed. This requires an organization to structure itself for program management and have the necessary tools to monitor and control the program effectively.

Program management software is essential to proper program governance. ProjectManager is program management software that has features to plan, manage and track programs in real time to help them deliver the goals and objectives of the organization. For example, our roadmap provides an overview of all the projects in a program on one visual timeline. This allows not only the monitoring of the program, but offers insights into how best to allocate resources to get the best results from the program. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

ProjectManager's roadmap
ProjectManager’s roadmaps help with program governance. Learn more

Why Is Program Governance Important?

Program governance is helpful for many reasons. If properly designed, program governance will increase efficiency and reduce risk. It can also add accountability and consistency in communication and decision-making. Here are some other benefits of program governance.

Defines the Success Criteria for Programs

One of the main objectives of program governance is to prioritize and select which projects will be part of a program. One way to do this is by defining the success criteria. Program governance can help do this by looking at the triple constraint of cost, time and scope. Another thing to consider is stakeholder satisfaction and quality. Program governance can take a look at the big picture and through these constraints, determine which projects are most qualified to provide what’s wanted and prioritize them for the program.

Establishes the Program Management Roles and Chain of Command

For the program to succeed, everyone involved must know their place. Program governance defines the roles and responsibilities for all the people on the team, but more than that it also defines the chain of command. This allows everyone to understand who they have to consult to get answers about the program and any changes to its direction or management.

Describes the Process an Organization Follows for Planning, Executing and Tracking Programs

Program governance is supported by structure, people and information. Inherent in this is the planning, execution and tracking of all the projects in the program. Program governance provides the guidelines by which these functions are implemented, giving the project manager of each project in the program a path by which they can plan, execute and track the progress of the projects they’re responsible for.

Ensures Programs Align With the Strategic Goals of the Organization

Projects, a program or a portfolio of projects will all have distinct deliverables, but one thing they should have in common is alignment with the strategic planning goals of the organization. This is often hard to keep in the front of mind for a project manager who’s concerned with the day-to-day operations of their project, which is why program governance is so important. It provides that high-level view of the program and makes sure it targets the larger goals of the organization.

Defines Stakeholder Management Guidelines

Dealing with stakeholders is a critical part of program management and program governance provides a roadmap on how to accomplish this important work. It identifies stakeholders, defines communication channels and frequency, sets objectives and priorities plus a lot more.

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Multiple Project Tracking Template

Use this free Multiple Project Tracking Template for Excel to manage your projects better.


What Is a Program Governance Plan?

A program governance plan is simply a project management document that describes the different elements of the program governance framework of an organization. It’s used to monitor a program to make sure it’s meeting the requirements and expectations of stakeholders.

Some things that are included in the program governance plan are an approach to how decisions will be made, the timeframe for making those decisions and definitions of roles and responsibilities. Also outlined is how meetings and reporting will be done, risk and issue management and the larger project management control process.

Key Elements of the Program Governance Framework

Program governance creates an effective framework for decision-making. It also works to make sure the program aligns with the organization’s strategic goals. To do this, program governance will pursue and develop appropriate work for the program, deal with issues too large for the individual project manager to deal with, manage the program deliverables and set applicable standards. This is done by having these key elements in place.

Program Governance Board

The program governance board is made up of program sponsor executives, senior leaders and other sponsors of the program. It also has representatives from the customer organization, other stakeholders and the program manager to represent the program to the board. The board is responsible for establishing a governance mechanism, initiating components, approving funding requests, creating the program governance plan, supporting the program and monitoring and reviewing its progress.

Program Management Office

A program management office is usually a department within an organization, though it sometimes can be an external operation, which guides the organization through defining best practices when managing projects and programs. It oversees the program, not projects, of an organization to deliver successful outcomes and maintain alignment with the organization’s strategic goals.

Program Management Team

The program management team varies from one organization to another, but certain professionals are usually found on it. These include the project portfolio manager, program manager, project managers, change control board and team leaders. The program management team are the ones who fulfill the maintenance of program governance by overseeing and coordinating the various projects and other strategic initiatives in the organization.

Program Management Documentation

There are no specific program management documents, but still, one of the aspects of program governance is choosing the project management documents and reports that will be used. These project management documents help the project run smoothly and keep stakeholders informed about the program’s scope, timeline and objectives.

Multiple Project Tracking Template

This multiple project tracking template for Excel can help you track multiple projects simultaneously. Not only that, but it lets you to zoom into the costs, percentage of completion, due dates and priority of all the activities that make up the projects in your program or portfolio.

multiple project tracking template for Excel

We offer a variety of free PMO templates you can use to manage all aspects of your projects, programs and portfolios.

Program Governance vs. Program Management

Program governance isn’t the same as program management. Program management relies on program governance for decision-making, guidance and the resolution of issues. Program management is the day-to-day management of the program. The program manager will oversee and coordinate the various projects and deal with their day-to-day operations.

Program Governance vs. Project Governance

There’s less of a difference between program governance and project governance in that they share the same responsibilities just over a program for the former and a project for the latter. The key difference between them is the scope. Program governance is administered in a systemized method while project governance is about the overseeing of specific activities, though both have the same goals: meeting stakeholders’ expectations and the objectives as outlined in the project charter.

Program Management Templates

If all that seems like a lot of work, it is. However, program management templates can help with program governance. ProjectManager is more than great program management software, we’re an online hub for all things related to project management, including weekly blogs, guides, tutorial videos and free templates.

The following are a few free project management templates to help you with program governance.

Project Dashboard Template

Program governance needs to have eyes on the progress and performance of the program at all times. Our free project dashboard template for Excel helps you do this without having to go through the complexities of building a dashboard in Excel. Our dashboard is set up so you can easily build a visual timeline to track your program.

Cost-Benefit Analysis Template

Being able to determine which projects in the program are worthwhile and which shouldn’t be done is part of program governance. Using our free cost-benefit analysis template for Excel helps you figure out if the price of the project is worth the return on investment by looking at quantitative costs and benefits among other things.

Project Status Report Template

Another tool to monitor programs is reports. Program governance uses reports to not only monitor but also keep stakeholders informed. Our free project status report template for Excel provides a summary of key accomplishments, completed work and planned work as well as noting the project health, risk overview and more.

How ProjectManager Helps With Program Management

While our free program management templates will get you started, you’ll need project management software to work more efficiently. ProjectManager is an award-winning program management software that automates dashboards and reports where static Excel documents have to be manually updated. That takes time and puts program governance behind what’s happening. To get real-time data to make more informed decisions you’ll need to use our software.

Monitor Programs With Real-Time Dashboards

Unlike templates that require you to input the data, our real-time dashboards automatically collect live data and instantly display those program metrics in easy-to-read graphs and charts. Whenever you want to get a high-level overview of the program just toggle over to the dashboard and you can see everything from costs to time and more. Unlike lightweight tools, there’s no lengthy setup required. Our real-time dashboard is ready when you need it.

ProjectManager's portfolio dashboard
Get More Detailed Data With Customizable Reports

When you need more than a dashboard can show, use our reporting tools to get status reports, portfolio status reports, variance reports and more. All reports can be filtered to show only the data you’re interested in. They can also be saved in a variety of formats so you can keep your stakeholders informed.

ProjectManager's portfolio status

Our software also has risk management features to identify and track issues in your program. This allows you to create risk cards that note the risk, how you’re responding to it, who will respond and what the impact and likelihood of it occurring are. This will help you avoid costly delays that can take programs off track.

ProjectManager is online program management software that connects everyone on the project team no matter where they are when they work. They can share files, comment at the task level and get notifications by email and in-app alerts to keep them updated on any changes. Join teams at companies such as Avis, Nestles and Siemens who are using our software to deliver successful programs. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.