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The Program Canvas – A useful tool for designing programs

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During the 2014 IPMA World Congress in Rotterdam, Theo van der Tak, Björn Prevaas and Hans Cremer introduced a new concept for designing a program by using a “Program Canvas”. During a workshop with about 50 experts the canvas was further improved and in 2016 a book as well as a toolset with poster, templates and website were published. The authors consider programs as a temporary complex of activities aimed at striving for unique and coherent objectives and dependent on people cooperating with limited resources in relation with the strategy of the participating organisation(s). Based on this definition, program management can be seen as a way of managing work that is necessary to design and implement a program. In this way, program management is clearly distinguished form other ways of managing work, i.e. project management or process management. Goals and connected terms as objectives, benefits and impacts are viewed as an important part of programs. Program management supports people to perform change in a transparent way.

The Program Canvas guides the users swiftly along the most important elements of a program. Designing a program is a joint effort of the program manager, the team and the sponsor, principal or the executive. By doing that the program manager and the team cooperate to create a common approach for the program. This enhances the commitment of the key players. Also other stakeholders can be involved in designing the program. The  Canvas consists of 16 basic elements that have to be addressed before deciding to start a program. These 16 elements contain answers to the following questions: Why this program? How are we going to realize it? What are specific objectives and activities of the program? What does the program not cover? Within what constraints will the program be executed? Who is doing what in the program and with which resources the program will be implemented. The website elaborates on these questions and helps to design a program in a systematic way. It is an easy-to-use approach and fits well in similar approaches like the business model canvas or the project canvas.

- Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defence, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is President of IPMA, past President and Honorary Fellow of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH, Germany´s No. 1 PM Full Service Provider.

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