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Program Plan Template

An integrated program plan is what a manager needs to successfully coordinate a complex program with multiple phases or underlying projects. Once developed, the program plan requires constant updating so that the ones in charge can accurately communicate the work status to clients and executives at all times.

Creating a clean, accurate high-level program plan can be difficult, but it will help professionals and non-project audiences alike to view the complete picture of the program, how it is structured, and how the different sub-teams contribute to its execution.

To help you better understand how program plans are effectively conceived and properly put to use, we’ve answered here to the most frequently asked questions on the topic and also included a professionally-designed program timeline template that can be easily customized into your very own visual.

Why is it important to create a program management plan?

A program management plan, or simply called program plan is an essential tool for any manager that deals with a collection of correlated projects as it enables them to co-manage, execute and track all the component initiatives in a successful manner.

Unlike a project plan (which is directed at producing a final deliverable for one main project), a program plan focuses on creating benefits to the organization with synergy resulted from the co-management of multiple projects.

To sum up, while a project plan outlines the roadmap to delivering a product or a service, a program plan helps to collectively manage multiple projects to get benefits that cannot be achieved individually.

How do you write a program plan?

Since a program plan defines the process by which a program is conceived and brought to fruition, here are the main steps to take in order to create an effective one:

  1. Identify the problem – understand what it is that you need to solve, the scope and importance of the problem.
  2. Find out who the stakeholders are – this stage, also called stakeholder mapping or stakeholder analysis, involves the identification of all the parties that might benefit from solving your given problem.
  3. Assess the available skills and resources – this will help you determine what type of projects you are actually able to implement to solve the problem.
  4. Research what interventions are required – by doing this, you will find out what particular approach is more suitable to address your problem.
  5. Define your desired outcomes – once you know what the problem is, who the stakeholders are, and what resources and approach are best to meet the identified need, you now have to decide the goal of your program. It can be a single one or a set of several objectives and outcomes.
  6. Identify the activities necessary to reach your goal – list the tasks that will best serve your established outcome.
  7. Create the documentation and timeline of your program plan by using a timeline template like the one provided here – this will help you outline the main workplan that the executing parties need to follow.

If you want to learn how to make a timeline for various types of projects using office tools like PowerPoint or Microsoft Excel, please check out our step-by-step tutorials.

What should a program plan include?

Here is a checklist of the essential data items that should be included in a well-crafted and coherent program plan:

  • Title – title of the program, name of the organization and of the stakeholders involved in the planning process;
  • Executive summary – stating the overall vision of the program, defining its scope, outcome and theory of change (how the proposed intervention/program leads to achieving the intended goal);
  • Objectives, action steps and outcomes – this section should describe all the activities that will be undertaken to reach the established goal;
  • Organizational capacity statement – describing the program’s resource capacity, both in terms of human resources and financial budget supporting the program;
  • Evaluation plan – stating and explaining the indicators that will be used to measure the success of the program;
  • Program roadmap – set up as a timeline on which the tasks that make up the project along with their start and end dates are listed.

Using and updating the Program Plan Timeline Template

The professionally-designed program timeline template included here was created to help program planners and managers to:

  • Quickly build a coherent program plan

    Managers and coordinators who wish to simplify the planning process can use the free program plan template, which is a downloadable native PowerPoint slide designed to be easy to understand and update. The template was built as a timeline visually split into blocks or stages, and it links the planned activities directly to the program’s deliverables or milestones. Such a layout enables managers to create a roadmap through the program and provide logical break points for review, decision-making, and team alignment.

  • Improve program communication

    Effective internal, cross-team and external communication is key for the successful execution of a program. Each project within a program has its own plan to outline goals, tasks and deliverables, and program managers need to integrate all individual plans based on shared dependencies. By communicating often and constantly reviewing the program plan, teams can identify potential problems, prevent conflicts, and get a clear picture of the whole process.

  • Engage a non-technical audience

    Built for PowerPoint, the program plan template can help communicate essential data through a simple, familiar channel that both functional teams and non-project audiences are comfortable with. The graphic can be updated and shared by anyone who has Microsoft PowerPoint installed. This means that teams can collaborate on the plan and maintain the timeline, while clients and executives can open and review it at a glance.

The graphic can be customized manually, changing texts, colors and shapes just as with any other slide, or it can be edited automatically with the free Office Timeline plugin for PowerPoint. The add-in is a light and intuitive planning tool designed for professionals who need to create high-level Gantt charts and timelines quickly. Using the Pro+ Edition’s import, refresh and sharing functions, program managers and teams can work together on revising the program plan to have it ready for important communications as fast and as often as needed.

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Updating your template is simple and fast.

Use the Office Timeline PowerPoint add-in to quickly update any of these timeline templates or create your own project visuals. Easily change the texts, dates, colors, shapes and styles of your timeline, right from inside PowerPoint.

Free PowerPoint Timeline and Swimlane Maker