program management challenges

5 Program Management Challenges & How to Avoid Them

Aligning the myriad aspects of construction, renovation, rebranding, and maintenance programs is essential to progression and success. When one aspect fails or gets bogged down, the rest of the program suffers.

First, let’s be clear: when we talk about program management challenges, we’re talking about managing a number of projects simultaneously or closely following one another. Each of these projects has a variety of tasks and components to it, but each project has its own goal and produces its own value. A collection of these projects is called a program. The advantage of program management is that it enables greater value and results than could be realized if projects were managed individually and separately.

Take a fast-food chain with a few hundred locations throughout the Midwest U.S. for example. If that organization makes the decision to rebrand, it would want to update the branding at all of its physical locations to reflect that new brand with consistency. Each location would need new signage as well as a refresh of its interiors and exteriors, among other updates to support those assets like electrical and lighting work, voice and data cabling, and so on.

Sure, each location could work with nearby companies to update these assets to the new brand, but leaving each location to manage this important work in a silo will — without a doubt — result in overshot deadlines, unpredictable work quality, overspent resources, and an overall inconsistent brand appearance throughout the organization’s footprint. With a program management approach, all projects are managed under a single umbrella by highly trained experts who can align the various tasks, vendors, schedules, and processes needed to ensure all locations are updated in a specific timeframe.

That said, there are still a handful of program management challenges that brands might encounter, particularly when attempting to manage such programs in-house. We’ll explore a few of these here and the ideal solutions to each.

Common Program Management Challenges

Lack of Experienced Leadership

Every organization is different, but when it comes to program management, skilled and experienced leaders are absolutely essential. It’s not just about having project management training and being able to navigate the elements of a project management philosophy or platform but about being able to see all projects as a whole and understanding how to drive them forward collectively toward completion. The lack of this skillset could result in missed deadlines, delays in work due to variables not accounted for, excess costs due to a lack of vendor relationships and buying power, and more.

Working with a proven and experienced partner is the best way to sidestep this program management challenge. Brand implementation companies work on executing large-scale refresh, remodel, construction, energy, and signage programs for brands every day. With this experience, they understand the various components of both the individual projects that make up the program and its overall strategic aspects. They will offer dedicated program managers and, for construction-related efforts, on-site W-2 superintendents who will manage every aspect of the work and keep it moving swiftly.

Helping create the experience of the future: Learn how the Stratus refresh & remodel team supported McDonald’s with a massive 300-site remodeling initiative.

Too Many Points of Contact

Remember that each site included in the program will need materials, labor, and other services that require the involvement of separate providers. Often, work or materials from one provider is needed before or in conjunction with another provider. This requires communication and coordination between these vendors. Even at the project level, this can quickly become overwhelming. Now imagine it at the program level. Several vendors just turned into several hundred (or even more). Without an experienced team, managing the communications and workload between this many vendors is next to impossible.

A solution to this program management challenge is working with one organization that has established time-tested partnerships with contractors, suppliers, and other vendors throughout the country. Not only does this dramatically simplify communication on your end in only having to deal with one team but it also allows you to take advantage of thousands of proven contractors who’ve already demonstrated their ability to complete work according to specific timelines and quality standards. And the best part is that your partner will coordinate this work on your behalf, freeing you up to focus on other strategic priorities.

Additionally, it can be easy to have too many points of contact with your partner. Perhaps multiple project managers are flooding your inbox with questions and updates. While the communication is there (more on this shortly), it’s the volume that’s a problem. It’s inevitable that you’ll miss an email or update call while juggling your own responsibilities and put one project behind, perhaps causing a domino effect with the others. A single source of contact, whether that’s a program manager or a dedicated account manager, is preferential to multiple partner-side contacts.

600 sites, one solution: When Starbucks had to pivot to mobile order pickup only at the height of the pandemic, the Stratus team executed a rapid signage solution across more than 600 locations in a matter of weeks. Learn how we did it.

Lack of Communication

Closely related to the above program management challenge is a lack of communication. If you don’t know what’s happening, you don’t know what’s happening. The absence of a reporting structure, a defined communication policy like daily and weekly check-ins, and other communication must-haves will result in project and program leaders having virtually no oversight or understanding of what’s happening, what’s already completed, what needs to happen next, and what’s currently stuck.

The best program management teams know that no one should be left in the dark. From conducting frequent check-ins to providing status updates, your partner should never leave you wondering where work stands. If you don’t know what work has been completed and what’s being tackled next at any given time, your partner isn’t doing their job correctly. In addition to properly defined communications is the importance of leveraging technology to help keep the program on track.

No Technology for Coordination or Insight

Your partner will of course be using some technology solution for project management, but how that system is maintained is essential. Even the best project management solution will be utterly useless if it doesn’t provide you with the information you need at a moment’s notice. This includes information about the program as a whole as well as documentation that you need to keep work moving forward, such as invoices, receipts, permits, project plans, and countless other resources.

Working with a partner that uses a centralized, easy-to-access, and easy-to-navigate platform for your program will save you countless hours in following up for documents, financial data, project statuses, reports, and other critical information. This information must be accessible anywhere, too — not just on a desktop application. Your partner should provide a simple web solution or portal that allows you and your team to get what you need, right when you need it.

Tools for success: Learn more about the technology solutions our team uses to manage your program, and the tools available to provide you with insights 24/7/365.

Inefficient Logistics, Warehousing, and Installation

Last but not least — your program won’t be a success if the multiple brand assets needed to keep projects moving aren’t being properly shipped from the manufacturer to your locations (or to a temporary storage warehouse). Ensuring they’re protected, marked, and routed to the correct destination is essential, but handling that in-house or via multiple third parties adds far too much complexity and stress.

The ideal partner will manage all aspects of these later stages of your program. They will coordinate the production of all of your brand assets and ensure they are seamlessly routed to a centralized location where they are protected and stored until they are ready to be shipped to your locations and finally installed.

Multiple assets, one partner: Learn how Stratus manages logistics, warehousing, and installation of brand assets seamlessly, saving clients from the hassle of managing them internally or with multiple partners.

Get Everything You Need for Your Program from One Partner

Stratus has been helping some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands implement large-scale brand initiatives for decades — without any of the above program management challenges. With a proven account and program management teams managing all of the details from start to finish (and providing a single point of contact), in-house W-2 superintendents for construction programs, a relentless commitment to communication, and ample technology solutions to keep you informed and connected, we offer the tools and processes brands need to roll out brand solutions at all of their locations in a timely manner.

Connect with us today to learn more about our program management capabilities, and how we’ll support your next brand implementation program.