Series 2: Complete Program Lifecycle

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The Program and Portfolio Lifecycles

The organisation has five gates and a final review in its portfolio lifecycle, each representing business decision points. The Executive Team own the organisation’s portfolio and its management processes.
Programs (and projects) operate within the organisation’s overall portfolio management processes. The alignment between the program processes and the organisation’s portfolio processes are shown in the diagram below. The Roles and Responsibilities and Governance guides describe how the portfolio and program lifecycles fit together.

Complete Program Lifecycle

The program management lifecycle consists of four phases (as outlined in the diagram below):

  • Identify
  • Define
  • Deliver
  • Close

Each phase is described further in broad terms below.


The Identify Phase starts when the Sponsoring Group has approved a Program Proposal (Mandate), the duration of this phase is typically quite short.The purpose of the phase is to take a high level concept and turn it into a business proposition defining the expected benefits, costs, timescales and risks in a Program Brief document.

The key outputs of the Identify Phase include:

  • Program Brief (Vision and Blueprint)
  • Program Preparation Plan
  • Decision on program as General or Fog and tailoring of the Programs methodology

Together these outputs should provide sufficient information to justify approval for the program to proceed to the Define Phase and the commitment of resources (people and budget).

Key Action: the Senior Responsible Owner produces evidence that it makes more sense to run the work as a program than as stand-alone projects and that there is value to the organisation in proceeding.


The purpose of the Define Phase is to further define and plan the program and produce a formal, planned and resourced program based on the Program Brief created in the Identify Phase.

The key outputs of the Define Phase include:

  • Business Case
  • Management/Control Strategies
  • Program Definition Documentation (PDD)

These outputs clearly define:

  • What the program is going to do
  • How it is going to do it
  • Who is involved
  • How it will be controlled
  • Its relationship to other work
  • What will be changed in the business
  • The justification for continuing the program.

The outputs are reviewed and approved by the Sponsoring Group to determine whether to recommend the program continues through into the Deliver Phase.

Key Action: The Senior Responsible Owner warrants to the Sponsoring Group that there is measurable value and the Sponsoring Group determines that this is something the organisation should proceed with.


The Deliver Phase is where the capabilities defined in the Program Blueprint are delivered. Three key sets of activities are conducted during the Define Phase:

  1. Manage the Tranches – the overarching day to day program management and control activities required to manage a tranche successfully.
  2. Deliver the Capability – the activities required to coordinate project delivery within a tranche.
  3. Realise the Benefits – the activities required to manage transition within a tranche and realise benefits.

Program delivery is often broken down into tranches. These are a logical grouping of projects designed to deliver incremental change, minimise impact to the organisation and reduce the likelihood of unmanaged multiple changes in any one business area.
The key outputs of the Deliver Phase are the completion of all tranches and the delivery of program outcomes, as per the Blueprint.
The Sponsoring Group approves the movement of the program from Deliver into the Close Phase.

Key Action: the Senior Responsible Owner ensures that the value proposition remains valid and the Sponsoring Group ensures that the program’s result will still deliver to the organisation’s strategy.


The purpose of the Close Phase is to formally recognise that the program is complete. This phase starts when the program has delivered the required new capabilities described in the Blueprint and benefits have either been achieved or are on track to be realised.
The Program moves into the Close Phase to gather lessons learned, review benefits delivered to date and administratively close the program in accordance with the program framework.
Unless the program has been closed prematurely, achievement of the following should be considered before closing a program:

  • Blueprint completed
  • Business case satisfied (to date)
  • Benefits have been realised or are tracking to plan and provide a clear indication of the ultimate result
  • Last tranche has been completed (as per the Program Plan)
  • All change has been delivered or is planned
  • No outstanding risks or issues remain that are unacceptable to the business.

The Sponsoring Group approves program closure.

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