In this post we will talk about What is a Salesforce Program Manager and what does a Salesforce program manager do. We will also cover how to become Program manager in Salesforce and roles responsibilities of a program manager.
What is Program Management
Organizations generally define the way forward for achieving their goals, targets, transformation plans, addition/updates to their services, retiring strategy for their previous systems, plan for cloud adoption, etc. as per the various business units involved in the decision making and also even on the basis of their customer feedback.
This bigger chunk of work spread across different departments within an organization is referred to as a “Program” and the end state that the organization wants to achieve by running this initiative (program) is called as a Program Goal.
What is a Salesforce program manager?
Program manager is the person responsible for aligning with different teams to ensure the program goal is met and that the program is successful. They enjoy being organised and using project management software to plan everything out successfully
Roles and responsibilities of a program manager
Let’s deep dive into the various responsibilities of a program manager. I have categorized these based on the program milestones/program progress as below.
- Program goal : Program manager aligns with the different departments, point of contacts, program sponsors to come up with a well-defined program goal.
- Program sponsorship : Program manager is responsible to talk to the sponsor from the IT/ Business side who is going to bear the expenses of running this initiative. For large companies, the programs can run as long as even 1-2 years, so during the course of time, a program manager is responsible to ensure the funding, budgeting, resourcing on the program is appropriate and utilized properly.
- Success criteria for program: Since there could be multiple stakeholders in program scenario- it’s the responsibility of a program manager to ensure he/she aligns with the BU heads/ decision making authorities/ Point of contacts from the different teams/ user groups to understand what’s the success criteria for the program as per them and as per the function they work for. These are the people providing the sign offs for each of the milestones during the program delivery. The sign offs are based on the success criteria each of the function defines for them. For e.g. ensuring the ordering process for a quote to complete within a day (e2e including the automated approvals, pricing, discounting, customer sign off, etc.).
- Program scope and timelines : Once the program goal is defined, the project managers (of different teams) within the program need to define the scope and timelines for their functions/areas. However, the program manager needs to come up with an overall program scope and timeline/ delivery plan based on each of these team’s schedules and scope.
- Program strategy and alignment : Once the scope for the program is defined, program manager works with the project managers of various teams to finalize the approach for delivery.
Most of the organizations are now adopting the Agile way of doing things, however in my experience there is a Hybrid way as well which is attracting many companies- which is a combination of waterfall style and agile style delivery.
For e.g. running the discovery/ requirement gathering as a waterfall style and having development, CIT (Continuous Integration Testing), SIT and UAT phases in an agile manner.
Program manager needs to ensure agreement and adherence between the different program teams to the delivery strategy.
- Team readiness, resourcing :
Program team can consist of multiple development teams, testing teams, Business users/user groups and multiple stakeholders.
It’s very challenging task for a program manager to understand the team readiness and for that he/she needs to coordinate and have a detailed view and insights into the various teams involved by interacting on regular basis with the project managers/ product managers (if we are talking Agile delivery).
Any over or under utilization of the resources can cause heavy damage
- Managing risks, dependencies, mitigation plan
In complex business transformation programs there are multiple intertwined requirements, dependencies and risks involved. As a program manager it’s your responsibility to ensure the program level risks are known, highlighted, communicated to the stakeholders and resolved upfront.
Mitigation plan needs to be in place to ensure the overall program goal is not disturbed.
Program manager works with different program teams- project managers, stakeholders, BUs to ensure any conflicting requirements, dependencies and risks are identified early on in the program and are resolved at the earliest.
- Reporting to stakeholders
Communication is key when it comes to managing these high complexity and high value customer programs. Stakeholders, program sponsors, signing authorities need to be informed of each and every important program milestone and overall program progress on regular intervals.
Generally there are weekly steering committee meetings that happen to assess the progress, RAG status, risks, mitigations, etc. Program manager needs to align and plan all these strategies with the stakeholders.
How is Salesforce Program Management different?
Each and every program has a different flavor, complexity and vivid interacting systems which create the program ecosystem.
When we talk about the on premise systems and the program execution for them- we can be sure (as per at least my experience) that these are going to be a longer association with multiple releases, upgrades, etc. planned.
However, for the cloud ecosystem- we have some very small and medium size programs too which could finish within few months itself. For one of my customers- we had Sales cloud and service cloud in the mix, so as a program manager we need to be really careful while charting out the scope since while aligning the releases- one feature could be dependent on another – and the program manager needs to ensure within in the teams’ the alignment and dependencies are known upfront and any conflicting requirements are called out by the team project/product managers.
For these fast paced programs the risk is very high and the margin of error is very low. So, a very detailed program planning is required to ensure success.
As a program manager the more you are involved on day to day basis activities within different teams- the better! Regular interactions with the project teams- project/product managers is important.
Being technical and hands on and having a knowledge of the whole ecosystem is definitely a big help.
Necessary skills to be a Salesforce Program Manager
Below are some of my top tips to ensure success as a program manager-
- Clear Communication
- Clarity of thoughts
- Work as a trusted advisor for your customer
- Understand the current pain points
- Attention to detail
- Openness and ability to coordinate with different teams- be it vendors, customer teams, Business teams, Internal IT stakeholders, service providers like Salesforce, etc.
- Be technically sound and understand the program ecosystem well
How to become a Program Manager
Starting with understanding the basics is supremely important. Unless you have a grip of how different ecosystems, products, platforms work- it would be very challenging to get the whole team together.
Salesforce or for that instance any programs have a variety of systems involved- starting from data migration, data cleansing, CRM, integration, CPQ, Billing, testing teams, vendor teams, service providers, etc. So, to be able to coordinate with these teams and be able to help them resolve the blockers- you need to be able to technically understand the issues too! Ofcourse, you need not go nth level technical detail- but should have a knowhow of what’s the problem statement for each teams and the ability to get details from the project managers- and that would automatically come with the experience you have had working within different teams and traversing the roles from being a developer-> functional consultant/ BA -> tech specialist-> architect/project manager/product manager.
A project manager is an expert in planning, maintaining accountability and managing resources to deliver a project successfully for a client. if you want to explore more Salesforce career related options then check this post.