In terms of delivering a benefit or generating a synergistic outcome, program management can help. This is especially true when you're managing interdependent projects.
Say you're running four projects at the same time: a hardware development project, a 3-D character animation project, an exterior design project and a controller project for a game console.
You can indeed manage these four projects separately with shared resources and technologies. But if two of the projects come from the same client, you should have a program.
Or if your company plans to own the game console -- which requires you to produce a product by integrating the deliverables of each individual project -- you need a program.
Take Nintendo's Wii. Development of the console definitely calls for the centralized, coordinated management of a program, or at least, a program-like logic to run it.
Making the Wii requires coordinating the component supply, system coding, and exterior and hardware design, including the controller. There is also storyboard planning for plots and characters for Nintendo-owned licenses to help launch the console, layouts for different language versions, etc.
Of course, the design and production of each specialized component will have to be done through individual projects. Yet they end up being part of a wider program because they are interdependent with all the other components for the final console.
A program is also necessary because to deliver the final console on schedule, a greater degree of governance has to be used. It must ensure that the projects run as planned so individual delays do not hamper the overall output of the program: a finished, completed Wii console.
What do you think? How do you know when program management is your best option?