The PM Podcast


Project Management for Beginners and Experts

Episode 170: 30 Years of Program Management

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Episode 170: 30 Years of Program ManagementWhat would you say is the single biggest change that has occurred in the area of Program Management between 1981 and now? Did it make a difference if you had a PM certification in 1981 and wanted to get a program management job versus today? What skills did a program manager need in 1981 then and today?

Well... if you think that these are some more questions out of Jeff Furmans "Project Management Answer Book" that we discussed in our last episode, then you'd be... wrong.

Instead, these are the questions that I asked Scotty Bates. Scotty currently works for Robbins-Gioia (www.robbinsgioia.com) and he has been actively involved in project and in particular program management for the last 30 years. So let's look at what these changes are and learn how they influence how much better (or worse) we manage programs today.

I also wanted to thank everybody who participated in our 20-books giveaway. We had purchased 20 copies of Peter Taylor's latest PM book "The Lazy Blogger" and we had an incredible number of people signing up to win one of them on our Facebook Fan Page. I'm not going to read out the names of the winners here, but we had 10 winners from among our free listeners and we had 10 winners from among our paying premium subscribers. The winning names have been published on our Facebook Fan Page.

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: This is The Project Management Podcast™. We bring project management to beginners and experts. Find us on the web at www.pm‑podcast.com or send your emails to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #170. I am Cornelius Fichtner. This is The Project Management Podcast™. Very nice to have you with us.

What would you say is the single biggest change that has occurred in the area of Program Management between 1981 and now? Did it make a difference if you had a project management certification in 1981 and wanted to get a program management job versus today? Or what skills did a program manager need in 1981 and today?

Well if you think that these are some more questions out of Jeff Furman’s "Project Management Answer Book" that we discussed in our last episode, well then you'd be wrong.

Instead, these are the questions that I asked Scotty Bates. Scotty currently works for Robbins-Gioia and he has been actively involved in project and in particular program management for the last 30 years. So let's look at what these changes are and learn how they influence, how much better or how much worse we manage programs today.

I also wanted to thank everybody who participated in our 20-books giveaway. We had purchased 20 copies of Peter Taylor's latest project management book "The Lazy Blogger" and we had an incredible number of people signing up to win one of them on our Facebook Fan Page. I'm not going to read out the names of the winners here, don’t worry but we had 10 winners from among our free listeners and we had 10 winners from among our paying premium subscribers.

And at the same time, I also learned that I’ve been using Facebook all wrong all this time. So if you have ever placed a comment on our Facebook Fan Page on the wall and you never ever got a comment back from me, well that’s because I haven’t seen it. I need to click another button in order to see your comments as well. Sorry about that. So communication should now increase via our Facebook Fan Page. In any case, the winning names of the 20 people who get “The Lazy Blogger” from Peter Taylor have been published on www.facebook.com/pmpodcast.

Scotty Bates brings over 29 years of leadership experience in project and program management, IT professional services, and defense acquisition to Robbins-Gioia. One of them was an engagement with US Customs and Border Protection supporting their $3.5B Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) modernization IT program. That’s a mouthful. He most recently managed a team that delivered various program management services to the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, developing an MS SharePoint Services solution for one of the major initiatives, and delivered several foundational program management documents and set in motion various process improvement activities.

And now, fire up that flux capacitor because we're going back in time. Enjoy the interview.

Podcast Interview

Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with Scotty Bates, Executive Consultant for Robbins-Gioia.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Scotty and welcome to The Project Management Podcast™.

Scotty Bates: Well thank you, Cornelius. It’s my pleasure to be here.

Cornelius Fichtner: We want to talk about program management then and now. So to get us started, why don’t we don’t start with you and your career because then and now means that you have to be able to compare the ‘then’ and the ‘now”. So what was your involvement in program management in the past?

Scotty Bates: Well, my first experience with program management was in 1981 when I listed to be in the staff of the New York System’s Command in Washington D.C. where I led the engineering development responsibility for the Navy Jet Trainer’s Program that was in the middle of source selection. From that point, I’ve been involved in some manner of program management either defense acquisition procurement or information technology since.

Cornelius Fichtner: Right. So you were on the leading side of program management, right? So you weren’t an executing project manager. You actually managed the programs themselves. Is that correct?

Scotty Bates: Correct! Yes, it’s part of the core responsibility for the primary element of the major crafted element program.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay! When we originally discussed an outline of our interview today, one thing that you mentioned that I found interesting was the following statement, you said: “Project managers were risk managers.” What did you mean by that?

Scotty Bates: Well I think it’s core to program and project management and has been even since 1981 or before, the big 3 if you will, the PMI parlance of cost, schedule and performance. It’s sort of the risk equation in one sense. And in those days as well as now, the risk associated with any program in the area of cost, schedule and performance which occur and encompass risk of program are what the program management to me is all about. So the risks themselves become much more formalized and that’s certainly another topic we should get further into. But the risk program manager is essentially being one who administers the risk but not only on the risk as they occur but throughout the life cycle of a program or project.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay. So if I get you right here, what we’re saying is that: If you have program management happening in your organization, major part of what you’re doing is managing the risks on the individual projects to ensure that you have success on the projects and therefore on the program?

Scotty Bates: Exactly.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay, cool! So then and now, in your view, what is the single biggest difference between program management when you started 1981 and today?

Scotty Bates: I would say probably one of the bigger or the single biggest difference is the advances in the IT space. All the information that’s available to a program manager today was not there 30 years ago, at least not to the extent that it is. Most processes were manual, very early days of the personal computer, very few databases or the ability to transmit information rapidly either within the program or different locations that a program and its project might exist, it just didn’t exist. So I think the IT world itself is probably one of the, I’ll say, the starter difference between then and now.

Cornelius Fichtner: Right. Is it a positive change or negative change from your point of view?

 

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

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