Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Why Use Programme Management

James J Leal

Programme planning diagram

A programme is a portfolio of projects and activities that are co-ordinated and managed as a unit such that they achieve outcomes and realise benefits.

What is Programme Management?

Programme Management is a structured framework for defining and implementing change within an organisation. It provides a framework for implementing business strategies and initiatives through the co-ordinated management of a portfolio of projects that change organisations to achieve benefits that are of strategic importance.

This briefing summarises the key principles and processes of programme management.

Why use Programme Management?

Using a structured approach will allow the co-ordination of a set of activities and projects to achieve a strategic goal (or vision) for the organisation. Both programmes and projects are about change, and this involves risk. A structured approach to programme management ensures that the interdependencies between projects are co-ordinated and the risk managed across these interdependencies. It will also enable more efficient use of resources through project prioritisation and integration.

Critical Success Factors for Programmes

  • Overall direction and leadership responsibility rests with one individual.
  • Active stakeholder management.
  • Clear vision of the required change and how success will be measured.
  • Active co-ordination of the programme's components, the relationship with other programmes and the interface to business strategy.
  • Clearly assigned responsibility for the delivery of business benefits.
  • The organisation has appropriate personnel available with relevant skills and experience to set up, manage and deliver the programme.
  • The organisation is capable of achieving the change required by the programme.
  • Programme management and support processes are in place.

Programmes and Projects

Programmes are different from projects in that it is their outcomes that matter, not their outputs. Outputs are specified deliverables from projects that are delivered within time, cost, and quality constraints. Outcomes are the effects of change and form the vision for the programme. To achieve the desired outcomes, the change process must be managed, including the introduction of new ways of working.

Programme management provides an umbrella under which a portfolio of projects and other activities can be coordinated. This does not replace project management; rather, it is a supplementary framework. Programmes need to be underpinned by a controlled environment of effective project management and reporting for all projects within the programme.

A project is a temporary organisation with definite start and end dates. During the programme lifecycle, projects are initiated, executed and closed. The programme integrates the projects so that it can deliver an outcome that is greater than the sum of its parts.

A programme may also be temporary with a longer span than any of its projects.

Benefits accrue at the end of a project, after the output has been delivered. In contrast, a programme will co-ordinate the delivery from a set of projects such that benefits can be realised within the timescale of the programme as well as afterwards.

A programme is likely to include some projects that do not directly produce benefits but are nonetheless essential to delivering the overall programme benefits.