Programme Management

by Andy Taylor

Introduction

Project management has been operating quite successfully around the world for a significant number of years. It has been seen to deliver the right products or deliverables at the right time to the right cost and with the appropriate quality. In recent years, however, it has been recognised that sometimes this is not enough. There are occasions, perhaps quite frequently, when the deliverables from several different projects are required to be combined successfully to make a new capability available to the organisation. This capability is then required to be set to work or commissioned, and then embedded into normal everyday business operations to become the new business as usual (BAU). It is then, and only then, that the real purpose of the whole endeavour – the business benefits – begin to be realised and the organisation sees a return on its often significant investment.

It is now recognised that the work to take the results of several projects and deliver the business benefits is Programme Management. Regardless of the reasons for combining projects, programme management practice can be very powerful, ensuring that work continues in an efficient manner while taking account of resource limitations, dependencies and related constraints. It is also key that the proper recognition is given to the current business operations – business as usual. If too many changes are undertaken at the same time or, simply, if two projects try to deliver into the same business area at the same time, the BAU activities can be very severely affected. Programme management is about delivering change, but at a rate and in a manner that best suits the business organisation.

This section will give you a good understanding of the work of a programme and how it should be undertaken. It is not trying to make you into the best programme manager ever, but simply to give you the information you need to decide if programme management is for you or if it’s what you need in a particular situation, along with the principles of how to carry it out in relatively straightforward situations. If you are going to lead a very major programme of work, you will need to get further information and probably some formal training, but this topic should set you on the right road.

One key point to note is that it should not be assumed that programme management is simply big project management. The two areas are very different and require significantly different skills and competences in the key personnel. Good project managers do not necessarily make good programme managers and vice versa. It is important that you find where your strengths lie – it could be this is just what you have been looking for in order to make best use of your specific skills, competences and ambition.

The section does not provide detailed methodologies or techniques for the management of programmes, but ensures that those who might be contemplating undertaking programme management or project management do so with the full understanding of why each might be beneficial. It should help them to decide when it might not be appropriate to set up the additional administration of programme management.

Some thoughts

It may be you are currently a project manager, but struggle with the detail required in order to deliver the projects successfully. If you are happier looking at the bigger picture, willing to have some significant levels of uncertainty and deal with these successfully, maybe programme management is what you have been looking for.

Or it may be that you think you want to get into project management from normal line management, but are unsure if the discipline and rigor required is quite up your street. It could be that programme management is the way forward.

And finally, coming into programme management from project management is not always the best path to follow. It could be that mixing the three different disciplines (project management, programme management and line management) in a structured career path would suit you best.