Common Questions

Common questions

  1. What is programme management?
  2. Is programme management different from project management?
  3. What is the key benefit of programme management?
  4. Are there any downsides to programme management?
  5. What types of programme are there?
  6. How do I start a programme?
  7. Who should be involved with a programme?
  8. How do I run a programme?
  9. What is benefits management?
  10. Do I need to close a programme?

1. What is programme management?

Programme management is the management of a set of projects, which will usually be related in some way, to ensure the potential conflicts are managed, the products of the projects are transformed into business as usual and the business benefits are delivered.

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2. Is programme management different from project management?

A programme consists of a set of projects and other non-project activities, undertaken to achieve a strategic aim or goal. The management of the programme is therefore focused more on the delivery of the changed organisation, which delivers key strategic business benefits to the organisation.

Project management is much more focused on delivering the specific products required by the users and will usually end before the products have been fully absorbed into business as usual in the organisation.

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3. What is the key benefit of programme management?

Programme management ensures the work undertaken in the projects within the programme is correctly prioritised and is targeted at achieving real business benefits for the organisation. It allows the senior management to determine if they are spending their money in the right places and ensure there is a good chance of delivering the return on investment.

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4. Are there any downsides to programme management?

As with the establishment of any management layer in business, there is an overhead charge for programme management. It can be significant in major programmes, but doesn’t have to be. It must be tailored to suit the particular environment and culture of the organisation. Provided the eventual benefits outweigh the additional cost, programme management should not be a burden, but increase the chance of delivering the business benefits efficiently.

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5. What types of programme are there?

There are three main types of programme, more related to the type of projects they encompass than their style of management. One has a single vision of the future or aim for all the projects, a second has a common vision and the third may have several different aims. Each will be run in a very similar manner, using the same set of processes and practices, albeit tailored to suit the specific environment. It is probably more useful to say that there are several different reasons for establishing a programme and these are perhaps the more important factors.

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6. How do I start a programme?

A clear vision of the future state of the organisation as a result of the work of the programme is critical. Without it, the programme will not be focused appropriately and is far less likely to deliver successfully. This is a high level statement, but it needs to be supported by a much more detailed blueprint, which provides the projects with a clear understanding of what is to be delivered.

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7. Who should be involved with a programme?

The people involved need to be selected carefully, acknowledging that the skills and competences required for programme management are not the same as those for project management. While it has in some places become normal practice to promote senior project managers into programme management, this is frequently less than successful. It is essential that those who are responsible for programmes at all levels understand the very different circumstances surrounding the programme.

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8. How do I run a programme?

To run a programme requires a set of processes and practices that allow the projects to work, supported and assisted by the management of the programme. The programme must not be seen as just an overhead or layer of bureaucracy to be serviced. All the obvious practices will be required, including the management of, for example, risk, change, quality, resources and communications, not to forget planning, business cases and related documentation. The key difference from project management, though, is that of benefits management. It is the programme that ensures that deliverables from the projects are successfully converted into the new business as usual and deliver the business benefits that justify the work undertaken.

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9. What is benefits management?

Business benefits are why the work of projects and programmes are undertaken in the first place. If the benefits do not outweigh the overall cost, then the work should not start or should be stopped when this is realised. The work of benefits management starts at the earliest stages of a programme, when the business case is being put together. The Cost Benefits Analysis or its equivalent needs to be developed and the identification, definition and analysis (valuation) of the benefits is the fundamental justification. The process of managing those benefits throughout the programme is then critical. If they are not managed effectively, changes to the programme (which are inevitable) will diminish the value of the business case and could (and has, not infrequently, in the past) remove the overall justification of the programme.

Mapping the deliverables from the projects through to the final aim or outcome for the programme, using the benefits (simple, intermediate and end), is critical if the programme is to be aligned with the strategy of the organisation. This alignment is also something that must be managed and maintained throughout the life of the programme.

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10. Do I need to close a programme?

A programme, like a project, is a temporary structure. It is established to deliver a specific change or set of changes. Once those are established as business as usual in the organisation, the programme should be closed down. It is more frequently the case, though, that the investment in programme management is recognised as beneficial and the programme will not be closed, but moved into a revised format in order to deliver a new set of changes to the organisation.

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