Do I need a programme office?

The simple answer is ‘No’ but the more comprehensive answer says that it is a lot easier to run programmes and projects if there is some form of support available. Quite what you choose to call the support – Programme Office, Portfolio Office Project Support Office, Programme Management office, to name but a few – is immaterial. It is the help they provide that is critical. Essentially they can perform one or more of three functions:

  • To support decision making – providing accurate and timely information so that key decision-makers are able to decide what to do at whatever level, based on the best and most comprehensive information available
  • To support delivery – simply helping projects and programmes to deliver more effectively and efficiently
  • To support standards and best practice – what is normally known as a Centre of Excellence.

At its simplest, a programme office can provide useful administrative support, ranging from secretariat support through filing and configuration management of documentation and related products to the full management of projects and programmes. In more mature project and programme regimes, the programme office becomes a central hub of information, where it is clear the personnel are the holders of the only true source of information for all projects and programmes. They will also manage the problems of inter-dependencies between projects and programmes, checking there are no holes in the programme of work being done, no missing products without which the whole will fail. They may manage key areas, such as combined risk registers, where the overall risk borne by the organisation can be monitored and controlled. They should also challenge the proposals of the programme and projects to ensure that the most effective option has been chosen – the role of critical friend.