What is a programme?
Successful programmes enable transformational changes for or within an organization. They exist to coordinate, direct and oversee implementation of a set of interrelated projects to deliver outcomes and their benefits, which are aligned to an organization’s strategic objectives.
A programme may comprise projects across different areas of the business. For example, the launch of a new product or service may rely on projects running in the sales, marketing, distribution and IT departments, all of which are focused on delivering the outcome required by the programme. A programme can be a standalone programme or form part of a portfolio.
While a project is typically focused on delivering a specific output, a programme may deliver ongoing outcomes and business benefits. Programmes usually last between one and two years.
What is programme management?
Programme management is the overall management of the interrelated projects that make up the programme. It also involves linking in with the business change functions within the business areas affected to ensure that the changes are properly implemented. As with project management, planning work and tasks is a key part of programme management, but the work is more closely aligned to the organization’s ongoing strategy, rather than specific deliverables.
Programme management often provides a layer of governance above specific projects and ensures that they are run effectively.
As in project management, the aims and desired benefits of a programme are identified in a Business case. The Vision statement sets out the desired future state following programme delivery and the programme Blueprint sets out what will have been achieved when the programme is completed and all the projects within it are no longer required.
Key aspects of programme management
- Governance – defining the programme roles and responsibilities as well as the processes and metrics to assess its progress
- Management – planning the projects and the overall programme, ensuring that regular reviews are undertaken and that stakeholders are engaged
- Financial management – costs of managing the programme need to be tracked and controls need to be put in place
- Infrastructure – creating the right work environment to support the programme Planning – developing a programme plan based on the specific projects, resources, timescales and controls for the overall programme.
The Programme Office
The programme is supported by a Programme Office (PO) which monitors the progress of benefits realization against the plan, gathers information for benefits reviews, produces performance reports as defined by the programme manager and maintains benefits information under change controls and audit trails of change. The PO also provides or locates resources that can assist with the design of the programme blueprint, facilitates impact assessments of change on the blueprint and maintains configuration control of the blueprint. The Programme Office is also a centre of excellence and assists with the correct implementation of the programme’s principles, governance themes and transformational flow.
The programme office may serve a single programme or several programmes, depending on the size or capabilities of an organization.
Programme management roles
A Senior Responsible Owner (SRO), or programme sponsor, is responsible for ensuring the programme achieves the business case and delivers benefits to the organization and that there is commitment at senior level within the organization.
The programme manager manages the programme on a day-to-day basis and coordinates its projects.
Finally, business change managers are responsible for the programme realizing the stated benefits through effective transition of the programme capabilities into the desired business outcomes and benefits. This will also transition the programme into business as usual.
Approaches to programme management
A programme management framework can offer a governance structure and provide process models, documentation templates and guidelines for adapting it to the specific programme. AXELOS’ Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) is an open framework that can be tailored, but a business may develop its own programme management approach. However, it is important that there is consistency between the methods for managing a programme and the projects it includes.
Programme manager responsibilities
The programme manager plans the programme and allocates resources across its projects. They are responsible for defining the governance, managing the budget and appointing the programme team. The programme manager manages the programme’s risks and the dependencies between projects as well as overall progress, resolving any issues. The programme manager also needs to liaise with the business change managers affected by the programme. On larger programmes, a programme manager may be supported by a risk manager, benefits manager or communications manager and a programme office.
Programme manager skills
Programme managers need strong leadership, communication and interpersonal skills. They need to manage the programme team, so knowledge of programme and project management frameworks as well as procurement, budgeting and resource allocation procedures is beneficial. They should also be able to advise their project teams and to anticipate and solve any problems.
How to become a programme manager
AXELOS has a range of programme management resources including case studies and white papers focusing on using MSP and other complementary methods.
You can use our Career Path tool to see how the role of programme manager would enable you to advance your career and what skills you would need to succeed.
You can also learn more about programme management training with our MSP certifications and use our sample papers to test your programme management knowledge.