There is often rigorous debate about whether an initiative should be categorized as a portfolio, a programme or a project. However, adopting any methodology needs to be appropriate for the level of change required as each portfolio, programme and project methodology or product delivery framework serves a particular purpose.
At its crux, PRINCE2® is focused on the delivery of agreed outputs and capabilities through project management and use of work packages. Next, Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) is focused on delivering outcomes and benefits through related projects and activities aligned with organizational strategies and vision. Lastly, Management of Portfolios (MoP®) is focused on return of investment and effective delivery of organizational change through programmes and projects as a collective.
The decision on which portfolio, programme and project methodology to use typically depends on the scope of the business change required and the learned advice from the Portfolio, Programme and Project Office.
What is a programme?
Simply, programme management is not “big” project management. MSP states that a programme is a temporary, flexible organization created to coordinate, direct and oversee the implementation of a set of related projects and business change activities in order to deliver outcomes and benefits related to the organization’s strategic objectives. A programme - with its own information sets for boundary, governance and management - is likely to have a life that spans several years.
When to use MSP?
MSP is primarily designed for leading and managing transformational change. That is a shift in the business culture of an organization resulting from a change in the underlying strategy as well as the processes, organizational structures, technologies and related information that the organization has used in the past. Transformational change is often designed to be organization-wide and embedded over a period of time to realize the expected benefits in operational service.
However, using programme management also requires significant resourcing (including the provision of appropriately skilled, experienced and credentialed programme management practitioners) with relatively high levels of funding, assets, materials and PMO delivery and capability support services.
If a programme drifts into becoming never-ending despite achieving its vision and blueprint (or target operating model), then it is no longer a true transformational change programme.
How is MSP different?
Best practice programme management aligns the principles, governance themes and transformational flows towards satisfying strategic objectives by realizing the expected benefits in practice and operational service. Thus, the programme’s boundary - vision, blueprint, business case and benefits map, including change activities that become part of the programme - is determined to enable the realization of these expected benefits.
A programme only remains valid if it adds value to the sum of its constituent projects and major activities. The programme needs to focus on the bigger picture and should not take over the responsibilities of project management. If it is found to add nothing to the organization, then it is better to close the programme and allow the individual projects to proceed independently.
In summary, bigger is not always better and why make an initiative more complex than the level of business change required. Right sizing any methodology not only makes sense, it invariably improves delivery and realization of the spending objectives.
Programme management using MSP is highly suitable for business transformation and political/societal change, being an approach designed to accommodate high levels of complexity, ambiguity and risk.