Moving up to responsibility for programmes and even portfolios is the natural, next career step for many project managers.
However, it needs a clear understanding of the different and more complex governance requirements needed for programmes, plus knowledge of how an organization works and its strategic objectives.
A project is a self-contained entity concerned with delivering outputs. Therefore, the project manager’s focus is primarily the project mandate, the output and the users. When moving up to manage programmes, the focus shifts to creating outcomes and realizing benefits.
In our organization, for example, we need to balance the capacity of operational teams to run the business as usual (BAU) but also manage the flow of new projects coming in from business development. This involves the capability to look beyond any one project to understand what’s happening in multiple projects and across various business functions, while having overall strategy in mind.
Organizational challenges and programme/portfolio management
There are a range of issues an organization faces where skills in programme and portfolio management become important, for example:
- Cost reduction and investment
- Control and accountability
- Collaboration between strategy and execution
- Business disruption and constant innovation
- Managing risks
Taking one example – business disruption and constant innovation – your company might have a solid process, but this can make innovation difficult by inhibiting new ideas that don’t match the process. Therefore, it’s necessary to retain an area in the business for people to find new ways of doing things, that disrupts existing approaches and changes strategy.
The ability to manage more strategic change in the organization can be supported through best practices such as Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) and Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices (P3O) – two* elements within the AXELOS ProPath Programme Leader designation.
MSP – placing projects in a corporate context
Training and certifying in MSP enables professionals to understand how projects contribute to a larger, corporate objective and to focus on allocating resources beyond the needs of any one project.
Managing programmes creates a completely different set of conversations in an organization. For example, a project might have a good business case, but doesn’t fit into the overall change programme. As a result, the manager needs to slow down, stop or reallocate resources.
For me MSP was eye-opening, especially the idea of outcomes, benefits, governance and the relationship with business change managers responsible for realization of outcomes and benefits. This mindset also forces you to recognize whether you have a programme or not and what to do differently.
This has definitely given my organization more focus. With a programme structure, programme board, better governance, resourcing and prioritization, each project has become more successful.
P3O – a compass for change
Operating at a higher level in an organization, you need to know whether you’re doing the right things and are able to highlight areas that need attention.
For this reason, I find P3O works like a compass: pointing to why we should do certain things in the company. It’s useful for strategy execution, allocating accountabilities and creating a balance between business as usual and projects/programmes.
This is suitable for someone who is (or wants to be) head of PMO with strategic responsibility and gives you reassurance that you are balancing the portfolio of change.
AXELOS ProPath Programme Leader
MSP, P3O and Management of Portfolios (MoP) – each contained within AXELOS ProPath Programme Leader – are useful as a person takes more senior responsibility in their organization.
Unlike a lot of training in companies, where people go through a full catalogue of courses without knowing why, AXELOS ProPath Programme Leader can help organizations choose what training people actually need and show them the path to take. This gives people more structure to their professional development based on what’s essential in their role.
Moving from managing projects to programmes and portfolios needs a proper training path where the growth and development of an organization is mirrored by a professional’s personal growth.
*AXELOS ProPath Programme Leader comprises MSP, P3O plus MoP (Management of Portfolios)
Find out how you can broaden your horizons and standout from the rest - AXELOS® ProPath brings you three new ways to excel in Programme, Project and Portfolio Management.