Programme management involves the coordinated organisation, direction and implementation of a dossier of projects and transformation activities to deliver outcomes and benefits relating to an organisation’s strategic objectives. But for years, Programme Management has been confused with Project Management, and the terms have been used both flippantly and interchangeably, which hasn't helped recruiters and hiring managers identify the right people to manage their programmes.
As Sergio Pellegrinelli explains in his Cranfield article, “unfortunately, former project managers entrusted with major programmes are frequently not up to the task“. In such circumstances, it will not be uncommon to see a stakeholder with their head in their hand – a few months down the line.
As an Independent Programme Manager who has operated across many countries around the world, I have been disturbed when witnessing global firms delivering multi-million dollar technology solutions with little if any real appreciation of programme management. Typically the focus is on technology and project management, and often these initiatives are driven by technical professionals who have moved up the ladder into management roles, without a real understanding of programme management, its concepts and best practices.
While programmes and projects are both temporary organisations which aim to achieve benefits for sponsors, they have important differences. Programme management does not replace the need for good project management and vice versa – the two roles complement one another but they certainly do not replace one another. Good project management remains important to achieving project success, but programme management can take you one step further and help you meet strategic objectives, provide better customer service, manage resources and stakeholders.
In his Cranfield article, Sergio Pellegrinelli explains that the approaches, knowledge and instincts that served project managers well in achieving defined project objectives are inadequate when it comes to programmes. He goes on to say; “They are unfamiliar with the human processes of adoption and adaptation needed to get something new to work – They are ill-prepared to deal with political tensions, divergence of interests and shifting external environments and stakeholder aspirations“.
In his paper “Using PRINCE2 and MSP Together”, Andy Murray points out that the management focus for projects (by project managers) is on detailed specification (of how) and control of activities to produce products. Whereas the management focus for programmes (by programme managers) is on high-level specification (of why/what), stakeholder management, benefit realisation, dependency management, transition management/change acceptance and integration with corporate strategies.
The next time you need to consider who you can entrust to deliver a high-value programme of work, consider the qualities required to manage the programme, as opposed to the skills required to deliver a project or solution architecture.
Read Sergio Pellegrinelli's article: Thinking and Acting as a Great Programme Manager
Read Andy Murray's article: Using PRINCE2 and MSP Together