Managing complexity across multiple projects and realising the benefits
Programme Management Maturity Models
Programme management as a discipline evolved from project management. It evolved in response to the complexity of managing multiple projects simultaneously.
One early influence was the systems engineering approach to the development of complex products, developed during the cold war, and when the cold war became essentially a contest in creating advanced technology weaponry.
The military learned to think of weapons as systems that can be disaggregated into smaller subsystems and components, developed at the subsystem level, and then integrated into a final holistic system through a multi-disciplinary approach.
For major corporates managing large multiple projects, this approach will greatly facilitate the timely and successful delivery of these projects. And in this scenario, that alone is a good enough reason for using this approach.
However, the ability to manage complexity is not the only major benefit, and even when there is no great multiplicity of projects and complexity to manage, there is another excellent reason - and that is do with the holistic aspects that lead to benefit realisation.
Realising the organisational benefits - from the delivery of the new capability
Another strand to the development of Programme Management in the UK has been the UK Government sponsored Office of Government Commerce, which has invested heavily in the programme based approach.
It has encouraged the development of best practise through the vehicle of the successful and popular model "Managing Successful Programmes" [M.S.P.], and which has been used extensively in public sector organisational change programmes.
A major focus of M.S.P. [and which in my view takes it beyond the project focus from which it originated] is the realisation of benefits.
In other words, successfully delivering the new capabilities via a well delivered and coordinated "systems engineering/thinking" approach is no longer enough.
An M.S.P. based approach has as it goal, the full realisation of the business benefits [that will be derived from the delivery of the new capability]. In my view, this is a very big shift in emphasis.
It is this holistic approach that links vision to strategy and all the way through to implementation and successful benefit realisation.
This is why I have based so much of my whole approach to successful change management on a programme based approach to leading and managing change.
Is the holistic perspective - takes in the bigger picture.
Is the coordinated management of a Portfolio of Projects that change organisations to achieve benefits that are of strategic importance.
Is the understanding and management of Benefits, Risks and Issues and the provision of an Organisation Structure and Process Definition.
Does not replace Project Management - it is a supplementary framework
Differences between projects and programmes
A Programme is all about delivering the overall business benefits in line with the strategic vision and over a longer period of time than a project.
Whereas a Project has a definite start and finish point, with the aim of the delivery of an output that may be a product, service or specific outcome.
Programme management focuses on the management of all key stakeholder relationships and the delivery of defined business benefits and in addition to managing the project portfolio will also include the management of any other activities that are necessary to ensure a complete delivery.
Whereas Project management has narrower terms of reference with clear, specific and (relative to the overall Programme) limited scope of its deliverables.
For much more on this, many links to relevant and extremely useful external resources, and many further detailed and practical pages please see this: