A programme

A programme is a vehicle for progressing, co-ordinating and implementing an organisation's strategy, specifically by linking an often complex combination of business-as-usual activity and new projects all focused on the delivery of a defined objective. It is not business as usual because a programme seeks to deliver something different.

However, the term is often misused. For many people, a programme is simply a large project. A large project and a programme have similarities. They both:

e seek to deliver a beneficial outcome; e deserve a special form of management structure.

But the shared characteristics go further than this. Some of the differences are shown in Table 2.1.

table 2.1 Differences between a project and a programme

Project

Programme

E

has relatively few sponsors

E

has many sponsors

E

will be a contained disaster if it fails

E

may be a corporate disaster if it fails

E

is focused on a deliverable

E

is focused on a business objective

E

will deliver benefit after completion

E

w'll deliver benefit in phases

E

has a short- to medium-term lifespan

E

has a long-term lifespan

E

has variable risk

E

is always high risk

E

has a focused scope

E

has a wde scope

E

excludes business-as-usual activity

E

includes business-as-usual activity

For example, a project may have been identified to deliver a new sales management computer system. It conforms to the characteristics of a project:

e There will be a limited number of sponsors, probably extending little further than the sales manager. e If the project fails to deliver the new system, the company can fall back on what it has used previously. e It must deliver an implemented sales management computer system and trained sales staff. e When the sales force has used the system for some time, the project costs will be recouped through extra or higher-value sales arising from slicker management of leads. e Implementation may be reasonably expected within a year of the project being planned. e The risks will be managed mainly within the sales and it departments.

e The scope can be contained within clear organisational, budgetary, time and geographic boundaries. e business-as-usual activity should remain largely unaffected by the project (until it is completed).

Compare this project with a programme through which a manufac turer and distributor of potato snacks seeks to enter a new foreign market. The programme will have these characteristics:

e There will be several sponsors, coming from operations, commercial management, distribution, sales, marketing and manufacturing. Virtually no part of the company will remain untouched by this endeavour. e Failure in the new foreign market could be corporate disaster. At the very least, the sponsoring director might be asked to resign. e The programme must deliver a series of co-ordinated outcomes which together bring about the business objective of succeeding in the foreign market. Such outcomes may themselves be managed as projects integral to the programme. This series of co-ordinated outcomes has an important implication for the economic justification of the individual projects that fall within the programme. Where a stand-alone project should be commercially justifiable, one that falls within a programme may not be on its own. Some projects within a programme may only exist to enable future projects to be undertaken. If the subsequent projects are shelved, the earlier projects may deliver little or no benefit. The business case for every project in the programme must be considered together if the programme's overall justification is to be properly understood. For instance, the programme in this example may contain a project to produce new packaging for the foreign market. On its own, it would generate no benefits. It is only justifiable as an enabler for benefit-generating projects elsewhere in the programme. e To minimise the risk of failure, the programme may be designed to deliver benefit in phases, for instance by focusing first on one country in which demand is considered sufficient to outweigh the costs.

e The programme may have a long life, especially if it is split into phases. Conversely, if it is dropped, it may not last as long as anticipated.

e With any programme risk is inevitable. Not only is the company taking a calculated risk with a significant investment, but it is also running the risk that its existing business may be compromised during the programme's lifetime. e Virtually every part of the business will be engaged in or affected by the programme.

e A defining characteristic of a programme, compared with a project, is that its management team must take responsibility not just for the change in activity within its scope but also for business as usual continuing successfully. At least until the first phase has delivered some commercial benefit, the programme will be funded by business as usual, whose resources will be involved in the programme. Furthermore, the company will need everyone to adapt to the demands and challenges of the new business environment the programme will deliver.

In any portfolio there may or may not be technical, strategic or commercial dependencies between the projects - it has not been constructed with them in mind. Instead, the grouping of projects is characterised by their being funded from a common budget or being overseen by a defined part of the organisation. A programme, however, is a portfolio of technically, strategically and/or commercially interlinked projects where the dependencies must be identified and managed if an objective in the business plan is to be met. Furthermore, the nature of programmes suggests that there will often be a degree of business-as-usual management required from within the programme to prepare the business for a new way of working.

Understanding these concepts is essential if projects are to be conceived and managed effectively. Project identification is not only about forming a list of projects; it is also about understanding them sufficiently well to place them in a suitable management environment, which is independent of the underlying organisation structure and which will enable them to thrive.

So although the need for a project may be raised from within one part of an organisation, it is not always the case that the eventual project must be managed, funded and resourced from the same place.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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