Programme management

Programme Management may be defined as 'The co-ordinated management of a group of related projects to ensure the best use of resources in delivering the projects to the specified time, cost and quality/performance criteria'.

A number of organizations and authorities have coined different definitions, but the operative word in any definition is 'related'. Unless the various projects are related to a common objective, the collection of projects would be termed a 'portfolio' rather than a 'programme'.

A programme manager could therefore be defined as 'The individual to whom responsibility has been assigned for the overall management of the time, cost and performance aspects of a group of related projects and the motivation of those involved'.

Again different organizations have different definitions for the role of the programme manager or portfolio manager. In some companies he/she would be called manager of projects or operations manager or operations director etc. but it is generally understood that the programme manager's role is to co-ordinate the individual projects which are linked to a common objective. Whatever the definition, it is the programme manager who has the overall picture of the organization's project commitments.

Many organizations carrying out a number of projects have limited resources. It is the responsibility of the programme manager to allocate these resources in the most cost-effective manner taking into consideration the various project milestones and deadlines as well as the usual cost restrictions. It is the programme manager who may have to obtain further external resources as necessary and decide on their disposition.

As an example, the construction of a large cruise ship would be run by a programme manager who co-ordinates the many (often very large) projects such as the ship's hull, propulsion system and engines, control systems, catering system, interior design, etc. One of the associated projects might even include recruitment of the crew.

A manager responsible for diverse projects such as a computerized supermarket checkout and stock control system, an electronic scoreboard for a cricket ground and a cheque-handling system for a bank would be a portfolio manager because although all the projects require computer systems they are for different clients at different locations and are independent. Despite this diversity of the projects, the portfolio manager, like the project manager, has still the responsibility to set priorities, maximize the efficient use of the organization's resources and monitor and control the performance of each project.

As with project management, programme management and the way programmes are managed depend primarily on the type of organization carrying out the programme.

There are two main types of organizations.

• client organizations

• contracting organizations.

In a client type of organization, the projects will probably not be the main source of income and may well constitute or require a major change in the management structure and culture. New resources may have to be found and managers involved in the normal running of the business may have to be consulted, educated, and finally convinced of the virtues not only of the project itself but also of the way it has to be managed.

The programme manager in such an organization has to ensure that the project fits into the corporate strategy and has to ensure that established project management procedures starting with the business case and ending with disposal are employed. In other words the full life cycle systems using all the 'soft' techniques to create a project environment have to be in place in an organization that may well be set up for 'business as usual', employing only line management techniques. In addition he has to monitor all projects to ensure that they meet the strategic objectives of the organization as well as fulfilling the more obvious requirements of minimizing and controlling risks and meeting the cost, time and performance criteria for every project.

Programme management can, however, mean more than co-ordinating a number of related projects. The prioritization of the projects themselves, not just the required resources, can be a function of programme management. It is the programme manager who decides which project, or which type of project, is the best investment and which one is the most cost-effective one to start. It may even be advantageous to merge two or more small projects into one larger project, if they have sufficient synergy or if certain resources or facilities can be shared.

Another function of programme management is to monitor the performance of the projects which are part of the programme and check that the expected deliverables have produced the specified benefits, whether to the parent organization or the client. This could take several days or months depending on the project, but unless it is possible to measure these benefits, it is not possible to assess the success of the project or indeed say whether the whole exercise was worthwhile. It can be seen therefore that it is just as important for the programme manager to set up the monitoring and close-out reporting system for the end of a project as the planning and control systems for the start.

In a contracting organization, such a culture change will either not be necessary, as the organization will already be set up on a project basis, or the change to a project-oriented company will be easier because the delivery of projects is after all the 'raison d'etre' of the organization. Programme management is therefore more the co-ordination of the related or overlapping projects in the organization covering such topics as resource management, cost management and procurement and ensuring conformity with standard company systems and procedures. The cost, time and performance/quality criteria relate more to the needs and obligations of the contractor than, apart from performance, those of the client.

The life cycles of projects in a contracting organization usually start after the feasibility study has been carried out and finishes when the project is handed over to the client for the operational phase. There are clearly instances when these life cycle terminal points occur earlier or later, but a contractor is rarely concerned whether the strategic or business objectives of the client have been met.

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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