Programme management is the coordinated organisation, direction and implementation of a range of change initiatives (including projects and transformation activities), aiming to achieve outcomes and realise benefits that are of strategic importance to the business.
A programme is defined as a temporary, flexible organisation created to coordinate, direct and oversee the implementation of a set of related projects and activities in order to deliver outcomes and benefits related to the organization’s strategic objectives.
This is the functions, processes and procedures that define how the programme is set up, managed and controlled. It may involve following a process based methodology, for example Managing Successful Programmes (MSP).
A programme business case must address the greater uncertainty that exists in the programme environment. It should provide justification for the programme based on measurable benefits. The business case must be kept up to date, showing approved changes.
A business case generally provides information on:
- the background of the programme and why it is needed
- what options have been considered and which one has been chosen (including the ‘do nothing’ option)
- the expected benefits and disbenefits
- the costs, investment appraisal and funding arrangements
- the risks and impact on the business case
- a summary of the delivery of the outputs and benefits
Roles and responsibilities
It needs to be clear where the role of those within a programme involves offering advice and where the role is involved in decision making.
A programme will typically have a benefits realisation plan that helps keep track of what needs to be done, when and by whom, to manage the realisation of benefits. The plan may include information on:
- activities and milestones from benefit profiles
- reporting milestones to programme/project board and post-project governance structures
- summary review of benefit profiles
- post project review
A programme will generally have a risk register that addresses project risks that if they occur will have a wider impact, project risks that cannot be managed within the project, common risks within projects that if they combine would have an impact at programme level, and risks arising at the programme level.
A programme has an overall plan at a higher level of detil than the project plans. This shows dependencies between projects, it may show project and resource dependencies. At the delivery level it should record the key milestones such as deliverables or decision points. The plan must also detail assurance activities for example Starting Gate or Gateway Review.
The following is a suggested list of minimum requirements for the content of a robust programme plan:
- tranche objectives, start and end dates
- projects with their duration, key milestones and dates
- other activities and their duration, including benefits realisation activities
- dependencies between projects
- indication of what human and other resources are needed for the successful completion of each project or activity
- any major reviews – e.g. Gateway Review
The on-going planning of resources is vital to ensure the programme has access to the skills and experience it needs to deliver. Addressing resource planning allows the programme to consider a variety of resourcing solutions and factor in recruitment timetables and procedures should that be required.
Stakeholders are individuals or groups with an interest in the programme because they are involved in the work or affected by the outcomes. Due to the level of uncertainty and complexity within a programme there will be a diverse range of stakeholders and their level of interest and influence should be documented to allow for planned communication. A programme communication plan must also coordinate and align with project communications and deal with matters out with the scope of individual projects that are part of the programme.
There should be a record of the programme’s achievements as well as to capture any lessons learned for future programmes. It may contain the following:
- an outline of how much of the Blueprint has been implemented
- a list of the benefit measures that have been captured to show how well the business case has been achieved
- a list of who is the new owner of the benefit realisation activities and whether or not this responsibility has been formally handed over and accepted
- a list of all outstanding risks and issues and where the ownership now lies
A programme contains a number of projects and presents the opportunity to capture lessons from earlier projects and apply these to later projects. The programme manager could factor into the programme plan the opportunity to record lessons learned and encourage the project teams to participate.