The relationship between Programmes and Projects


What is a Programme?

In the Programme Management overview, we defined a programme as follows:

A programme is a set of related projects which collectively deliver an overall change for the business

It can be hard (and often pointless) to identify whether a given undertaking is a large project or a small programme. Perhaps the most useful test is to look for the two levels of management - a strategic management team guiding the overall change programme overseeing project management teams charged with delivering the specific changes.

Here are some more guidelines contrasting the characteristics:



Address the entire business change Deliver a specific change component
Focus on strategic goals Focus on tactical delivery
May have imprecise definition Have a precise objective
May have uncertain timing Are defined with a specific timeline and budget
Evolve over a period of time to derive optimum benefit for the organisation Try to avoid change to the defined scope in order to ensure delivery
Require much senior management attention, often including strategic and political debate across organisational boundaries Require management communication primarily at an operational level concerning operational details
Produce an overall improvement in the business that may be multi-faceted and not fully defined at the outset of the programme Produce specific pre-defined deliverables
Require a manager who is high-powered, high-level, visionary, strategic, political, sales-oriented, and works with people at the top and across the organisation Require a manager who pays attention to detail, has good team leadership, plans in detail, follows a disciplined approach, and delivers the goods.


Programme lifecycle

The lifecyle of a programme is not as distinct as that of a project. The key ingredients often happen before any identifiable programme has commenced. Much of the early thinking will be more in the nature of senior management discussions about business strategy. At some time, those ideas will condense to the extent that a change programme can be defined.


Programme Management Lifecycle


Wallace's Wheel The Programme Definition will identify:

Although the main definition work will happen at the start of the programme, the business will evolve over time and circumstances will change. Those parts of the programme definition that define either the overall business solution or how it will be achieved should be viewed as an evolving model that should be managed actively during the programme in order to achieve optimum overall benefit.

Programme Management Framework


Programmes deliver through projects

Only the strategic leadership of the initiative is normally conducted directly by the programme management. Specific changes are usually achieved by the definition of a number of projects which collectively deliver the overall goal. These are defined and instigated by the programme team, but will have their own project management teams.

Programmes and Projects

Once started, the programme manager should not intervene directly, but will need a degree of feedback and control. The Programme Manager is concerned with project-level information where it has a potential impact on the overall programme, eg progress, issues, risks, costs, projected benefits, dependencies, etc. It is unwise to feed all such data to the Programme Manager. It is only those items affecting the overall change programme that need to be communicated. Certain lifecycle events in the projects will raise flags for the attention of the programme management team.

Key information form Projects must be visible to the Programme





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